The Squires family...


A workman's budget...

In 1901, this article appeared in Cornhill Magazine. The article written by Arthur Morrison.

The article does not stand alone, it is one of two parts dealing with family budgets and living expenses.

The article was found at the victorianlondon.org website, and can be viewed there, in better overall context, at this link.

For the purpose of better understanding the Squires family, I have made this copy here so I can highlight certain parts of the text as being especially relevant. I could have highlighted the entire sections on shopping and on food pricing, just to be sure you read them, so please do so anyway.

Note: the article appeared in 1901, so any prices shown may have been slightly higher in 1903. The behaviour around shopping, buying, and budgeting should hold true.

Note: the article describes the budget of a working man "in receipt of good weekly wages", for this article put at 30 shillings. When working through the numbers, remember that William was earning 25 shillings per week (not counting tips), and Mary Ann was earning something for her work as charwoman. If she was making 5 shillings, then between the two they were making as much as the working man described below. As to rent, they were paying a weekly rent of 5 shillings compared to the tradesman paying 7. Lastly, the working man in this example is supposed to have 3 children, while William and Mary Ann have 5 (with another on the way).

Note: as mentioned in the discussion on money on the page you have come from to get here, being employed at a grocers must have had its advantages. Whatever the wife who is "not a fool" accomplishes below, improve on that for a grocery store employee's wife.


From Cornhill Magazine, 1901.

FAMILY BUDGETS. (Part) 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 £160 a year. Then will come the family, ranking, according to circumstances, in the upper or middle-class, with an income of £800 a year ; thereafter the well-to-do-purple with £1,800 a year, and lastly, the wealthy, whose income reaches the magic figure of £10,000 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 any 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; place 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 :--

Item
Cost
At the grocer's
1/8
cheesemonger's
1/11
butcher's
2/7
fishmonger's
0/10
greengrocer's
0/6
baker's

0/10½

[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: -

Item
£
s
d
Rent
7
0
Meat and fish
5
5
Bread and flour
2
Grocery
1
8
Cheese, butter, bacon and eggs
1
11
Greengrocery
1
3
Firing
2
0
Oil and sundries
1
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...

Item
£
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

Cam's note: Let's assume for the moment that the annual amount of £78 is close to correct for two adults and three children in the Squires family's situation. Increase this total by an amount for the additional three children (one on the way). Not proportionally, though, as the increase would only be for three children's portion of food, clothes and perhaps fuel. To get this number, take the annual amount for these items (£47) and divide that by 3.5 (2 adults plus three half-adults) to get the average amount spent per person - about £14 or so. Multiply the £14 by 1.5 (for 3 additional half-adults) and add this to the £78 to get a new annual number of £99 (£78 + £14 x 1.5).

For comparison of this working-man's economic life to this carman, start with William's earnings as carman of 25 shillings per week, or £65 annually. Add for tips from better-off customers - perhaps 2s. per week, another £5 annually. Add for Mary Ann's estimated earnings of £12 10s. as a part-time charwoman. Compare this sum of £82 10s. annually to the £99 the working man and his family live on annually (leaning in favour of the opportunities for savings that a grocery store employee and his wife have) then look again at the life described.

(The article continues...)

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 '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.

ARTHUR MORRISON



How this family connects...

The generations to present include :

Charles SQUIRES / Mary Ann LEA

William SQUIRES (Sr.) / Harriett _________

William SQUIRES (Jr.) / Mary Ann HARROWELL

Archibald Thomas LONGHURST / Alice Violet "Lulu" SQUIRES

Alfred Thomas Burton LONGHURST / Theresa Mary BURKE


This file last modified 5/9/2016...

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