Live Below the Line 2016: Day 1 Diary

Here's what £10 gets you for 5 days
So, here we are again. Last year, I went into the Live Below the Line challenge with no idea of what to expect, beyond a rumbling stomach, and came out with my mind blown. I’m not being dramatic here – mind-blowing is the perfect way to describe the deep effect it had on me. Not because of the hunger, but because of the tiny glimpse into what it’s like to live this way all the time, and how far the consequences reach. It was a proper revelation.

This year, then, I’m going in with my eyes open – I’ve got at least an idea of what to expect, and I’ve had a go at changing my tactics to cope with some of the basic challenges we faced last year. I’m already appreciating the fact that I’ve incorporated something to eat between meals (a pack of Sainsbury’s Basics rich tea biscuits – the ration is two each per day) and a drink other than plain water (hot water with a spoonful of honey & lemon – okay, still water, but at least it tastes interesting).

Something I’m not enjoying already is breakfast – porridge with a pinch of salt (packets stolen by my enterprising husband from various chain cafes) and a spoonful of honey. The flavours are okay but I just hate the texture. It’s too thick & lumpy to just drink like soup, but you don’t need to chew it, so the whole experience of eating it is just weird to me. Boo hoo.

There’s one other thing I want to talk about, which is the polarised reactions I’ve experienced to this challenge. A few people have taken the “lolz, I’m so broke, £1 a day would be a FEAST for me” approach. I hate to sound like I’m totally humourless here, but this seemed pretty flipping tasteless to me, and it made me squirm even as, outwardly, I faked an amused grin. I don’t know what it is about this way of life that sounds easy to you, but I assure you, it really isn’t. I’ve only had the tiniest of insights into it and even I know that what most people think of as ‘broke’ is not even close. Being this broke is having no choices, because you have to exist on what you’ve already managed to buy – there’s no calling for a takeaway, or popping out for a drink, or deciding to pick up more ingredients for your favourite dish. Being this broke is feeling hungry even after you’ve eaten, because you never get enough to really fill you up. Being this broke is eating meals that you don’t really enjoy or look forward to, because they’re made up of the most basic components in the supermarket – vegetables and carbs – and contain no delicious seasonings or toppings. And being this broke is not being able to look forward to any of this changing, because it’s not for five days, it’s forever.

At the other end of the scale, it was brought to my attention recently that for some people the whole idea of this challenge is upsetting. That it might feel as though it’s somehow trivialising the problem. To start with, I wasn’t really sure what to do with this. My train of thought crashed to a halt. Am I making things worse by trying to help in such a small way?

After a bit more thought, I decided that I wasn’t going to let it stop me. Yes, I know that doing this for five days is not at all like doing it for weeks, or months, or years. Yes, I know that my momentary hunger is nothing like the real thing. And yes, I know that complaining about it might seem pretty trivial. But I know – really know – from last year that this made a huge difference to me. It was a shock to the system that made me want to do more to help, and I have done. So for anyone who feels like this, I do apologise, and I know how lucky I am, and how much more I should do. But one of the main reasons I know that, is because of this challenge. 

**Update** I've since had a good chat with one of the people I alluded to in that fourth paragraph, which I should have done in the first place, and I think I was too harsh. I want to make very sure that I don't get too holier-than-thou whilst doing this challenge, since I'm aware it's really a drop in the bucket compared to the real thing. I'm also aware that you can never really comprehend anyone else's struggles from the outside, so it's unfair to make judgements based on the idea that you have comprehended them. The point of this is not to criticise anyone else, but to follow my own personal journey and focus on learning what I can from the experience. Sal x