Pleasures are doled out more sparingly as purses shrink

Modest weekly trips to the supermarket have replaced the «big monthly shop,» the refrigerator is full only on holidays, while outings for dinner or a movie have been drastically reduced, says Katerina Georgaki, a mother of two. The daily life of the average Greek family has changed considerably over the past few years: Rising costs (an issue that topped the complaints list of the INKA consumer rights group in 2003) are a constant source of concern and wages have remained at the same levels, without adapting to the soaring cost of living. «About two or three years ago, I used to go to the supermarket once a month and make mass purchases. A weekly trip to the supermarket was just a matter of routine,» admits Georgaki, adding, «I am now very careful about what I put in my basket.» She even admits to going to a different supermarket on occasion to purchase an item at a lower price. «Our home has always been full of goods, you could barely close the refrigerator door. It is true that many of the things I bought would go to waste, but we don’t have that luxury any longer,» she says. «I’m not saying that we are going hungry, but we are feeling the pinch a lot more.» Of course there is no way that the average family can afford a complete wardrobe renewal, buying instead the absolute essentials when it is necessary. «We try and focus on the children’s needs, ours can wait,» says Georgaki, whose four-person family struggles to make ends meets on some 1,800 euros a month. «It’s not even worth mentioning savings,» she says. «I just hope we are not in for worse times.» Even the smallest expenditure, a bit of school pocket money for the children, is a burden on the family budget. «After school, the children go to the private tuition school (frontistirio) and need to have a bite to eat (nothing more than a cheese pie and a carton of milk or a soda, of course). We don’t give them more than 3 euros a day each, but that means 120 euros a month in total, and that does not include pocket money for the weekends (another 120 euros a month as we give each child 15 euros). All in all, it adds up to quite a significant amount,» says Georgaki. Spending money on entertainment has been pared down to the minimum in Georgakis’s family. «We used to go out a lot, for dinner at a taverna with friends or relatives, but we can’t really do that anymore. A meal, even at a small taverna, costs at least 50 euros for the four of us,» she says, admitting that the family purse does not allow more than one such outing a month. Going to the movies or the theater, on the other hand, «used to be a regular form of entertainment and is now a rare expense.»