Victorian Money - How much did things cost?
As today, prices varied according to quality of goods and intended consumer. The prices below are meant to provide a basic guide but should not be relied upon as 'the' price for any particular goods or service. Prices apply only to my area of expertise - London!
£1 (also shown as 1l.) was 20 shillings.
1 shilling (1s.), was 12 pence. Also often known as a 'bob', as in "I paid six bob for this",
Thus there were 240 pence (20 x 12) to every pound.
Other Victorian words to do with currency:-
1 guinea was £1 1s. (or 21 shillings) - ie. a pound with an additional shilling.
1 crown was five shillings. (and half-crown two and a half shillings, of course)
A half-sovereign ten shillings.
1 farthing was a ¼ penny.
Prices given as weekly rate for easy comparison, though rent of a whole house was generally annual or possibly for the summer 'Season' if in the West End.
Bear in mind that most Victorian houses were rented - ownership was not commonplace; also that area of London dramatically affected price.
Also note dates of source vary.
|RENTED HOUSING||Cost (weekly)||Source||SOURCE
a) Murray's Handbook to London As It is, 1879
b) The Surburban Homes of London, 1881
c) Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879
d) Cruchley's London, 1865
e) London Labour and the London Poor, 1851
f) Life in West London by Arthur Sherwell, 1897
g) Illustrated London News on "Model Lodging", 1846
|A furnished house in the West End||5 to 25 guineas||a|
|'Elegantly furnished rooms' in West End||4 to 15 guineas||a|
|An unfurnished house in Holland Park (wealthy suburb, Kensington area)||7 to 10 guineas||b|
|A sitting room and bedroom in Pimlico (well-to-do suburb)||1 to 4 guineas||a|
|A house in suburban Walthamstow (a railway commuter suburb, NE London)||10 to 40 shillings||b|
|Three rooms in Soho (relatively poor but central London district)||14 to 20 shillings||f|
|House on Shaftesbury-park model housing estate, built for working men and their families in Battersea (varied with size of house, from five rooms through to eight)||7s. 6d. to 11s.||c|
|Single room in Soho (relatively poor but central London district)||6 to 8 shillings||f|
|Single room for "mechanic" (manual labourer) in lodgings||3 to 6 shillings||g|
|Two rooms in Peabody Model Housing||4s. 9d.||c|
|Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes model housing estate, two room cottage||3s. 6d.||g|
|Bed & Breakfast, with Dinner and 'attendance' at the Midland Grand Hotel||14s.||c|
|Bed & Breakfast at a City boarding-house||3s.||d|
|Bed in shared room in 'low lodging house'||1-4d.||e|
wages given per annum unless otherwise specified
a) The Great Metropolis by James Grant, 1837
b) Tempted London, 1889
c) His Recollections and Experiences by Edmund Yates, 1885 (writing on 1840s/1850s)
"four or five days a week, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., with three-quarters of an hour for dinner and half an hour for tea."
a) Letter to the Morning Chronicle by Henry Mayhew, 1849
a) Letter to the Morning Chronicle by Henry Mayhew, 1849
b) Toilers in London, 1889
c) Some Habits and Customs of the Working Classes, 1867, by Thomas Wright
Down East and Up West by Montague Williams, 1894
a) Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879
b) Cassell's Household Guide, c. 1880s
a) Choice of a Business for Girls by Emily Faithfull, 1864
b) Letter to the Morning Chronicle by Henry Mayhew, 1849
c) Tempted London, 1889
|SHOPS AND STALLS|
Letter to the Morning Chronicle by Henry Mayhew, 1849
|TAILORS AND CLOTHING - note that weekly wage for piece-workers was not constant and depended on how much work came your way; many working from home also had to pay for their materials, such as the garter-maker quoted below|
a) Letter to the Morning Chronicle by Henry Mayhew, 1849
b) Life in West London by Arthur Sherwell, 1897
c) Toilers in London, 1889
Cassell's Household Guide, c. 1880s
|TELEGRAPH CLERKS (FEMALE)|
wages per annum for government telegraphists:-
wages per annum in private 'receiving-houses' (generally shops)
Cassell's Household Guide, c. 1880s
Edmund Yates, The Business of Pleasure, 1879
|Rates and taxes (including gas)||38||18||10|
|Doctor and chemist||33||1||0|
|Travelling and tips||43||7||5|
|Pleasures, presents, smoking||35||18||2|
|House repairs &c.||26||12||10|
George Somes Leyard: 'How to live on 700 a year', Nineteenth Century, 1888
From CASSELLS HOUSEHOLD GUIDE
Recommended budgets for the middle class:-
We will suppose that the family consists of the father, mother, and three children, and commence with incomes of £500, and £400, and £300 a year. These may be divided as follows:-
Expenditure of an Income of £500 a year.
£ s d Rent, rates, taxes, and cost of locomotion 72 10 0 Housekeeping (provisions, coal, gas, servants' wages, laundry, and wear-and-tear) 250 0 0 Clothing 62 10 0 Education 32 10 0 Insurance, medical attendance, and savings 62 10 0 Incidental expenses 20 0 0 [-Total-] £500 0 0
. . . . FROM the housekeeping, taken at £250, for an income of £500 a year, the following deductions may be taken as a pretty fair allowance
Servants' wages. £14 per annum, or £1 3s. 4d. per month, for a general servant; and £12 per annum, or £1 per month, for nurse or housemaid 26 0 0 Gas 8 0 0 Coals and Coke 12 0 0 £46 0 0
Leaving a balance of £204 for housekeeping.
Before disposing of this £204, however, there is still another point to be considered, and that is the summer holiday. In these modern days a yearly visit to the seaside or to the country is regarded as one of the necessities of life. Men and women draw upon their strength until it is almost exhausted, and then trust to a periodical enjoyment of fresh air, rest, and change to reinvigorate them and furnish them with health and energy for another year's work. But how is it to be paid for? The answer is evident to all; it must be taken from the half of the income apportioned to housekeeping.
By this arrangement the amount set aside for housekeeping could be continued through the year; that is, the expenses would be supposed to be the same as usual wherever the family might happen to be. Therefore it would be necessary only to deduct from the £204 as much as would pay for travelling expenses and lodgings. For these £20 might well be deemed sufficient. The amount should either be put aside in a lump sum if the income be received yearly or quarterly, or it should be taken from the weekly income and put every week in the Post-Office Savings Bank, there to remain until the occasion for which it is needed shall arrive.
We find, therefore, that after deducting this additional £20 from the £204 we have a balance of £184, or an average sum of £3 l0s. per week, for housekeeping There is a small surplus, but this may be left for security, as it is not well to draw the line too closely.
Expenditure of an Income of £400 a year.
Rent, rates, taxes, and cost of locomotion 60 0 0 Housekeeping 200 0 0 Clothing 50 0 0 Education 25 0 0 Insurance, medical attendance, and savings 40 0 0 Incidental expenses 25 0 0 [-Total-] £400 0 0
Expenditure of an Income of £300 a year.
Rent, &c. 40 0 0 Housekeeping (provisions, coal, gas, servants' wages, laundry, and wear-and-tear 150 0 0 Clothing 35 0 0 Education 20 0 0 Insurance 35 0 0 Incidental expenses 20 0 0 [-Total-] £300 0 0
. . . It maybe objected to this item that people in possession of £500 or £400 a year would be justified in living in houses worth more than £50 or £40 a year rent. This might be true with families where there are no children to educate, and where there was no attempt made to save money. Hundreds of families with this income live in better houses and let prudence go. But in this we think are wrong. It is true the style of a house determines to a great extent the estimate which will be formed of the respectability, class, credit, or means of the occupier. A great curse of our modern civilisation, however, is the constant competition which is carried on as to appearances. People will do with inferior food and dispense with comfort, in order to appear better off than they really are. Society would be a different thing if each man would adapt his mode of life to the actual state of his purse, rather than to his neighbour's supposed opinion about it. In numberless homes a saving might be effected if people would but rid themselves of the fancied necessity for maintaining false appearances.
There is a way of paying rent and of saving at the same time which is frequently adopted by the prudent and thrifty; and that is to join a building society, and buy the house one lives in. Well-managed building societies are a great boon to economical people. They have been the means of inducing numbers of people to save who never would have done so without them. Many a man who is now comfortably off, who has a nice little sum safely invested, and who enjoys all the advantages belonging to that condition of things, owes his position to the fact that he was once induced to join a building society. By the arrangement thus made he paid his rent monthly instead of quarterly, soon gained the pleasant consciousness of having saved a little money, and after a time found that the house he lived in was his own.
