Working poor: A month in the life of...

After three big bills came in at the same time, see how living week to week can be a struggle. Officially classed as "Working poor" here's my diary (updated through out the month).

After shaving more monthly costs off our household bills (already low) I wore a smile on my ugly mush, which lasted for all of a day.
My £48 a year saving, was wiped out the next day when a statement from the bank we are forced to have came in, which revealed the 20 day per month cap for charging £1 a day for our small overdraft was being "lifted"
As a result, we now have to pay £1 per day for 30 days instead of 20 for all the time we are in our overdraft.
Our £48 a year saving vanished into the bank's pocket, along with an extra £72 per year.

I asked Santander to comment on twitter, but they don't even have the courtesy to reply.

A poached egg on two slices of toast for dinner, then frankfurters rolled up in bread with fried onions for our Sunday tea (higher percentage of meat and not "mechanically reclaimed" as hotdogs are) so a rare treat.
Supper was a few broken chocolate fingers with a brew, picked up from the cheap cake stall on the outside market (2 for £1).
Rock and roll in our house...


The value of eggs and spuds can never be under estimated.
The number of meals that can be made with these two ingredients is staggering and gets us through another week.
Caught our outdoor market green grocer as he was closing up, for a quid, picked up almost half a sack of washed whites, not the best, but good enough for baked spuds, a plate of chips and some roasties.
A tray of eggs picked up last week from the same place (£3 for 24 eggs) is lasting well. Should have enough to use for pastry, maybe knock up a cheese and onion pie tomorrow if I get the time.
Nipped into Morrisons for their "box of crisps for £3" offer - I can use them for crisp butties when the cheese runs out later in the week - of course they had none left. All 8 boxes went first thing in the morning, not the first time an offer has been blasted all over the tv, but none available when you turn up at their store.

That said, I did spot some tunnocks marshmellows and caramel wafers going on sale, grabbed a pack of each, went to the till, was overcharged. Price label didn't match the higher price at the till, another common occurance. It took 15 minutes to get the difference refunded. I wonder how many others have been caught like this?

Polished my footy boots, sprog's shoes and monkey boots for her indoors and burned another three "burn bags" of useless but confidential paperwork on the burner, great way to pre burn the fire ready for the logs coming in a couple of weeks.
Wanted to wash some of my footy kits ready for all the training next week, but no joy as we are now out of washing powder. Just my luck.
Only another twelve days until payday...


I've been keeping track of my "5 a day" intake over the past couple of weeks.
5 a day - 0 days
4 a day - 0 days
3 a day - just once (inc. homemade apple pie)
2 a day - a few times
1 a day - most times

We lost a family member recently, a real blow to all of us.
Made me look at things a little differently, I tried to help in a practical way sorting out paperwork, etc. but their passing has left us all shattered, in a kind of daze. Memories will live on in our hearts for ever. For me, I miss them dearly. Always there for me for over 30 years, helping me with advice and practically without effort.

Work mates have been fantastic, supporting me throughout. They all helped more than they realised.

Have a small claims case to deal with also, £75 of my already over stretched working poor budget if I want to attempt to strike it out. A judge could have decided to strike the claim out, but has chosen to refer it to mediation, with which if I don't comply, will rule against the defence.
I'll post more soon, suffice to say without any proof, no contract and the company concerned revealing information that would close the case down, but failing to record it accurately on the account notes, I'm left in limbo.
Ombudsman and regulator have admitted they do not know the law that applies to what the case concerns, a full post is coming soon.

Managed to get to the end of the month with £7.40 to spare.
Wasn't enough to buy any fireworks for sprog2 this year, we managed to get some sparklers though, bless her, she loved all 10 minutes of them.
For those that know me, being unable to celebrate Bonfire night hurts, especially where little ones are concerned.
It's a tradition, one that I've always celebrated.
This year it has passed without valuable memories being made, terrible parenting on my part.

Maybe those with money to burn should use the "working poor" not celebrating bonfire night (because they cannot afford it) with their children as a tear jerker for their Christmas advert... which of course is a tax deductable (for them) as it's marketing.
Sprog2 is already making extravagant plans for Father Christmas' coming, let's hope we are in a position to do something about it!


The boiler is on the way out, hot water stopping for no error message.
Our old back boiler system needed a good clean out (stripping down and cleaning inside) just once in 19 years, within 3 years this new fangled glory boiler (which has cost MORE to run, because it no longer heats water as it heats the home) has now developed a fault.
A quick look around the plumbing forums reveals it's a common problem involving a thermostiser? which is a small attachment to a pipe, measuring resistence through a small electrical charge, to gauge how much heat to use to heat the water to a given temperature, is going.
The part to replace is just £7.80 for a new one.
To fit it, British Gas would change a minimum £75... scandalous!
Yet another job to add to my long list.

I was working out roughly how much we recycle or reuse in our gaff, it would take some beating!
We burn plastic cartons (ideal for firelighters)
We have a constant supply of newspapers from family to use
We burn all the bills in our "bill bag"
We burn potato and carrot peelings as they simmer slowly and give off heat
We buy and cook all veg fresh
We make our own pies and pastries
The most luxurious thing we buy seems to be crisps and broken biscuits from the market!

