The Live Below The Line Challenge

Live Below the Line 2016: Diary Day 3

Daily biscuit ration & a cup of hot water.


Yesterday was day three, which means I’m writing this on day four, which means we’re nearly there! To be honest though, I’m pretty sure I’m not quite as desperate for the end as I was last year. I’m not sure whether it’s the sugar that’s keeping me going a bit more (we really felt the lack of sugar last year) or if I was just a bit more aware of what to expect, but it has been more bearable.

Of course, the minute I type that, I have to remind myself that of course it’s bearable – it’s only five days. Knowing there’s an endpoint makes a huge difference. So today, an exercise in imagining how different my life would be if I had to live like this all the time.

For starters, as I mentioned yesterday, my job would be very different. A few years ago, before I went fully self-employed with Sal’s Kitchen, I worked part-time and then full-time as a sales assistant for a big clothing company, a job that was boring, unfulfilling and very frustrating.  The possibility that I might have had to stick at a job like that for years, rather than having the freedom to try something else, is a pretty depressing thought.

Of course, my husband and I probably wouldn’t be living in Bath either. Rent is our biggest expense each month and we could definitely be paying a lot less elsewhere. Neither of us grew up in Bath but we have absolutely fallen in love with it – Bath feels like our place in the world. I’m sure it contributes to my happiness on a daily basis and it would be really hard if we had to leave.

After food and rent (including bills and suchlike – no more long hot showers) what else do we spend our money on? Since our family aren’t from round here, we spend money on visiting them in Devon – not too far, but still a fair chunk in terms of train fares. I already feel like we don’t see them enough (it’s probably less than once a month) and I’d be really sad to cut that down even more, but of course we’d absolutely have to. Thinking of transport has reminded me that I have to get to the dentist this afternoon (hooray), which means a 45 minute walk each way. I do a lot of walking as we tend not to use buses or taxis to save a bit of cash (Bath is nice for walking anyway) but I do have the option there if I need it – for example if I was ill and couldn’t face the walk to the doctor’s surgery, or when we get back from a trip to Devon, it’s pouring with rain, and we don’t want to walk half an hour home with our bags. Options are something you don’t get on £1 a day.

And when it comes to non-essentials? We both love going to the cinema – we’re movie nerds and films are always a treat for us. Of course, that would be totally out of the window. Another favourite past-time of mine is reading, and I’m extremely thankful that I’d still have access to my local library (which I use all the time), but the way libraries are going, that might not be the case forever, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to afford a trip to Waterstones or even my favourite second-hand bookshop. We also, as you might imagine, love eating out in Bath’s fantastic restaurants and cafes, which of course would have to go. Other things we love and wouldn’t have money for include music, videogames, fancy ingredients for me to indulge my passion for cooking, non-essential food like cake and chocolate, recipe books, and new clothes.

So – we’d probably be living somewhere much less nice, doing jobs we enjoy much less, not seeing our family and friends and not having money for the things we enjoy, with not much prospect of changing any of that. Setting out the specifics for me makes it seem like a pretty bleak forecast. As I said at the start, I’m not claiming this challenge is that hard – most people could do this for five days (except Gwyneth Paltrow, who failed spectacularly last year). The point is that it should give you a rare glimpse into how your life could be – a peek at another self. To me, this kind of brain-busting insight is a little bit of magic, and I don’t intend to let it go to waste.

Want to support us? We’re not asking for money this year – instead we’re asking you to start a new habit, one that only needs to cost you about £1 a week but could make a huge difference. Most big supermarkets have a donation point for local foodbanks, so it couldn’t be easier to donate when you do your weekly shop – just pick up something extra and drop it off. Go on – have a look next time you’re shopping and see how you could help.

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