From Arthur Sherwell's LIFE IN WEST LONDON (1897)
Family budgets of the poor
It may not be uninteresting, at this point, to supplement the figures already given by a statement showing how the wages so precariously earned are spent. And for this purpose I have selected certain typical weeks in the domestic life of a worker of a somewhat lower class than the one just referred to, but who may be taken as a fair representative of a large number of tailors in the West - a sober, respectable man, working quietly at home and receiving occasional assistance from his wife, but unable to obtain a regular supply of work.* [-* It may be stated at the outset that many of the workers in the tailoring trade-good, bad, and indifferent alike-live for a large part of the year in a chronic state of bankruptcy, pledging one week's earnings (in the slack seasons, several weeks' earnings) to eke out another.-]
The family consisted of the man and his wife, and four children (all of them too young to be wage-earners). At [-112-] the beginning of April 1895, following upon a winter of exceptional severity, the man found himself several pounds in debt to landlord, baker, pawnbroker, etc., while several of the children requited boots and underclothing.
For the week ending April 20th, 1895, the entire earnings of the family amounted to £2 3s. 9d.; the household expenses were as follows:
Rent (including 2/- off arrears)
Baker's a/c for bread (including 1/- off arrears)
Groceries for week
Paid for washing (in consequence of wife working at trade)
Joint of meat (to last three days)
Meat, for remaining 4 days
Vegetables for week
1½ cwt. coals (at 1/4 per cwt.)
Butter for the week (1 lb)
Sundry household requisites, soap, soda, etc.
Insurance and Club money
Hire of machine
Pair of boots for child
Total expenditure (for six persons)
£2 0s. 4d.
Balance of income over expenditure
£2 3s. 9d.
The absence of any item of expenditure for beer or other alcoholic drinks is noteworthy. Moreover, with the exception of one item of 2/11 for boots for one of the children, there is no mention made of clothes, the cost of which, [-113-] for a family of six persons would necessarily be great.* [-* it is said to have averaged, in this case, 7/- per week: but this is probably excessive. Judging by ascertained returns in other trades, the sum of 4/- per week would probably be a fairer estimate.-] Nor - to mark only one other omission - is there any mention made in the above list of necessary expenditure for wear and tear in household utensils, furniture, etc., and other incidental expenses which are common to all households, and inevitable where there are young children. I have tried to secure a rough estimate of such expenditure, but it is difficult to determine it with anything like accuracy, inasmuch as various sums were given to the wife at irregular intervals; such, for example, as £1 on one occasion for new bedding, and a further sum at another time for sheets, pillow-cases, etc. I shall certainly not be overestimating this source of expenditure, however, in fixing it at a minimum sum of £2 per annum.
Now it will be interesting to compare this statement, which refers to what in this man's case was a fairly good week, with other similar statements, having reference to the same family, for certain weeks in the slack season. These statements will be of special value as showing the nature and extent of the economies that are forced upon the people in times of slackness.
For the week ending January 5th, 1895, the wages of the family amounted to 15s. 8d. The expenditure for the same week was as follows:
[-114-] Rent (half a week only)
Boots for children (three pairs)
Meat (frozen mutton) lasting 4 days
Hire of machine
Insurance and club
Dinner for Thursday (six persons)
Dinner for Friday (six persons)
Meat tea Saturday (no dinner)
£1 13s. 7½d. Deficiency (excess of expenditure over income) 17s. 11½d. This was met by the man pawning his best suit for £1
For the week ending January 26th, 1895, the wages of the family were absolutely nil. This, although exceptional in the case of a good worker, is by no means uncommon among workers of a lower class.
In this week, therefore, the expenses, of necessity, had to be cut down to the barest minimum. In the first place, nothing could be paid for rent, hire of machine, Sick Benefit Society, or Insurance. The landlord stormed, and forcibly reminded the man and his wife that he was neither a Relieving Officer, nor a relative, and had nothing to do with their troubles, but, nevertheless, the rent could not be found.
The expenditure for the week was as follows:
[-115-] Saturday Tripe cuttings for Sunday's dinner (six persons)
Saturday Potatoes and parsley for Sunday's dinner (six persons)
Monday Dinner (2 bloaters)
Tuesday No dinner
Wednesday (pledged pair of blankets for 4/-)
Wednesday Stew for dinner
Wednesday Paid coal man 2/- owing to him
(as he refused otherwise to send in any more coal, and family had no fire)
Thursday Dinner (potatoes and dripping)
Friday No dinner
Saturday Dinner (haddock and butter)
Bread for week
Tea, Sugar, and Milk for week
Total expenditure for week
Of this sum 4/- (as will be seen above) was raised by pawning a pair of blankets (this in the depth of the winter!).
Let me conclude with the particulars of one more week. I select the week ending February 9th, 1895.
For this week the entire wages of the family amounted to 8/7. The expenditure was as follows:-
Rent (part of a week)
Meat for Sunday, etc. (3 lbs of salt beef at 2½ per lb.)
Tea, Sugar, and Milk
Meat, vegetables, etc. for a stew (six persons)
Soap, soda, and other sundries
Potatoes and Lard (a "baked dinner")
Total expenditure for the week
[-116-] Total deficiency on the week (i.e., excess of expenditure over income) 7/8½.
For three days the family lived upon bread and tea. Nothing, it will be noticed, could be paid this week for hire of machine, Sick Benefit Club, or Insurance; nor is anything included for medical attendance incurred by the illness of one of the children. The deficiency was covered by the man pawning his overcoat. * [-* It will be noticed that in the three weeks of which I have given particulars (and which, among the class of workers referred to, are by no means so exceptional as may be supposed), the man had been compelled to pawn an overcoat (the only one he possessed), a suit of clothes, and a pair of blankets, and this in the face of the worst rigours of an exceptionally hard winter.-]
"COST OF LIVING" section from 'Homes and Habits' by Mrs. C. S. Peel from Early Victorian England, 1830-1865, ed. G.M.Young, Oxford University Press, pub. 1934
We learn something of the cost of living in the early part of our period from the Cook's Oracle and from a new edition dated 1824 of A New System of Practical Domestic Economy founded on Modern Discoveries and from the Private Communications of Persons of Experience, printed for Henry Colburn, New Burlington Street.
Both of these books were published before 1830, but the information they contain was applicable for a number of years after. The Cook's Oracle family consisted of three in the parlour, two maids, and a man, and allowance is made for a dinner-party once a month, the table of expenses being 'for people living in a small way' in a household 'where there is plenty of good provisions, but no affectation of profusion'. -
Meat . . . . . . . . £65
Fish and poultry . . . . . . £25
Bread . . . . . . . £18.
Butter and cheese . . . . . . £25
Milk . . . . . . . £7
Vegetables and fruit . . . . . 20
Tea, coffee, sugar . . . . . . £15
Table ale . . . . . . . £25
Washing . . . . . . . £20
Coals . . . . . . . . £30
Candles and soap . . . . . . £20
Sundries and forgets . . . . . £50
Deducting coals, washing, and table ale - £75 - that leaves £245, which is practically £4 15s. a week or roughly 16s. per head for food and cleaning materials.
The estimates of household expenses given in A New System are always planned for a man, his wife, and three children, and those in Part I are referred to in the pages devoted to the life of the poor.
In Part II, beginning with an income of £150 per annum, the man becomes a gentleman, and when his income rises to - £250 per annum, his 'wife' becomes his 'Lady'. On £400 a year the family enjoy the services of two maidservants, one horse, and a groom. On £700 they keep one man and three maidservants and two horses. On £1,000 they blossom out into an establishment of three female servants, a coach-man and footman, a chariot or coach, phaeton or other four-wheeled carriage and a pair of horses. On £5,000 a year the [-105-] establishment has grown to thirteen male and nine female servants, ten horses, a coach, a curricle and a Tilbury, Chaise or gig. We give in full the estimate for incomes of £250 and £1,000 a year.
Income, £250 per Annum
Family-A Gentleman, his Lady, Three Children, and a Maid Servant.
