‘I wanted to live on Universal Credit for a week and it’s harder than I thought’

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A bloke who to live for a week on Universal Credit "failed badly" and said it was "harder than he’d imagined".

Gregory Ford, who writes for one of the Star’s sister papers HullLive, set himself the challenge of living on a single shop bought with what he worked out was a realistic Universal Credit budget.

Plenty of people got in touch with Gregory after the event to suggest ways in which he could have squeezed a little more out of the meagre £21 budget left over after he’d paid for basics like rent and utilities, but the items he picked out from his local Tesco represent a fairly standard shop by a single bloke who wasn’t the best cook in the world.

The average person over 25 and living on their own will get a Universal Credit allowance of £324.84.

In Hull, where Gregory lives, the Local Housing Allowance currently allows a contribution of £280 towards accommodation for a single person in a shared house with shared facilities.

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He used that as a yardstick for the calculations in his article, noting that he wouldn’t be able to afford the places he actually lives in at the moment, but accommodation in that price range is available.

Here’s how he divided up the £324.84 for the month:

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Additional housing costs – £80

Fuel, for getting to job interviews etc – £80

Phone contract, another essential for jobseekers – £20

Additional shopping budget (cleaning products etc) – £40

Buffer – £20

That budget is only possible through the stripping back of all luxuries and unnecessary payments, he says, for instance, he'd need to cancel Amazon Prime and a Spotify subscription – things that many of us take for granted.

Gregory said that in his current situation he thought it would be workable to end up with a budget of around £20 for the weekly shop – by coincidence that's the same amount of money the government recently decided to take away from the most vulnerable.

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"The shop came in at a total of £20.27 after savings were applied," he says.

"Some meal planning was definitely required with similar ingredients for the pasta and the curry.

"I'll be having pasta twice, curry twice and fishcakes twice with a day to eat whatever I can scramble together at the end," he wrote at the start of the project.

After six days with no luxuries, bargain-basement coffee and a race against food rapidly going off, Gregory cracked on the final day and blew the budget.

"Living without other luxuries was difficult," he said.

"I'm a fairly large person and I'm used to a bag of crisps here and a cheeky bit of toast there.

"I couldn't afford to be living like that on the budget I had which I think led to my downfall on the final day.

"After a week of strictly adhering to the regime I think my brain was desperate for a bit of serotonin, I thought I could fit a couple of beers into the excess budget I'd planned for.

"Reader, that budget was decimated within hours and to make things worse and to my absolute shame, I bought a pizza on the way home."

  • Money
  • Tesco

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