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The cost of living

I am in the queue at my local off licence eavesdropping on the woman in front of me who, apparently not for the first time this week, is there to top up her gas. How much she pays goes up every week, and this week is about twice what it was the week before.

The man behind the counter does quite a jovial laugh and says he hasn’t actually seen his bills change all that much to be fair. Works seven days a week you see, hardly ever has the heating on ha ha.

I pull out my phone and see ideas for fun things to do on a budget. Visit a public building. Access a public space. Go for a walk. Stay in. Try not to spend anything.

I see recipes framed as “feeding families for less” and “helping YOU make smarter choices”. Burritos that come to under a pound each. Lasagne at 65p a slab. So many soups.

It is the weekend just gone and I am sitting in the car park with my girlfriend having a conversation about mortgage rates. She is talking about percentages. 2.4%. 4.5%. 10%. I have no idea what these numbers mean. She explains and I nod. She will 100% need to explain this again to me later.

The phrase “cost of living”. I don’t like it.

Honestly, I find it a bit inhumane and, to be really frank, morally repugnant.

Living. Life. That thing that occurs naturally, if we let it.

At some point in history, human beings put a price on it. And the “cost” of living is something you start racking up the minute you’re born. One day you’re made solely responsible for your own financial destiny. And then that’s it, you’re just kind of left to it.

Bloody hell, when you think about it.

I think COVID showed everyone how precarious financial situations actually are, and how anyone could need a bit of extra support if something unexpected happens at their job.

I see real, measurable financial difficulty imposed on a great many people in society. But it’s difficult to talk about this stuff without getting political.

In fact, you can’t. Political decisions led us to where we are and political decisions will lead us wherever we’re going. There’s little hiding from that.

I feel like there’s an expectation you need to come to this kind of conversation with an intricately thought out, peer reviewed, fully financed, stress tested, bulletproof plan for improving society overnight in a way that won’t put anyone’s nose out of joint and no one else has thought of before.

I personally don’t think that’s possible, so I’m not going to go there. Or pretend I’ve got any answers. I honestly don’t think anyone does.

I can only really talk about what I know. So I work in content marketing. My job is (to try) to speak to people’s most compelling wants and needs. As you can probably imagine, remaining alive is right up there at the moment. Which, unfortunately, makes it a great thread to pull on if you’re trying to sell someone something.

I see a lot of content positioned as “life hacking” your way out of poverty. Which must be useful to some degree – I imagine being on top of the cost of your meals is a very responsible thing to do, I genuinely only wish I had the attention span – but it feels like we’re prescribing treatment for the wrong symptoms and missing the actual problem.

I feel like we (content people) have a responsibility to educate or inspire people, or at least distract them without being placating or attempting to pander to them. And so I think my main problem with the recent trend of recession content is the noticeable pivot companies have made in order to stay relevant.

I’m sitting up in bed watching an advert for a supermarket telling me “when everything’s going up, our prices stay down!”

I also think seeing this content as much as we do makes your anxiety worse. Measuring out 6 pence worth of olive oil must only make you feel painfully attached to a crisis beyond your control. I’m not suggesting blissful ignorance is the way to get through it, but we consume miles and miles of this stuff every day and it has a big say in how we think.

I am laying in bed. I have just learned the car has failed it’s MOT. There is something black appearing from behind the wallpaper near the window. It already looks like it’s going to be expensive. It’s my birthday this weekend and I feel horrid.

I know I’m not doing well through all of this. There are certain visible clues. I haven’t shaved my head in a few days and the top of my dome is beginning to look a bit like a pig’s back. There are zero clean cups left in the cupboard. The dishes are piling up. And the bins still haven’t taken themselves out. I’m not really sleeping. I feel like i’ve had a chest infection since about 2019.

I feel heavy.

This isn’t a new feeling. And I doubt it’s unique to me either. This must just be the side effects of living through the latest existential crisis in a series of existential crises.

The pandemic. War. The looming threat of recession. Whatever happens to come next. Stiff upper lip and that.

It’s not normal to have to process all this stuff and then pitch up to your job with a great big smile on your face ready to knock ten bells out of the day. It just doesn’t work like that.

Life doesn’t work like that.

My partner and I aren’t struggling right now. We aren’t exactly rolling in it either, but for now, we have enough.

I tell myself time and time again that we are OK and I can only be grateful.

I worry though. For how long?

No real answers, just felt like writing that down.