Provisions and other Articles of Household Expense. Weekly Annual £ s d £ s d Bread and Flour for six persons - 1s. each 6 0 Butter - 3½lb. at an average of 1s. per lb., 7d. each or 6d. a day 3 6 Cheese - ¼lb. each, 1½lb. at 10d. - 2½d. each 1 3 Milk - 3d. each 1 6 Tea, Coffee &c. - 5 oz. Tea at 8s. per lb. 2 6 Sugar &c. - 4½lb. at 8d. - 6d. each 3 0 Grocery - including Spices, Condiments, &c. 6d. each 3 0 Butchers Meat - 18lb.
at 7d. per lb. . . . . . 10s. 6d.
Fish &c. (6d. per day) 3s. 6d. 2s. a day 14 0 Vegetables and Garden-Fruits - 6d. each 3 0 Beer and other Liquors - 1s. a day 7 0 Coals and Wood - 3¾ chaldrons of coals a year at 48s. - 91 and Wood, 15.s 3 9 Candles, Oil, &c. - say 6½dozen Candles a year, at 7s. per dozen - 2lb. a week 1 2 Soap, Starch, &c. (8 dozen Soap a year at 7s. per dozen), nearly 2lb. a week, and Starch, &c. - 2d. a day 1 2 Sundries - for cleaning, scowering, &c. 9
Total for regular Household Expenses
2 11 7 134 2 4 Extra for Entertainments, Medicine, and other Incidents 7 11 2
Total for Household Expenses
141 13 4 Clothes (Gent, £15, Lady £12, Children £10) 36 0 0 Rent, Taxes, &c 25 0 0 Education, Extra and Private Expenses 10 10 0 Maid-Servant 16 0 0 Total Expense 229 3 4 Reserve, 1/12th 20 16 8 Amount of Income 250 0 0
The family consisting of a Gentleman, his Wife, and three children; with an establishment of three Female Servants, a Coachman and a Footman; in all Ten Persons - a Chariot or Coach, Phaeton, or other four-wheel Carriage, and a pair of Horses.
Expenses of the House, weekly £ s d Bread and Flour - for ten persons, at 1s. each 10 0 Butter - ¾ lb. each - 7½ lb. at an average of 1s. per lb. 7 6 Butcher's Meat - ¾ lb. per day each, or 52 ½ lb at 6d. per lb. (2s. 7½d. each) . . . . £1 6s. 3d. Fish, Poultry, &c. (9d. a day) . . . . . . 5s 3d. 1 11 6
2 9 0 [-106-] Beer or ale - 1 quart each per day or 17½ gallons at 8d. (1s. 2d. each) . . . . . 11s. 9d. Other Liquours - 1s. 4d. per day . . . . 9s. 4d. 1 1 0 Cheese - ½ lb. each per week, or 5lb. at 9d. (4½d. each) 3 9 Garden Fruits and Vegetables - (9d. each) 7 6 Grocery of all kinds (except Tea and Sugar) including Spices and Condiments (9d. each) 7 6 Sugar - ¾ lb. each per week or 7½ lb. average, 8d. per lb. - 6d. each 5 0 Tea, Coffee, &c. (Servants finding their own Tea, &c.) 5 0 Milk and Eggs - (4½d. each) 3 9
Total for Provisions, weekly, being £266 10s. per annum
5 2 6 Coals and Wood - Four fires - 2½ chaldrons of Coals each fire, on an average all the year round, or 10 chaldrons, at 45s. - £22 10s. - Wood at the rate of 7s. to each chaldron of Coals, or 17s. 6d. to each fire, per annum, £3 10s. - 2s. 6d. each fire per week 10 0 Candles, Gas, Oil, &c. - equal to 10 lb. Candles per week, on an average, all the year round, viz. 2 lb., moulds at 10d. and 8 lb. stores at 8d. - (1s. per day) 7 0 Soap, Starch &c. for washing - 6 lb. Soap, at 8d. - 4s. Starch, Blue, Mangling, &c. 1s. 3d. (9d. per day) 5 3 Sundries for Cleaning, scowering, &c. (about 4d. per day) 2 3
6 7 0
Household Expenses, per week, £6 7s. . . . £330 per annum or 33 per cent.
Extra for Entertainments, £20 per annum . . . . or 2 per cent.
Medicine, Medical Attendance and other Incidental Expenses . £10 per annum . . . . or 1 per cent.
Carried forward £360 per annum . . . . or 36 per cent.
Distribution of Income.
£ s d 1. Household Expenses (brought forward)-36 per cent. 360 0 0 2. Servants, Horses, and Carriages, 22 per cent., viz. Coach or Chariot (as per Appendix, Table II) 40 0 0 Two Horses (as per Appendix, Table I) 65 17 0 Two Male Servants, viz. Coachman Wages 24 0 0 Livery 12 0 0 Duty 1 11 0
37 11 0 Footman and Groom Wages 22 0 0 Livery 11 17 0 Duty 1 11 0
35 8 0 Three Female Servants, viz. Cook 16 0 0 House-Maid 14 14 0 Nursery-Maid 10 10 0 41 4 0
220 0 0 220 0 0 3. Clothes, Haberdashery, &c. 12 per cent. - viz.: The Gentleman 4 per cent 40 0 0 Lady 5 per cent. 50 0 0 Three Children 2½ per cent. 25 0 0 Haberdashery 0½ per cent. 5 0 0
120 0 0 120 0 0 [-107-] 4. Rent, Taxes, and Repairs - 1 2 per cent. 120 0 0 5. Extra Expenses - 8 per cent.-viz.: Education 4 per Cent. 40 0 0 Pocket Expenses 2 20 0 0 Private Expenses 2 20 0 0
80 0 0
Total Expense, per annum
900 0 0 6. Reserve, or Saving, for Contingencies, 10 per cent 100 0 0
1000 0 0
Note.-Instead of a Coach or Chariot and a pair of Horses, with a Coachman, and another Man-Servant, as above-mentioned; a Curricle, Gig, or other two-wheeled Carriage with three Horses, a Groom, and a Footman, may be kept at about the same expense.
The cost of living for the upper classes who do not depend so much upon bread as do the poor, did not vary very much during the thirties and forties, but by 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition, it had fallen considerably. Beef and mutton were then 7½d. and 8½d. a lb., butter 1s. 2d. lb., oysters, the best natives, 7d. a dozen, and Mrs. Beeton, who gives the average prices of her dishes, notes that in 1861, soles were 1s. to 2s. the pair, pork 9d. lb., veal 8d. to 9½d., bacon 10d. to 1s. primest cuts, calves' heads 5s. 6d. to 7s. each, large fowls 2s. 6d., rabbits 1s. to 1s. 6d., wild duck 4s. to 5s. a couple, partridges 2s. to 4s. 6d. the brace, pheasants 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. each, quails 1s. 3d. to 2s. and snipe 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. each. On the other hand, the servant problem was beginning to make itself felt. The establishments of 1830 have begun to contract. Mrs. Beeton suggests that on an income of £1,000 a year a cook, two housemaids, and a man servant may be kept; on £750 a cook, housemaid, and boot-boy; on £500 a cook and housemaid; on £300 a maid of all work; and on £150 up to £200 a maid of all work or a girl for the rough work. A nursemaid may be added when the income exceeds £350 'or an elder daughter if old enough, good enough and careful enough may mind the young ones'.
We may put the matter thus. In early Victorian England a family in good society could live more or less comfortably on £800-£1,000 a year. About 1850 a lady with daughters writes: 'Young people of good position may marry comfortably on £500 a year and expectations, anything from £500 to £1,500 is considered a possible, sufficient or comfortable income.' Mrs. Eleanor Bold was thought to be left quite unnecessarily well off with one child and £1,200. A beneficed [-108-] clergyman with house and garden free could do on £300 to £400. In the Line an officer might start married life on £200 to £400. But it would not have been a comfortable life, and the curate or poor parson who had to do with less must have been very uncomfortable. We shall see that on £100 a year it took some contrivance to keep a working family of five.
I. A WORKMAN'S BUDGET.
[This article is the first of a short series describing the way in which the various classes of the community, from the lowest to the highest, expend their incomes. In all ranks of life there are many who live from hand to mouth, and on these exceptions it is not proposed to touch. But in the majority of households, where there is more than one mouth to feed, something in the nature of a budget must be drawn up. An attempt, therefore, will be made to put down in £ s. d. the proportions or the yearly earnings which are devoted to rent, food, clothing, education, amusements, &c. in average families throughout the kingdom. In so wide a field there is endless variety both of income and expenditure; the difficulty of selecting any precise sums as typical of the various classes is necessarily great, and the dividing line is often very narrow. The Editor has chosen five representative groups. Of these the first is the household of the working-man in receipt of good weekly wages. The second is that of the clerk who earns his 160l. a year. Then will come the family, ranking, according to circumstances, in the upper or middle-class, with an income of 800l. a year ; thereafter the well-to-do-purple with 1,800l. a year, and lastly, the wealthy, whose income reaches the magic figure of 10,0001. a year, and who are not to be classed with the millionaires. The Editor is convinced that each province of the Family Budgets has been entrusted to competent treatment. -ED. CORNHILL.]
