'I wanted to live on Universal Credit for a week, and it's proving to be more difficult than I anticipated.'
A man who tried to live on Universal Credit for a week "failed miserably" and said it was "harder than he'd anticipated."
Gregory Ford, a columnist for one of the Star's sister publications, HullLive, set himself the task of living off a single shop bought with what he calculated to be a reasonable Universal Credit budget.
Many people contacted Gregory after the event to suggest ways he could have gotten more for his meager £21 budget after paying for necessities like rent and utilities, but the items he chose from his local Tesco represent a fairly standard shop by a single bloke who wasn't the best cook in the world.
The average single person over the age of 25 will receive a Universal Credit allowance of £324.84.
Gregory lives in Hull, where the Local Housing Allowance currently allows a contribution of £280 toward a single person's accommodation in a shared house with shared facilities.
He used that as a benchmark in his calculations, noting that he wouldn't be able to afford the places he currently lives in, but that housing in that price range is available.
Here's how he split the £324.84 he had for the month:
£80 in additional housing costs
£80 for fuel to get to job interviews, etc.
Another essential for job seekers is a phone contract, which costs £20.
£40 extra shopping budget (cleaning products, etc.)
That budget can only be achieved by eliminating all luxuries and unnecessary payments, according to him. For example, he'd have to cancel Amazon Prime and a Spotify subscription, both of which many of us take for granted.
Gregory stated that in his current situation, he believes it would be feasible to end up with a weekly shopping budget of around £20, which is also the same amount of money that the government recently decided to take away from the most vulnerable.
"After discounts, the shop came in at a total of £20.27," he says.
"With similar ingredients for the pasta and the curry, some meal planning was definitely required."
He wrote at the start of the project, "I'll be eating pasta twice, curry twice, and fishcakes twice, with a day to eat whatever I can scramble together at the end."
Gregory blew the budget on the final day after six days of no luxuries, bargain-basement coffee, and a race against time running out.
"It was difficult to live without other luxuries," he admitted.
"I'm a big guy who's used to a bag of crisps here and a smidgeon of toast there."
"I couldn't afford to live like that on my budget, which I believe contributed to my failure on the final day."
"I think my brain was desperate for a bit of serotonin after a week of strict adherence to the regime, so I figured I could fit a couple of beers into the extra budget I'd planned for."
"Reader, that budget was depleted in hours, and to make matters worse, I bought a pizza on the way home, much to my shame."