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Housing: Costs of Home Items 1930s-50s


Monthly expenditures for a British family, mid-20th century

My father's household account book for the years of 1953-1962 gives a detailed record of how a typical working class family of a father, mother and one child spent their money in the middle years of the 20th century. It thus provides a unique window into the the cost of living at the time and rates of inflation.

The accounts are presented under key categories, as annual expenditure and as monthly expenditure, and are of course in the old £-s-d (pound-shilling-and pence system). This page is about monthly expenditures.

Monthly accounts for 1953

The earliest surviving full set of my father's monthly accounts are for 1953. They are shown below as three images of four months each. There are also monthly accounts up to all the years until 1962, but being later they are probably of less interest.

Tap/click for larger, legible versions

Monthly expenditure for a British family of three January-April 1953

Expenditure January - April 1953

Monthly expenditure for a British family of three May August 1953

Expenditure May - August 1953

Monthly expenditure for a British family of three September-December 1953

Expenditure September - December 1953

Making sense of the accounts

My father was a trained accountant who must have kept his accounts in the accepted fashion, with four columns for every month, except January, headed:

Although I can understand the general meaning of these headings, as I am not a trained accountant, I can't really understand how the amounts worked. However, the first category of the mortgage repayments on our house (to 'Abbey Road') look reasonably straightforward:

My father seems to have been working towards balancing the books at the end of the year. So there was nothing to bring forward into January. The amount due in January was £4 and this was paid. By February that £4 had 'accrued', ie built up, into the yearly outgoings, but another £4 was due for the current month and was paid, making £8 the total paid for the year. This continued month by month so that the accrued outgoings by the end of December were 12 x £4, ie £48.

However, I leave it to better brains than mine to work out the significance of the amounts in the other categories. Yet I honestly believe that if they would do so, my father's accounts would provide a significant contribution to our understanding of the cost of living and the rate of inflation in the 1950s.

Text and images are copyright

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