THE title may stand so, though many dislike—as I sometimes myself dislike—the exclusive appropriation of the terms 'workman,' 'working-man' to men whose work is of the manual sort. Nevertheless, since it is grown a general convention to call him workman who labours with his hands, and so distinguish him among all other workmen, I will save trouble and use the common phrase in this paper. The workman has suffered injuries, real and imaginary, of which we have heard much ; but more than all he has suffered from a pestilent generalisation. He has been called many things that are bad; perhaps more often he has been called everything that is good. His habits are so and so, says one; on the contrary, they are invariably such and such, says another. The truth being that the workman is merely a human being, and generalisation may safely go as far with him as with his race, and no farther. So that when I am asked to write of how a working man earning thirty shillings a week lays out the money, I am put under the temptation to fall into the sin I rebuke; for one might go far before finding two men, workmen or not, who would spend thirty shillings in exactly the same way. But between the drunkard, whose household starves while he soaks away his wages, and the weakling, whose wife takes every penny and scarce gives him one back, there lie many degrees, and one of them a mean. Perhaps the bulk of workmen are of this middle sort or near it, and perhaps we can make a sufficiently fair estimate of the workman's budget ; always remembering that, as among all of us, he and his neighbour are apt to differ in this matter as in others.
First, then, the budget must be considered in terms of weekly expenditure. The yearly or half-yearly balance-sheet, formal or informal, is for the man who reckons his income by the year, not for him who lives from Saturday to Saturday on weekly wages. The class we are considering is one of men earning from twenty or twenty-five to forty shillings a week, and for our instance we put the sum at thirty shillings, not as the average of a full week's wages, which would be a little higher, but as a general average, allowing for missed time, slack periods, and the like. Our particular example is of a man—a married man, of course—living in a humble though decent neighbourhood in London, at no very great distance from his work. We will suppose the children to be three, and of school age, though this need not hinder us from glancing as we pass at the effect on the exchequer of an increase both in numbers and in age.
When we examine this man's expenditure we observe one striking characteristic. We are of course assuming that his wife is not a fool, and, this postulate accepted, it is found that all that the family needs, with one single exception, can be bought at a cheaper rate than is paid for the same things by people of larger incomes. The single exception is house accommodation. Herein the workman is at a disadvantage. Rent varies of course with a dozen circumstances, but it is no very uncommon thing to find our thirty-shilling-a-week workman paying it to the amount of ten shillings a week—precisely a third of his income—or even more. Consider how a man with six hundred a year would be regarded who lived in a house with a rent of two hundred. Of course, the workman's rent includes rates and taxes, so that perhaps the comparison is not strictly fair. Let us then suppose the case of a cashier or managing clerk on three hundred a year whose employer suddenly discovers him flourishing in a house which, with the rates, costs a hundred ; and let us imagine that employer's panic-stricken rush to overhaul his cashier's books.
Ten shillings a week, however, would not be a fair average rent for our workman, taking all districts and all circumstances into the calculation. Let us say seven shillings though indeed I write the sum with some misgiving that it should really be a little more. Mathematical accuracy in this matter, however, is an impossibility without an exact return of every workman's rent in London, so at seven shillings we will fix our man's rent. For that he will get three rooms—not very big rooms, as a general thing—being the half of one of the six-roomed houses that make the bulk of the streets in East London. Thus it is seen that rather less than a quarter of the income goes in rent. It is a counsel of prudence among the middle classes, I believe, to pay no more than a tenth of the income in rent; though perhaps in practice the sum is commonly something nearer an eighth. The relatively higher rent of small houses arises from an excessive demand, and from the fact that a workman must live within a reasonable distance of his work. Workmen's trains are all very well, but he prefers not to begin and end a hard day's work with a long railway journey if he can avoid it. Further, ground in the neighbourhoods where factories and workshops abound is commercially valuable for the erection of those very buildings, and this brings a new and serious element of competition into the conditions governing rents.
But with the rent we have done with the workman's disadvantages in purchase. Everything else he buys cheaply, always supposing that his wife is neither too stupid nor too lazy to avail herself of the advantages that offer. And indeed, apart from the had exceptions, the workman's wife is commonly no fool and no idler. I have met with perfectly amazing cases of masterly household management on slender means; and, brilliant instances aside, the average workman's 'missis ' is a very good housewife. I wish she were half as good a cook, for her own sake and her family's. Sometimes I have had occasion to wish it for my own.
Let me enumerate some of the things that the workman's' wife can buy cheaply. The housewife who gives her orders through her servants, and whose household requirements are delivered at the kitchen door from the tradesman's cart, would be mightily astonished if she were to take a walk of observation in one of the cheap market streets which are to be found about the less 'select' London suburbs. Rye Lane, Peckham; Angel Lane, Stratford; Chrisp Street, Poplar; the Old Kent Road; and Chapel Street, Islington, are a few among the many of these places and at anye one of them she would find butcher's meat, fruit, vegetables and fish, all of equal quality and freshness to those sent to her own house, at somewhere about half the price. Beef of the best parts is sold at sixpence a pound, the cheaper parts going at from this price down to threepence; salt-beef, two-pence-halfpenny to sixpence. The best possible rump steam, which will figure in our housekeeping bills at eighteenpence, costs tenpence or perhaps sometimes elevenpence. Excellent mutton - it is from New Zealand, but still excellent mutton - goes at fourpence-halfpenny to fivepence-halfpenny for legs, and the breast is no more than three-halfpence or at most twopence, a pound. Fillet of veal will be sevenpence-halfpenny, and in the season loin of pork can be bought at from fourpence-halfpenny to sixpence. I have seen oxtail for twopence-halfpenny, and the biggest in the shop would only cost sixpence. As to fish, cod of the best cut is to be bought at threepence and the head and shoulder at twopence a pound; plaice is fourpence, lemon soles threepence, and Brighton soles fourpence to sixpence; crimped skate threepence a pound or less. This is all fish of the best and freshest sort, for the workman's wife will not be put off with anything else; and the prices all round are nearer a third than a half of the prices charged by the more fashionable fishmonger. At the greengrocer's the tale is much the same. Here in the season peas cost from threepence to eightpence a peck, and a good cauliflower may cost as much as twopence - commonly less. English tomatoes range from fourpence to sixpence a pound, while the foreign are half the price. Excellent cooking apples may be had at a penny a pound, and good eating sorts at twopence and threepence. Potatoes vary with season and age, but are generally somewhere near half the price charged by the more expensive tradesmen. Every purchase is for cash in hand, and the purchaser, of course, carries away the goods. Whether or not these two conditions, with perhaps a lower scale of shop-rent, sufficiently account for the wide difference between the prices in East and West London, I will not attempt to guess. But I know that shopkeepers in the cheap markets do uncommonly well.
Of course these advantages are for the sober and thrifty. The slovenly and improvident who run 'ticks' at small chandlers' shops, and who buy sugar, tea, butter, and bread in ha'porths and farthingsworths - these pay through the nose, and are ill-served in the matter of quality. Their poor living costs them more relatively than good living costs people of the middle classes. But again, we must remember that we are dealing with averages, and, as I have said, the average workman's wife is a good manager, and the average workman does not drink all his money.
And now to our balance-sheet. It is never - so far as I have seen - an actual sheet of paper worked upon with figures at the end of the week. Rather the wife works it out in rough and ready fashion, penny by penny, as the week goes. On the one side, as we have seen, is the thirty shillings of wages, and nothing else. We will suppose that thirty shillings is duly entered by being brought home whole on Saturday, which is the general pay-day, though some men are paid on Friday. The 'missis ' begins the other side of the account by going shopping on Saturday evening, taking her husband with her - he is a docile husband, this - to wait outside shops and carry the heavier parcels. She will probably visit the grocer's first, perhaps in the afternoon. Other shops and stalls are better dealt with in the evening, for then things grow cheaper. The competition of the stalls does not fairly begin till four o'clock or later; also, fresher goods are on sale at night, for of course it is the shop-keeper's policy to get rid of the staler goods first. Moreover, late in the evening one can bargain more effectually, by reason that the tradesman would rather take a small profit than keep perishable goods on his hands till Monday, itself the slackest day of the week. Indeed, there are butcher' shops in these places that never open on Monday at all. For these reasons late shopping is preferred, and this is why the workman's wife is the chief obstacle to the early closing movement. In very poor districts Chapel Street, Islington, is one of them-much of the shopping is done on Sunday morning; but this is too often because the wreck of the week's money which is all that goes to housekeeping is not available till after Saturday's drink is accomplished and slept off.