The annual Christmas party has had to be cancelled this year, we just don't have the funds to spare.
£30 for a barely touched turkey dinner, plus drinks and a taxi home, can buy a lot of Christmas presents!
It shouldn't be a problem though, as I don't drink most of the year.

I end the month with (what I hope) is a ripped muscle in the back of my leg, I don't actually know if it is as I was unable to get a doctors appointment, as I couldn't convince the receptionist my injury was bad enough to warrant the precious time of my GP, she demanded I explain to her what was wrong so that SHE could make the decision that a GP should have been making.
She made it clear it was too much trouble for them, so I put the phone down.
Her time is obviously more important than mine.

This was highlighted in a letter that came today, from the tax office, by complete coincidence, revealing that only more than a fifth of our tax paid last year was spent on the NHS.

Finally a response from santander, regarding their increased overdraft charges.
They tell me they will kindly "feed back my concerns" - to exactly where, no one knows.
Will my complaint fall on deaf ears... I suspect so and no doubt they will continue to take from a family pot that shrinks by the month.
I just hope we get the shed load of snow this winter that the "experts" have been telling us about, then the corporates can lose money and put our bills up again once it's all passed.

Ignored on twitter this week - ICO, Food standards agency, EDF energy, Caroline Flint MP, OFGEM and Persil.

Information Commissioners Office (ICO):
EDF were in the news this week, for failing to record accurately, customer's complaints.
OFGEM ruled against them, but EDF kept their "Compliant" status and licenses with the regulator by setting aside £3 Million for the Citizens Advice Bureau. (A "fine" of £3 million would be against the Hampton principles of light touch regulation and could have led to a court case had EDF chosen to defend it!)

I asked the ICO if they would be taking action against EDF, as by not recording customer complaints accurately, EDF was in breach of data protection law?
The ICO had no answer.

Caroline Flint MP (Shadow minister for Energy):
All over the news with the Labour party's latest gimmick - removing trading licenses for energy companies that flout the laws of the land. I also asked about Labour's "tough new regulator" they propose to bring in to replace OFGEM.
I asked the MP a number of questions, especially after the OFGEM - EDF story broke the next day.

* Would Labour's tough new regulator have removed EDF's licenses for breaking data protection laws?
* Would Labour's tough new regulator have deemed EDF to be "compliant" and let them keep their licenses and carry on trading?
* How many corporate businesses lost their trading "license" under Labour from 2005 (introduced Hampton principles of "light touch" regulation) - 2010?
Not a single answer came back.
It seems like the shadow minister (and her social media team) only want to promote her work, instead of answering in a public forum.

One final question for Caroline and the Labour party's twitter account, why, if they advocate tough regulation, do they not campaign against the trans atlantic trade agreement (TTIP), which is watering down regulator powers via the small print?
Again, they have nothing to say on another important issue.
(For the record, I advocate no political party, they are all as bad as each other. Kick out unelected civil servants who are pulling the strings behind successive governments!)

Why do EDF remain "compliant" with their regulator and keep their licenses to trade, after breaking data protection law?
Nothing, Nada, Nowt...

On to the Food Standards Agency (FSA):
Big twitter campaign, regarding barbeque weekend coming up and food safety on "not washing chicken as it spreads bacteria."
Does marinating not spread bacteria on chicken?
No reply, good to see they care!

Asda sold Persil washing powder for £11 (70 wash box) which weighed in at 5.9kg
Asda now sell Persil washing powder for £11 (70 wash box) weighing in at only 4.9kg
KatyGooner also spotted it.

Persil stepped in with a reply, saying that as the powder was "now more concentrated" they could offer the same number of washes in less powder.

I asked Persil to prove it!
Persil did not reply.
I asked Persil to send Katy a box of each and let her test it.
Persil again, chose to say nothing.

The great holiday rip off!

Anyone who has tried to book a holiday during the school holidays will know exactly what I am talking about here, rip off Britain at its finest!

Spent 3 hours last night finding a holiday location.
Then went around the various websites.

The smaller independants, just wanted to drop cookies on my computer so they could grab a commission for "selling" a holiday to the bigger companies, failed because I am wise to their game and always book over the phone.

The bigger companies, usually owned by one big corporate business behind the scenes, as I soon discovered First Choice and Thomas Cook are (owned by a corporate called TUI) making them all part of the same company, all of which was regardless, as they were asking ridiculous prices for what amounts to a bedsit for 7 days, all of a similar price, give or take ten quid or so. Rubbish.

In my anger, as it was after midnight, the better half was getting steadily drunk watching Ray Donovan, blurting out random thoughts/places/airports, then nothing for 15 minutes (usually while Mr Donovan was involved in a shower scene or something similar that involved him removing clothing) I was given a smaller travel agent's website to try.
Why not I thought, I was getting nowhere with my efforts.

A pleasant surprise greeted me as I went through the search process.
Selected flights - reasonable, selected hotel, again very reasonable, even the transfers were cheap... here we go... "Your deal reference number is..."

