The Office for National Statistics has just released its annual Family Spending survey, which offers an intriguing insight into what we in the UK spend our money on.
While the report is interesting in allowing us to see how much we spend on coffee compared to tea (it’s an average of 80p per week for coffee as opposed to 50p per week for tea), it also demonstrates the inequalities that exist across different regions.
The average weekly spend per household works out at £512.60 but no region in the midlands, the North or Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland spends that much. All of the areas spending that much or more are in the south of England.
Similarly, the average number of households connected to the internet is 84% but in the lowest 10% earning households, that falls to only 51% of homes online.
It’s these sort of figures that show how tough the situation is for young people looking to build their own lives after education. Internet connection is pretty much a necessity if you’re job hunting but if your family can’t afford to go online, you’re immediately at a disadvantage.
Transport is listed as the single highest expenditure per month, indicating that for those who have to travel any distance to work, the cost of transport is going to take a significant part of your budget.
Although spending per household has risen slightly since last year, what the report shows is how many areas of spending, such as rents and energy prices have risen over time and taken their toll on domestic budgets.
Managing the household finances can be a real challenge even in the best of times but for young people starting out in the world, things are getting progressively more difficult, not less so.
If we really want to help them to manage their money successfully, and to build sustainable careers for themselves, then we need to offer far more support at every stage of education. We need to prepare our young people so that, no matter which part of the country they live in or how little their family has to spend, they have the skills and knowledge to carve out a path for themselves.
We need to enable them so that they have a clear understanding of how the world works and how they can take advantage of the opportunities it provides (or create opportunities of their own) to help them develop their own, independent lives.
Introducing them to real-life situations and challenges while in school is the best way to ready them for life after it. Let them make their mistakes in a safe environment, so that they are fully aware of the consequences of their actions before they have to make any real and lasting decisions.