Our housewife goes to the grocer's first, then, because his goods do not vary in price with the lateness of the hour, as do the fishmonger's, the butcher's, and the greengrocer's. It may also be noted that the grocer's prices do not differ from those of the West-End shops so extremely as do the prices of the other tradesmen. At the grocer's she sets herself up with grocery for the week. She buys a quarter of a pound of tea, which comes, nowadays, to fourpence-halfpenny. This may last the week with care, but if a friend come to tea, or some other unexpected call be made on the supply, another ounce or so may be bought toward the week's end ; but in ordinary circumstances a quarter of a pound will do. Next she has a quarter of a pound of coffee, ready ground —threepence. There is a deal of chicory in it, of course, at this price, but it is a curious fact that the workman and his wife prefer coffee in which the flavour of chicory—to most people suggestive of boiled crusts—predominates, and would regard pure coffee as insipid. Moreover, the mixture makes coffee of greater thickness and apparent strength than does the same quantity of a pure article. A pound of loaf sugar and two pounds of moist will be enough for the week, the former costing twopence and the latter, at three-halfpence a pound, threepence. Then she will buy a jar of jam, containing three pounds, for sevenpence-halfpenny. This sounds a little forbidding, perhaps, but as a matter of fact I believe it is a clean and wholesome enough article, made, it is said, largely from fruit which has already been partly bled to make jelly. It is turned out as 'mixed household' 'jam by firms of good reputation, and I believe with their manufacturing and buying facilities they are able to fill their jars with sound, though certainly 'mixed,' jam at a lower rate than adulteration would cost. The three-pound jar will probably last well over the week end, unless used for puddings, or made a substitute for butter in more than usual quantity, in which case it will last the week only. We will call the three pounds the week's supply, so that the surplus may represent the cost, say, of currants as an alternative for pudding, or the twopence or threepence that might be spent in apples, in the fruit season, for the same purpose.
The grocer may also be the cheesemonger, but whether so or not, the next purchase will be half a pound of butter, which will cost sixpence. This will be little more than half enough for the whole needs of the week, but it will be eked out by dripping and by the jam afore-mentioned. Eight eggs for sixpence, a pound of bacon rashers at eightpence, and half a pound of Cheddar cheese—probably American—which will cost threepence, and the grocer and cheesemonger is done with for the day.
The great purchase of the evening will be that of the joint for Sunday's dinner. It will consist of six or seven pounds of beef or mutton, bought with a sharp eye to price, quality and freedom from bone, and it will cost from two to three shillings - let us say half a crown. This will provide meat for best part of the week—hot on Sunday, cold two, or more probably three, days afterward, and made into a stew for still another day. With this a quarter of a pound of suet may be bought for twopence or it may not, if the joint give promise of supplying enough dripping for a pudding. Therefore, as we are dealing in averages, we will put down a penny for suet, a liberal estimate, since suet in these cheap shops is rarely eightpence a pound, and is sometimes as low as fourpence. So much for the butcher. At the fishmonger's the housewife's buying will be regulated by the prices and qualities of the day, to say nothing of her own and her husband's fancies. There will be cod, hake (a good and very cheap fish-, often sold for cod, and here costing twopence and twopence-halfpenny a pound), eels, mackerel, haddocks, skate, herrings, all at varying but low prices; and for tenpence she will buy enough to make a little supper to celebrate Saturday evening, a little for Sunday's breakfast, and some more to use for breakfast or tea on Monday or Tuesday. In the hot weather she will cook it soon, so that it may keep the better.
The greengrocery will depend much on the purchases already made. Threepence for potatoes and threepence more for greens will about represent the expenditure, though if some unwonted saving have been effected in butcher's meat or fish, advantage may be taken of the fact to indulge in some small luxury in addition. And now, if my arithmetic serves me, it will be found that the evening's payments have been exactly seven-and-sixpence. To this we must add the price of three loaves of bread bought early in the afternoon and costing sevenpence-halfpenny, and half a quartern of flour bought at the same time for three- pence. This will bring the whole Saturday marketing expenditure to eight shillings and fourpence-halfpenny. Thus :--
At the grocer's ........1/8
total 8s. 4½d.
So that when the landlord takes his seven shillings on Monday morning, more than half the week's money will be knocked down. But let us put the landlord aside for the moment and go on to estimate the remaining household expenses.
As to food, there will be bread to get for the rest of the week, and this will cost one-and-threepence. This, with the three loaves already bought, allows one loaf a day. The joint of meat will probably hold out, in one shape or another, over Thursday's dinner, and then something else—fish, sausages, or what not will be bought for Friday and Saturday. This, with what is called a 'relish' for tea or breakfast it may be fish, or an egg, or a rasher of bacon—on an occasion or two in the latter part of the week—the whole of the additional meat and fish, in short will cost two shillings. Extra vegetables will be needed, some of them for Thursday's stew, and the cost of these may be put at ninepence. In the matter of fuel, expense will vary, of course, with the season. And here I must apologise for an error in the earlier part of this paper, where I said that rent was the sole expense wherein the workman had a disadvantage as compared with other people. I should have said rent and coal. Almost always he is afflicted with a sad lack of storage-room, and this fact alone would be sufficient to condemn him to buy coal by the hundredweight. This means, of course, that he cannot avail himself of low summer prices to lay in a stock, and he must pay the current rate, however high. Moreover, the current rate with the small dealers of whom he buys is apt to be above that of the merchants who quote by the ton, while the quality of the coal is anything but correspondingly high. It must be remembered, however, that except on washing days only one fire will be used in the winter, for the cooking is done in the living-room. In the summer a fire is only used when heavy cooking is to be done, a small oil stove sufficing for the occasional boiling of a kettle or the frying of a rasher of bacon. Taking one thing with another the year round, fuel—coal and wood—will cost our workman two shillings a week. There are trades, by the way, in which firewood is a recognised perquisite, which the workman may carry away in reasonable quantity after his day's work.
Paraffin oil, for lamp and stove, will cost sixpence for the week, and perhaps one packet of Swedish boxes of matches will be used—especially if the workman smoke, as he usually does and these matches will cost three-halfpence. Soap, starch, blue, and soda will cost sixpence a week, and blacking and blacklead three-halfpence. The washing and ironing will be done at home, of course, but clothes will be put out to mangle at a cost of threepence. Pepper, salt, mustard, and so forth—' cruet allowance,' in fact—will average at three-halfpence a week. With this we come to the end of strictly household expenses, and we find, as I calculate, that since the transactions of Saturday, seven-and-seven-pence-halfpenny more will have been spent, making, with the rent and the money spent on Saturday, a total of one pound three shillings. So that now there is left from the week's wages a sum of seven shillings available for clothes, clubs, insurances, beer, tobacco, fares, newspapers, books, holidays, renewals of furniture and utensils, postage, petty cash, amusements, charities, dissipations, savings, investments, and as many more things as we may imagine it will buy.
In the matter of clothes I am brought to a stand. I have generalised pretty freely already, but as regards clothes I must generalise wholesale or not at all. Particular clothes are needed in particular trades, and some trades are more destructive of clothes than others. Some workmen buy cheaper clothes than other work-men, and while some are careful with their garments others are not. Some children's clothes are bought at the slop-shop, but more are made at home from father's and mother's cast-offs. If all the family are boys or all girls, clothes descend in the same way from the biggest to the smallest, being shortened and 'taken in' for each successive wearer; but if boys and girls are mixed the old clothes will not go so far. Again, some women are very neat with joins and patches, while others cobble miserably, or not at all. A practice is sometimes followed in such a family as we are discussing of setting aside a sum of about two shillings a week for clothes, boots, and repairs, and I think that our , simplest and safest generalisation will be to adopt the same plan. The two shillings alone, perhaps, would scarcely do it; but the thrifty housewife has ways of saving a penny now and a penny again; of selling bottles and rags; of `making shift' without some small thing at a time when the lack will not be serious; and, by hook and crook, of scraping up little sums which can be hoarded secretly and brought out on occasion. And if needs must, then an extra expenditure on clothes is made up by cheaper living for a week or two; a smaller piece of meat from a cheaper part, and perhaps one day's dinner of bread and cheese, and plainer breakfasts and teas. Two shillings a week, then, let us say, for clothes, and a shilling for clubs and insurances. This is a very necessary shilling, for the benefit club represents medical attendance, which otherwise might be a considerable item. The club may cost sixpence, or it may be a trifle more. If sixpence, the rest of the shilling will provide a penny a week insurance for the wife and each of the children, and one at twopence for the the breadwinner.
