I don’t know if accused is exactly the right word but I’m going to use it. Last week I was accused of being rich. We live in a city that has a lot of wealth; a good number of my friends are on 6 figure salaries and earn two or three times what I do. I don’t feel rich, and neither does my wife. We have three kids, and once the monthly payments (mortgage, household bills and so on) have gone out, we have hundreds of pounds (not thousands) left to save up for our annual holiday, feed and clothe the kids and to try and put some away for a rainy day.
The funny thing is, the fact we’re house owners with a fairly large mortgage (although low interest rates mean we’re only paying a few quid more than we did on a mortgage half the size 15 years ago), appeared to count against me in the rich stakes. To be a homeowner in the south east makes you rich. Again I suppose it’s a perception thing- renting our house would almost certainly cost us two to three times what we pay in mortgage repayments because it’s a desirable place to live. We’d certainly be poorer if we weren’t homeowners and almost certainly wouldn’t be able to live where our kids have/are growing up but I don’t know if per se that makes us rich.
I won’t pretend we’re poor as that would be insulting to people who are properly hard up but to contextualise it a little, we have to plan when we schedule things like car services or other large expenditure, I’m anti social at work and don’t go with my colleagues for a burger and a pint on a Friday lunch time (it works out at £50 a month), and neither of us have gym memberships or anything like that. Yes, we need cars for our work. Our cars have a combined purchase price of £6,000 and are 23 years old.
In terms of the haves and have nots, I’d say we have some but not as much as a lot of people in our area. We’ve kitted the kids out for school at the London Design Centre- a discount outlet centre near Wembley, and both of us tend to buy our clothing when the sales are on. We don’t end the month with a surplus in the thousands in our bank and I’m glad we are able to put some away more months than not.
While we were up in London on Sunday for a Netflix screening of their new kids show Beatle Bugs, we popped into Liberty as my wife wanted a rummage through the fabric in the haberdashery department as they often have some bargains.
As we strolled around the store, we popped into children’s wear and I spotted a dress that looked obviously designer because it looked horrendous.
“How much do you think they want for this?” I exclaimed.
My wife had a quick glance across. It looks designer, £60? That seems about as extortionate a price for an item of children’s clothing as you could get.
It turns out she was wrong so very very wrong:
£335 for a child’s dress. I’m sort of having trouble processing that. In fact, it is reminding me of the time ITV’s Martin Bashir interviewed Michael Jackson and we found out an entire cottage industry had sprung up to over charge Michael Jackson for stuff- the $500,000 or so each for a series of large but unremarkable vases being the example that sticks in my mind.
Whatever you think of the pattern, it would be moot in our household as my daughter would be wearing a hazmat suit to stop anything getting spilled on her £335 dress. I’d also need to buy it 6 sizes too big so she got value for money out of it.
I have to be careful here as I don’t want to come across as a communist or anything. I am fully in favour of people being rewarded for their endeavour. I get paid well for my job, I have a degree and a professional qualification, and have worked hard to get where I am, as do a lot of people who aren’t paid as much as I am. But somewhere along the way it’s become out of whack. The only item of clothing I’ve had that cost more than the girls dress was my wedding suit, and I wore that to work for the subsequent four years.
In a time when the Joseph Roundtree Foundation show that more families with kids are falling into poverty:
It seems odd to me that the rampant consumerism at the top end seems to be heading to ever higher excess (remember, that dress isn’t even tailored, it’s off the peg, you could probably spend multiples of that price if you really wanted to). Liberty isn’t for the 1% either, they wouldn’t mix with the likes of us in a shop, it’s for the well to do people in your local commuter belt town where everyone is a paper millionaire because house prices have gone mad.