I hit the sack, relaxed in the knowledge that I could awake, book and let the holiday fairy paint pretty pictures in my swede.
I awoke, picked up the phone, all set to go with my deal reference number.
After the initial shock of a £44 charge for one suitcase (who goes on holiday with no clothing?) not to worry, I was in the game!
".... errrr hold on a moment please...."
"... errrr we can't get you on a return flight, can we change the dates please?"
Ok. Flexible I am.
"Almost a week later, but we've got the flights and the hotel you wanted, along with the transfers, it comes to a grand total of...."

Over £300 than the original "deal"
Nope, not having that, that just puts me back at the price of the corporate travel companies, which is taking the wass!
Then came the inevitable sales person bull...

"It's because everybody wants to go to [insert your location here] because it's good value!" - Not at that price it isn't!
"Schools go back a week later that's why the same flight 3 days later costs £150 per person, less!" - Nonsense! The flights were £120 last night, now this morning they are £240 per person, for the same flight!
"I will try and get you with another budget airline, hold on a mo..."

Everyone who has tried to book a holiday without being ripped off knows where this is going...
"The cheapest flights with other airlines are £760!" - Yet my deal, the flights were only £360 for all of us?
The fact is that other airlines have higher prices, then when the cheapo airline is full, they bump up the prices (even more) of their flights going on the same day! (Theory being that you miss the flight you lose your holiday, so you will pay it to keep your family sweet)

I'm not against making profits but a 50% rise in prices because another airline the same day has sold out, smells to me like collusion!
Yet another regulator failing.
Factor in when a price for the same flight and the same hotel is only about £10 difference from two supposedly different companies (but owned by the same corporate behind the scenes) you feel my pain.

Holiday in the UK some say, not much better I'm afraid.
Those hoping to rent their 2nd property located in a beautiful scenic area of the UK, check what prices are being charged for abroad and tailor their prices to a few quid below.
No sun and fewer things to do for almost the same price? Don't think so!

It's time this great British holiday rip off was sorted out once and for all, it's a hard enough life as it is, without making it damned near impossible to find a cheap break in the sun to recover.

Epson SCSI scanner GT7000 driver and twain problem solved in XP

First of all you need to know that Epson sold this scanner in some countries as the Perfection 636U - so grab those drivers for your operating system on Epson's website.

* WATCH OUT what bit your set up is, 32 or 64!

Twain 5 will not work with a 32-bit set up

Go to device manager, find the scanner or question mark there and click on update driver, then point it at where you have saved the perfection 636U drivers on your computer.
Install the twain (version 3.42 that comes with it) and set up a shortcut on your desktop to it.

Twain 3.42 that comes with the Epson perfection 636U drivers, does work.
I am not able to "Get from scanner" in programs, but I can get into twain 3.42 with a desktop shortcut and scan and save from there, in bitmap format.
This of course, allows me to open the saved scans in other programs to change file type and edit.

I know the GT-7000 Epson scanner is an old piece of kit, but it's a great scanner, especially if you want to scan and adjust negatives.
I now have an old (ish) computer set up with windows XP  via the SCSI cable, that can scan, save and send my old pictures.

I hope it doesn't take you two days of testing and messing about, like it did for me!

Hotpoint washers - into battle with Indesit!

In the last 19 months I have had two brand new hotpoint washers.
As of yesterday, both hotpoint washers have now failed.

Into battle with Indesit - the corporate business that owns hotpoint - I go.

The first hotpoint was a "new" model, this turned out to be false, it was a clearance line and a replacement machine was unavailable.
This hotpoint first went faulty after just 3 months.
Four engineer visits later (4 days of waiting in and having time off work) the machine still continued to fail and we were offered a comparison replacement after informing Indesit of our intention to take them to small claims.

The comparison, was no comparison at all. Several standard features of the original machine were missing from their replacement.
Eventually, after many phone calls back and forth, they stood down and matched the features of the machine we had originally bought, with a new machine.

Within six months, this "new" washer started to sound like a jumbo jet landing when it started to spin.
It leaks water from the bottom at random.
But it did wash clothes so on we went.
Now aged just thirteen months old, a small pole type piece was found in the drum after a wash.
Now it is staining all the clothes being washed and leaving oil residue in the drum after each wash.
It is kaput, broken, unusable.

Of course this new hotpoint washing machine is less than one month out of it's basic 12 month warranty, so there's nothing that can be done and we will have to empty our emergency reserve and borrow some money to buy a replacement.
Or will we?

Under the sale of goods act, items must be "fit for purpose" of which they were bought.
They must also last for a reasonable timescale, before needing replacement.
I don't believe 13 months is an acceptable age for a brand new washing machine to last.
Starting from Monday, I will go to Indesit directly to see how we get on. I'll post updates here as I get them.

Good news... the washer was fixed by Indesit, an entire new drum assembly was fitted, after the inspection. It took two weeks to come back into stock, but the washing machine is now working better than it's ever done.

Well done to Indesit service, for a quick and hassle free repair, all done without any cost to us, as they honoured the machine being fixed outside of it's standard 12 month warranty. So credit where it's due, a pleasant surprise Indesit, long may it continue!