Four shillings is the sum left, and plenty there is to do with it. If the children go to a voluntary school, there may be a few coppers in school pence to pay, but the average child goes to the Board school, and nowadays pays nothing. Shall we allow half a crown for beer and tobacco? I think that would be very moderate indeed. If we give the workman and his wife but a single pint of beer each a day—and I will be no party to the denial of that—the cost will be two-and-fourpence for the seven days. This allows each half a pint at dinner and half a pint at supper at fourpence a quart, the usual price of the ale or half-and-half ' which they drink. But that would leave only twopence for tobacco, so I really think we must increase the half-crown to two and ninepence, to give the man an ounce and a half of shag —a very modest allowance.
And now one shilling and threepence is left for savings, postage, literature, amusements, and all the rest of it. It does not seem a great deal, and if the workman chance to live at a distance from his work, he may well spend a shilling in fares. We will not give the shilling to fares, however, because distance from work would probably mean a smaller rent, and the one thing would balance the other. Moreover, we began with the stipulation that the man lived near his work. But without train-fare there are a hundred ways in which the one-and-threepence may be swallowed in a moment, and truly it is a small fund for contingencies, to say nothing of the little matters of petty cash already spoken of. Indeed, an occasional extra half-pint of beer would wipe it away. Yet there are many families who save it, and even add to it, thanks to the patient expedients of the missis.' The income and expenditure account of the week, then, will stand thus:—
£ s d Rent 7 0 Meat and fish 5 5 Bread and flour 2 1½ Grocery 1 8 Cheese, butter, bacon and eggs 1 11 Greengrocery 1 3 Firing 2 0 Oil and sundries 1 7½ Allowance for clothes 2 0 Club and insurance 1 0 Beer and tobacco 2 9 Balance in hand for contingencies, petty cash, &c. 1 3 [total] £1 10 0
Or if we prefer a yearly account as being on a scale more familiar to the eye
£ s d Rent 18 4 0 Food 32 3 6 Firing 5 4 0 Oil and sundries 4 4 6 Clothes 5 4 0 Club and insurance 2 12 0 Beer and tobacco 7 3 0 Balance in hand for contingencies 3 5 0 [total] £78 0 0
These figures will show how narrow is the margin that lies between the workman's plain and healthy livelihood and an unpleasant privation. We have allowed for nothing but reasonable necessaries, and yet very little almost nothing— remains, wherewith some provision may be made for the evil day of sickness, old age, or lack of work. Yet the provision is often made, as I have said; though it is physically impossible that it should be of a substance to stand a long strain.
If the children are fewer than three, of course there will be some saving, but if their numbers increase, the fight will be a little harder. Fewer 'relishes' will be indulged in, and there will be more I 'makeshift ' dinners. When the children pass the school age, however, and begin to earn money, things will grow easier all round. Meantime, economies must be practised. Indeed, the fairly comfortable style of living I have indicated provides a sort of reserve in itself, on which a draft may be made for extra expenses by means of a temporary lowering of the standard in food. More bread, less meat, and that of the cheaper parts, fewer puddings, or rice as a substitute—a few such changes as these make a great difference in the hands of a careful housewife. And if I have not yet made sufficiently plain my admiration of the housewifely qualities of the workman's wife in general, let me say here that again and again they have filled me with astonishment. I have seen clean, well-fed, well-clothed, and well-mannered families brought up on smaller resources than those we have been dealing with here. Often one would almost have supposed the income to be no more than sufficient for clothes and boots alone. When the workman's wife is a good housekeeper, as she commonly is, she is very good indeed. And once again I wish she were more often a good cook.
II. A LOWER-MIDDLE-CLASS BUDGET.IN asking me to deal with the proper expenditure of a yearly income of from 1501. to 2001. per annum the editor has set me a task of some difficulty. This difficulty will be appreciated by all who have ever plunged into the dialectics of a subject which in its nature depends so largely on the personal equation.
For in the first place we propose to legislate for a class which includes all those sorts and conditions of men which range between the skilled mechanic and the curate in priest's orders. In the second place we have to counsel those who have fallen from affluence to the penury of 1501. per annum, as well as those who have risen from penury to the affluence of the same income.
To those who have never had so much, life on 1501. to 2001. a year will look ridiculously easy, and, like old Eccles when he was asked whether with a pound a week and cheap liquor he could manage to kill himself in three months, they will look forward with pleasure to the chance of trying it. To those who have hitherto had twice as much the task may well appear almost beyond the bounds of possibility. So true it is, as Bishop Fraser has it, that 'living in comfort is a phrase entirely depending for its meaning on the ideas of him who uses it.'
With these two groups, which are, after all, the fringes of the matter, it will not be possible to deal particularly in the space at our disposal. We must rather concern ourselves with the bulk of the class which looks upon such an income as neither poverty nor riches, and which regards it as an amount upon which a prudent-minded man may properly marry. With the gay bachelor who has no domestic leanings we shall not concern ourselves.
That the subject is one of the highest importance to the nation as well as to the individual will be at once apparent when we remember that domestic economy (by which I do not mean mere domestic economicalness) is the unit of political economy, just as the family is the primordial unit of society; and that the lower middle class of which we write is the backbone of the commonwealth.
Let us take a moment to consider some of the elements of which this great class is composed. Amongst the earners of a yearly wage of from 150l. to 2001. we find certain skilled mechanics ; bank clerks; managing clerks to solicitors ; teachers in the London Board Schools (in 1895 there were about 800 male teachers receiving from 1501. to 1651. per annum);* [*Under the voluntary system the general rate of remuneration is much lower] the younger reporters on the best metropolitan papers ; the senior reporters on the best local papers ; second division clerks in the Colonial, Home, and India Offices ; second-class examining officers in the Customs ; senior telegraphists ; first-class overseers in the General Post Office ; Government office-keepers ; sanitary inspectors ; relieving officers ; many vestry officials ; clerks under the County Councils ; police inspectors; chief warders of prisons ; barristers' clerks; photographers employed in the manufacture of process blocks ; assistant painters in the leading theatres ; organists, and curates in priest's orders. This is but naming a few of the diverse elements of the class with which we are concerned. So that it will be seen at once that anything like generalisation or hard and fast rules of life are wholly out of the question.
I have therefore thought it best to take a typical example of this financial section of society and show how life can be, and is, lived in many hundreds of homes on a minimum income of 1501. a year, from which it will follow as a corollary that a somewhat easier life on the same lines can be lived on any sum between that and a maximum of 200l.
The case that I am fortunately enabled to take as my text is that of a cashier in a solicitor's office—a man of high character, good education, and high ideals, who, from his fourteenth to his fortieth year, has earned his living in his chosen profession. For ten years he has been married to the daughter of a once well-to-do farmer, who for some time before her marriage had found it necessary, in consequence of agricultural depression, to go out into the world and earn her own living in a house of business. In her father's house she had learned the domestic arts. In her independent life she had learned the value of money. And here we must remember that the value of a man's earnings will vary with the value of his wife's qualities and capabilities. A wife may be the very best investment that a man ever made, or she may be the very worst. 'Better a fortune in a wife than with a wife,' says the proverb, for with the former no evil can come which a man cannot bear. And, in choosing a wife, let a man with a limited income incidentally remember (if indeed a man ever does or ought to remember anything so practical at such a moment) the advice of the Talmud to descend rather than ascend a step, or it will be found the harder to make both ends meet.
Our typical couple are fortunate in having but two children fortunate not merely because there will be fewer mouths to feed but because the wage-earner's mobility will not be unduly checked. The size of his family is of peculiar importance when a man is young and coming to find out his powers and capabilities. It is only with a small one that he will be able to make a favourable disposition of his labour. With an increasing family he will find it harder and harder to move about in search of his best market.* [* For more on this subject vide Walker's The Wages Question, p. 354.]
