Battling bloggers’ handy hints for our poor starving MPs
YOU could hear hearts breaking across NSW yesterday at the terrible news our impoverished politicians will be forced to subsist on a meagre $77.55 a day meal allowance.
Not since federal Labor MP John Murphy went public about the paltry beef stroganoff servings at the parliamentary canteen has the public seen the true impact of hunger on our elected representatives.
Turn it up. At a time when so many households are going without, the application by our pollies to the remuneration tribunal for a bit more pampering has understandably enraged put-upon families.
If these MPs are battling to make ends meet, there’s a raft of innovative money-saving ideas out there in cyberspace which I’ll discuss for their benefit, after recapping this latest perk grab.
Even if they receive their silly entitlement it would do them good to read these sites anyway, as they tell the human stories of genuine poverty at the sharp end of the GFC _ the people who are the most insulted by this absurd perk.
The benefit will apply to 44 MPs living outside or on the fringes of Sydney and is billed as a ``transit’’ allowance to help them buy food on the way into town.
I’m flat out trying to work out how they’d spend even half of it. It’s not like there’s many Michelin-starred restaurants along Parramatta Rd - $77.55 would get you between eight and 12 kebabs at Lazikos in Burwood, depending on whether you go the full tabouli and cheese option.
Indeed, The Daily Telegraph found one woman yesterday who does her weekly food shopping for that amount - and her trolley includes smoked salmon.
This woman is like so many of the emerging budgeting stars of the internet who, often out of necessity at the redundancy of their partners, illness on their own part or the demands of raising kids on their own, are forced to watch every cent they spend.
Fuelled by the GFC, the has been an explosion on the web in the number of independent blog sites where people earning sod-all, most of them women, share their money-saving tips.
Some sites have only a tiny number of followers and operate less as an information-sharing vehicle than a form of catharsis for people doing it tough.
One of the nicest websites I have seen is http://lowincomelady.blogspot.com/ on which the author, who identifies herself only by her web name, writes short posts about life as a single mum with a young son in Sydney’s outer suburbs.
No $77.55 food allowances for the Low Income Lady - it’s almost her weekly budget.
Aside from writing about the things that bring joy to her life - buying some Transformers DVDs for her son, the second birthday of her cavalier spaniel Lukie, her love of cross-stitch _ she documents in detail her ongoing 30-year battle with a $130,000 mortgage.
Here’s one of her recent posts:
Sunday, May 31, 2009
A piece of paper that says a lot!
I keep a piece of A4 paper near the computer. It has the whole mortgage on it in boxes. Each box represents $100. So as the mortgage balance goes down, each column gets filled up. I have just reached the bottom of the second column. The paper is starting to get a bit worn out but I am going to keep it going as long as I can!
These repayments are loose change for many people but for Low Income Lady it is a finely-poised weekly struggle, as documented by this post when she almost missed a repayment because she bought too much fruit:
Thursday, May 28, 2009
How easy it is to spend money!!
I went to town today. I went to Aldi and spent $16.22 on bananas, Easter chocolate, cordial and pears. Then to Coles and another $18 on grapes, soft drink, hot cross buns. I bought quite a few grapes.
Low Income Lady has only seven followers. One of them is a black guy from Detroit who just got laid off from acar factory.
I went to his homepage and tapped into a whole bunch of people in the US similar to Low Income Lady, who document their battle to stay solvent.
One of them, http://cheapbychoice.blogspot.com/, is run by a woman who collects food coupons and enters every competition she can. She has documented a trend in the US called ``dumpster diving’‘, where an online network of the thrifty and poor alert each other to rubbish collection days outside newsagents and swoop on the dumpsters to get as many food coupons as they can.
Some of the sites are worth reading for the quality of the writing alone.
There’s one woman called Broke in Michigan, who on her blog site http://michigangirlsnewbudget.blogspot.com/ has written powerfully about what she calls “The Second Great Depression’‘, documenting the loss of manufacturing jobs in the Great Lakes.
One of her most beautiful posts was about a Saturday night get-together with her family which was marred by a power failure:
We ended up having a great evening. Funny how a power outage can bring a family together. My mom can’t believe I’m gardening. I catch her giving me that look a mother can only give you. She searches me to make sure I’m really happy. She knows the signs to look for because I am her daughter. I wonder why I try to bluff her at poker. She can always read me. I can tell she feels at ease. She feels content because she knows that I am happy. Sunday morning is now quiet. Everyone’s power has been restored. Everyone has headed home. April is winding down and I think I will be hitting all of my goals this month. I have gotten to spend a lot of time with our family and some close friends that I don’t spend nearly enough time with. And if everything stays on track we will be staying within our budget.
This proud community should challenge the behaviour of the rest of us.
For those of us who are affluent, we should ask - why do we own so much crap and why do we keep buying more?
The media, especially the so-called “quality’’ press, should ask whether it’s best to cover the GFC top-down as a story about business grappling with a recession, or bottom-up through the individuals and families with clever ideas to keep their heads above water.
And our pollies should weigh a $77.55 lunch perk in the context of these stories - or at the very least, just read them - otherwise the downturn will remain an abstract which they can never feel.
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