The Cost Of Living

cost of living

Marion compares the cost of living

Food prices are always in the news. According to price comparison website, mySupermarket, the average increase in a basket of 35 popular food items from in the year to July was 1%. That figure included some individual price rises and falls that were quite a long way from the average. Cola went up by around 27% because of the introduction of the sugar tax, but the price of mushrooms went down by around 14% over the year.

The report suggested that the average household now pays around £85.90 for the items, £1.06 more than last year. This is an average, and individual households will be different.

It made interesting reading when set against another little treasure from our archive volumes. In her “Wives And Daughters” column, household editor “Janette” set out the typical weekly food bills of some “Friend” readers in 1903.

The cost of living in 1903

Mrs A.E., of Aberdeen “tells me that she has six of a family and an income of 29s a week; rent 5s, including gas and taxes and additional expenses 3s and 9d. Her outlays are as follows:”, Janette said.

4/6  Bread
2/6  Milk, butter
1/2  Sugar
0/10½  Flour
1/5  Tea and coffee
0/10  Fish, eggs
3/0  Jam
0/5  Meat
1/0  Barley, peas
0/6  Potatoes and veg
2/0  Soap, etc.
0/8½  Coals, etc.
0/8½  Tobacco
0/4  Papers

In total, Mrs A.E. was spending £1 9s 6d a week, 6d more than her income.

Varying costs of living

Janette points out that the amounts could vary each week, so the extra sixpence might be found quite easily. She is, though, quite critical about the amount spent on jam “(which seems to me excessive, and should be varied with treacle or syrup, which have a higher food value) Isn’t 1s 2d for sugar rather high, too? And there is no cheese, which seems a pity, as it is so nourishing.” How odd it looks now that she doesn’t mention the amount spent on tobacco! Despite her grumbles, Janette offers Mrs A.E. a prize for her trouble in sending in her budget.

I was really curious to see how much Mrs A.E. would need in today’s money to pay her bills. A quick search of the internet and a few sums later, and it looks like Mrs A.E. would need around £558 in 2018, which is a little more than the current national average full-time weekly wage.

Times could be hard in 1903, but readers managed to the best of their ability.

Other housewives also shared their expenses and Janette comments, “All my correspondents who have written make their children’s things and prove themselves skilled and thrifty housewives. How much one admires such women. They are indeed the salt of the earth.”

It seems as though “Friend” readers have always prided themselves on good household management, and the magazine has always done its best to provide them with the hints and tips they needed to do just that!

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Marion McGivern

As editor of the cookery, money, pets and eco pages, Marion covers a wide range of regular Features content. Along with the rest of the Team, she enjoys finding interesting features for both the weekly and Special issues that readers will love. Having so much variety every day means that over ten years with the “Friend” has just flown by!