Granted then that we have a family, the question at once arises, how that family shall be housed ; and it is in the proportion of his income that must be expended on the item 'Rent' that a man of small means is more particularly handicapped. What should we think of a man with 1,0001. a year spending 2001. on rent? We should be justified in regarding hint as almost madly extravagant. And yet this is proportionately what the married man with 1501. a year is forced to do, and will continue to be forced to do, until a great advance has been made in the practice of co-operation.
Personally I am sanguine enough to look forward to the time when, not only in the matter of rent but in the whole circle of living, the cares of management shall be taken off the shoulders of the wage-earner and his wife ; and when a man will find a phalanstery suited to his means, where everything will be arranged for at an inclusive charge, as certainly as now he finds that he must provide everything for himself at ruinous retail prices. But this is dreaming dreams, and the paradise in which 'you press the button and we do the rest' is only coming. That there are signs of its approach we learn quite lately from Mr. Leonard Snell's speech to the `Auctioneers' Institute,' in which he tells of a block of mansions where the table d'hote meals are served at twelve shillings a week, as well as from the co-operative kitchen movement which is now showing signs of renewed vitality. In the meantime we must deal with immediate possibilities, for, as at present advised, every Englishman prefers to have his own castle, however unmachicolated it may be.
To the worker in the City of London, where, as a matter of fact, our solicitor's clerk worked for twenty years, or in Westminster, where he worked for four, one of three courses is practically open. Either he must live within easy distance in lodgings in some such locality as Trinity Square, S.E., or Vincent Square, S.W., or in one of those huge blocks of flats to be found in the neighbourhood of London's heart in such districts as Finsbury, Lambeth, or Southwark ; or he must go further afield and find an inexpensive house in one of the cheaper suburbs, Clapham, Forest Gate, Wandsworth, Walthamstow, Kilburn, Peckham, or Finsbury Park. That he will be well advised in adopting the latter course there can, I think, be no possible doubt, and this although he will have to add to his rent the cost of travelling to and fro.
In the first place he will be able to house himself at a lower rental ; in the second place his surroundings will be far more healthy ; in the third place his neighbours will be of his own class, a matter of chiefest importance to his wife and children, the greater part of whose lives must be spent in these surroundings. There are thousands of snug little suburban six-roomed houses which can be had for a weekly rental of from 10s. to 12s. 6d. a week, and it is in these that the vast majority of London Benedicts who earn from 150l. to 200l. a year are to be run to earth. Those who live in lodgings or flats near by their work pay a higher rent for two or three small rooms. And when we get into what we may call essentially the clerks' suburbs - Leytonstone, Forest Gate, Walthamstow, and such like—it is astonishing what a difference an extra shilling or two a week will make in the general character of our surroundings.
Our specimen couple were fortunate in being enabled to live in a twelve-and-sixpenny house, in a very different road from the road of ten-shilling houses, by the fact that a relative rented one of their rooms. A parallel arrangement is of course open to any couple who care to take in a lodger.
In the budget at the end of this article, however, I have put down 10s. as the weekly rent, as a lodger's accounts would in various ways complicate matters. The result is that we have, with rates and taxes at 5l. 3s. 5d., the sum of 31l. 3s. 5d. gone in housing our family, a terribly large but necessary slice out of an income of 1501. a year. Just compare this with the proportion of one-tenth of income generally set aside for that purpose amongst the so-called 'Upper Middles.'
Having then decided upon a home in the suburbs, the next expenditure which has to be faced is the wage-earner's railway fare to and from his work. In all probability the distance will be from four to six miles. This would mean at least sixpence a day spent in travelling, were it not that all the railway companies issue season tickets at reduced rates. Some of them, however, do not offer these facilities to third-class passengers. We must, therefore, in a typical case put down at least 7l. a year for a second-class 'season.' A ticket of this sort has of course the further advantage of covering the expense of extra journeys to town for churches, picture galleries, or Albert Hall concerts on Sundays, or for evening lectures or amusements on weekdays; and this to a man who cannot spend much on luxuries, but who is hungry for religious or intellectual refreshment, is a matter of no little importance.
So much for the housing problem with its immediate corollary of a sufficiently convenient access to work. Our wage-earner has now to face the very considerable expenditure which, in the budget at the end of this article, comes under the three headings dealing with Dress. And in approaching this matter we must remember that not only has dress 'a moral effect upon the conduct of mankind,' but, so far as the individual is concerned, has very often a determining effect upon his success as a wage-earner. And in this particular the unit of the class with which we are concerning ourselves is in a very different position from the skilled mechanic who may be earning a like income. It is more and more recognised as an axiom in those businesses and professions which are in immediate touch with the client, that the employees, whether they be salesmen in shops or clerks in banks or offices, must be habited in what may be called a decent professional garb. The bank-clerk: who is content to ignore the fact and looks needy, or the solicitor's clerk who is out-at-elbows, will find that he has little chance of retaining his position. Here he is clearly at a disadvantage compared with the man who works with his hands and who only has to keep a black coat for high days and holidays. Thus, through the action of certain economic laws, the average 'lower-middle' bread-winner is forced into an extravagance in the matter of clothes out of all proportion to his income. He may well exclaim with Teufelsdrockh: 'Clothes which began in foolishest love of ornament, what have they not become!'
Nor is it his own clothes alone that will be a matter of anxiety, for whatever may be said of false pride and suchlike, a man is most properly not content to see his wife and children dressed in a manner unbecoming their station. He recognises, too, that there is truth in Jean Paul's sententious saying, that
'the only medicine that does a woman more good than harm is dress.' And here we are back again at the question whether we have a fortune in the wife or a fortune with her. If the former, things will go well in this matter of dress as in all others. If she is neither slovenly nor extravagant here, she will not be slovenly nor extravagant in other respects. She must of course be her own and her children's dressmaker, for it is a fact that hardly needs stating that 'making up' is out of all proportion to the cost of material. This applies more particularly to the children's clothing. To take an example—the material for an excellent boy's cloth suit can easily be obtained for ten shillings. Made up by a tailor it will cost at least a guinea. Or take a flannel blouse, for which excellent material may be obtained for four shillings. The charge for making it up will not cost a penny less than three shillings and sixpence. Then, too, a clever mother will cut down and alter her old skirts into serviceable frocks for the girls ; and the father's discarded waistcoats and trousers will be metamorphosed by her deft fingers into second-best suits for the boys. She will take care in buying dress materials for herself to wait for the drapery sales at the end of the summer and winter seasons and obtain them at half the price paid by her less thoughtful neighbour. But the wise woman will not be tempted by the offers of cheap made-up millinery at these times, knowing well that they will have become hopelessly out of the mode by the time that the season for wearing them has come round again; and mind you, the lower-middle' is as mindful of the fashion as is her richer sister.
However, it is a parlous matter for a mere man to speak of these things. Let him only add that he respectfully salutes the Madonna of the knitting needles, for she will not only make less costly and more durable socks and stockings for the family, but will he a constant reminder to those around her that 'Sloth makes all things difficult but industry all things easy.'
This matter of hosiery brings us by a natural transition to that of boots, an expensive and important item which will run away with at least four per cent. of our income, and more if we try in the outset to be unwisely economical. The far-seeing housewife will take care that each of her family has at least two, and more wisely three, good strong pairs in use at the same time. She will thus not only materially reduce the doctor's bill, for the children will be able to be out and about in all weathers and so rarely take cold, but she will also effect a final saving in the boots themselves, which will last half as long again if the leather is given proper time to dry. I am aware that these matters may appear too self-evident to need stating, and that the scoffer will cry out, 'It needs no ghost to tell us that.' But let me tell you that it is just in these matters of small moment that reminders are wanted. It is the larger things that are too obvious to be overlooked.
So much then as regards the shelter, covering, and adornment of the outer man. We must now consider the largest and most essential item in our little budget. And it is here in the matter of food more than ever that the capability and skill of the wife are of the first importance. It was, I think, a German who advised an ambitious youth to live rather above his income in dress, up to his income in lodging, and below it in food. Now this may be all very well where the individual has only himself to consider. He is at liberty to be foolish enough to tighten his belt and stay the cravings of hunger with tobacco. But no wise woman would ever allow her husband to do this, and so imperil his health and his hardly-earned income with it. Indeed he would soon be in the condition of Carlyle, who used to say : 'I can wish the devil nothing worse than that he may have to digest with my stomach to all eternity; there will be no need of fire and brimstone then.' She will rather bear in mind the Dutch proverb, 'God gives birds their food, but they must fly for it,' realising at the same time the completion of the circle, that unless the bird ate the food when he got it lie would not be able to fly for more.
