by AMANDA LENNESTAAL
Last week, Families Minister Jenny Macklin reportedly told a news conference that she could live on the dole – an allowance of $35 a day called ‘Newstart’.
Acting Leader of the Greens, Adam Bandt has since agreed to try living on the sum for one week himself, to show the Government that it is not enough money for a healthy existence.
He has challenged the Minister to do the same. Mamamia reader Amanda Lennestaal, knows what it’s like to live below the poverty line and has some tips for Minister Macklin if she takes up the challenge. Amanda writes:
Dear Ms Macklin,
It is with great interest that I have followed your assertion that you could live on $35 a day… and I have a few tips for you. You obviously don’t have to take them on board, but good luck to you if you don’t.
Savings: Have none. Simply operate a daily cash account with your local bank and pray that you don’t get the words ‘insufficient funds’ flash up at you when you are buying the necessary Nurofen for your toddler.
Food: For our family of four, we aim to live on $100 a week with a margin that allows for another $20 as needed. To do this and ensure that your family gets a few nutrients along the way, you will need to ensure you shop this way:
– Go to the fruit and vegetable markets at around 1pm on a Friday. My research (including conversations with refugees) is that this is absolutely the cheapest time to pick up your fruit and vegetables. You will need time and cash for this. You obviously have to be able to pick through to find the freshest produce as it can be a little depleted by this time.
– Don’t buy meat. You will be iron deficient (but as you aren’t considering this a long-term survival strategy for yourself, don’t sweat it). I need iron supplementation but can’t afford it. There’s something quite attractive about the pallid look I have developed.
– Purchase no pre-prepared foods. You can make most things you need from scratch, including bread. All of this is time consuming, but you are a clever woman, you will work it out. A little game I like to play is ‘make sure I purchase only non-GSTable items’ when shopping at Aldi. I’m becoming terrifyingly proficient.
Social life: Nothing really to say here. You can’t afford one really. It costs money to go out with friends, so don’t. It costs money to have people over, so try to limit it to morning or afternoon tea when you can whip up a cake or batch of biscuits at minimal cost. Pray that there is no overlap into dinner time as it’s considered shameful to offer your guests some frozen vegies and a boiled egg.
Telephone: Nix the home phone. Who can afford line rental? Search around for the absolutely cheapest mobile phone deal you can find. After all, you need to be able to call government departments. As you don’t have many friends left, your costs are neatly cut here.
Car: It’s hard to live where we live without a car and I can imagine you might need to get around. Make sure you don’t use the aircon in your car. It’s expensive and besides, ours doesn’t work. Your petrol budget is an absolute maximum of $20 a week so keep it local. Catch public transport where you can and make sure you drag along a few young children with you so you can see what it’s like to get around when the lifts don’t work at train stations.