Plain living will be a matter of course on an income of 150l. a year, but this does not necessarily connote cheap food, for as Ruskin says in another connection: 'What is cheapest to you now is likely to prove dearest in the end.' Not only is good food more palatable and more nourishing but it is cheaper in the upshot because there is less waste. This particularly applies to the classes with which we are dealing, for their occupations are mainly sedentary and their appetites and digestions as a consequence less active. Manual labourers will get nourishment out of food which will not do for the brain worker.
Take, for example, half a leg of mutton at tenpence a pound (quoting for the moment the local butcher's price). The first day it will be served hot with vegetables, the second day cold with salad, the third day tastily hashed, and there will he no appreciable waste. Compare with this a neck of mutton of the same weight costing something less per pound. Not only will a large proportion of its weight be made up of fat and bone, but it will make a far less appetising and far less nourishing dish.
But there is another question for the housewife to consider besides 'What shall I buy?' and that is, 'Where shall I buy it ?' And on this subject alone a treatise might be written. It will be only possible here to point out that in this, as in everything else, the housewife must use her best wits and not merely follow the lead of her neighbours. I. will indicate what I mean by an example or two. To return to the mutton. The local butcher will charge about tenpence a pound for a prime leg, but the thoughtful housekeeper will instruct her husband to call in before leaving town at some such market as Leadenhall, where he will get the very best 'New Zealand' at sixpence—a saving of nearly three shillings on an eight-pound joint ! The same in the matter of groceries. Here, again, the wise woman will get her husband to do her marketing for her at one of the great central stores where he will pay cash, and because of the rapid sale get goods of the best quality and of the freshest at prices well worth comparing with those of the small local dealer, who will he only too anxious to book orders and deliver goods. The same will apply in the matter of fish.
This is, of course, calculating on the complaisancy of the husband. If he is too proud to carry the fish-basket or parcel of tea home with him she must do the best she can near at hand. In some districts she will find large local stores only second to those to be found in the City. There is not, however, much room for false pride on 150l. a year. Indeed, it is the most expensive of all luxuries to indulge in. If you have it and can't get rid of it, at least make an inner pocket in your coat for it and sew that pocket up.
One other point is worth mentioning before setting out the weekly schedule of food of our typical couple and their two children. It has somehow come to be an axiom, and it looks plausible enough at first sight, that it is an extravagant habit to purchase in small quantities what we in England call
'dry goods.' I say 'in England,' for in America the term has a totally different meaning. Many practical housekeepers, however, will tell you that the extra cost of buying in small quantities is more than counterbalanced by the fact that the presence of considerable stores in the house leads, especially in the case of luxuries, to a very much larger consumption, thus again emphasising the fact that what is cheapest now is like to prove dearest in the end.
Here, then, is the suns of 47l. 9s. which will he found set down in our annual budget for food. reduced to weekly termsMeat anal fish . . 7s 0dTotal: 18s. 3d.
Greengrocery . . 1s 3d
Milk 2s 6d
Bread 1s 6d
Grocery 6s od
There is one other thing which must be touched upon before leaving the matter of food. The Italians say that 'God sends meat and the devil sends cooks,' and the proverb will find not a few to echo it in this country. The devil, however, has not got it all his own way here, unless, indeed, he runs the London County Council, the London School Board, and the City Guilds, for, thanks to their technical classes, opportunities of learning scientific, and thus wholesome and inextravagant, cooking are brought within reach of every one who has the wisdom to take advantage of them.
It will be noticed that the budget, given at the end of this article, makes no mention of beer or other strong drinks. This is because my typical couple happen to be teetotallers, and. what they can do without others can too. Tobacco, on the other hand, is included, because the wage-earner happens to be a smoker—though a very moderate one at that.
Another item is omitted which the middle-class householder is apt to look upon as inevitable. But the householder with whom we are dealing has nothing to fear from that terrible bug-bear, Dilapidations. The fact is that he is in the majority of cases a Man of Straw, and the landlord, being in most instances the owner of a street or streets, has taken care so to calculate the rent as to cover the average deterioration, thus avoiding the worry and expense of what would generally prove unfruitful litigation. The item house expenses' covers the necessary renewals of crockery, kitchen utensils, carpentering requisites, &c., besides the occasional employment of a charwoman, and such little washing as has to go to the laundry—the bulk, of course, being done at home.
The item 4l. 8s. 3d. for 'Insurance and Benefit Club ' represents an annual premium of 2l. 1s. 3d. for a life policy of the value of 100l., effected at the age of twenty-five; 4s. for another 100l. in the case of death being by accident ; 3s. for insurance of furniture against fire ; and 2l. paid to a Friendly Society as provision against sickness. This last entitles the member to 18s. a week for twenty-six weeks, 9s. a week for, a further twenty-six, besides 20l. payable at death to his widow, or, in the event of the wife predeceasing, 10l. to the member The item 5l. for a Summer Holiday' will seem to many ridiculously small, but when we add to it what would have been the cost of living at home, it will be found enough to cover the necessary travelling, lodging, and extra board for a fortnight's holiday. 'Newspapers, books, &c. 4l. 10s.' should not represent all the reading done in the family, for the man of intellectual tastes and high aims will have provided himself in his days of bachelorhood with something in the shape of a library ; besides which he will, unless his neighbourhood is scandalously behind the times, live within easy distance of a Free Library.
Education for the children, it will be noticed, has no place in our budget. This is because our typical pair are wise enough to know that the teaching to be got for nothing under the Elementary Education Acts is incomparably better than any private teaching within their means. And they are not inclined to balance the advantage (save the mark!) of a little 'gentility' against their children's intellectual welfare.
The budget is no imaginary one. It is the outcome of actual experience, and has the special advantage of being applicable to all incomes between 1501. and 200l. It would be totally irrelevant to a man earning 50l. a year less, but the Man' with 50l. a year more will find no difficulty in expanding the items, especially if his quiver is unduly filled. As it stands, it is a budget of strict necessity, and every extra 5l. available may spell a certain degree of affluence. One thing, however, must not be forgotten, and that
is that immediately 1601. a year is exceeded we shall become liable to the payment of a modified Income Tax, but this will not prove a very serious matter even to the earner of 200l. a year, for the first 1601. in his case, as indeed in the case of anyone with a less income than 4001. a year, is totally exempt.
£ s d Rent (26l.) rates and taxes (5l. 3s. 5d.) 31 3 5 Railway travelling 7 0 0 Life insurance and benefit club 4 8 3 Newspapers, books, &c. 4 10 0 Gas, coal, coke, oil, wood, matches 9 17 0 Summer Holiday 5 0 0 Tobacco 2 5 0 Birthday and Christmas presents 1 10 0 Stamps and stationery 12 0 Food 47 9 0 House expenses 5 4 0 Boots 6 0 0 Tailor 6 0 0 Dress for wife and children 13 0 0 Balance to cover doctor, chemist, charities &c. 6 1 4 Total 150 0 0G.S.LAYARDIt may be interesting to compare with Mr. Layard's model budget the following statement of the manner in which an annual income of about 2501. is expended by a family consisting of two adults and two children (aged six and three respectively), with servant. The family reside in a south-west suburb of London noted for its shopping facilities, and the household is run on temperance principles. For the facts and figures the Editor is indebted to one of the greatest living authorities on domestic social economy.
£ s d Rent, including rates and taxes (half share of 52l. house) 33 0 0 Housekeeping expenses 90 0 0 Breadwinner's lunches and frequently teas in town 30 0 0 Clothing (this is low as sewing-machine is much in evidence in this household) 17 10 0 Servant's wages 12 0 0 Coal and gas (gas cooking stove) 7 10 0 Life and fire insurance premiums 10 5 0 Church-sittings and small subscriptions 3 5 0 Season ticket (third class) 4 10 0 Holidays 12 0 0 Doctors, about 3 0 0 Repairs and additions to furniture 4 0 0 Sundries; amusements, bus fares, garden, newspapers, magazines, books, postages, presents, volunteering, &c.; &c. 10 0 0 237 0 0