Merry Christmas! It’s the 5 Week Month

Posted on December 5, 2013


scrooge and Christmas pastIt happens four times a year and always at Christmas.  Every welfare recipient knows about it, the dreaded five week month.

Welfare recipients live from Wednesday to Wednesday, because cheque day is always on Wednesday.  Sometimes it’s four weeks away, and you have maybe $50 a week after rent and utilities to get through those four weeks.  It’s always a tough go to do it, but you don’t have a choice.

Yes, the price of rice has gone up 50% since the last rise in welfare rates.  Yes, since then it has become increasingly more difficult to find fruits and vegetables for under a dollar a pound, the magic number for sensible shopping and getting through the month.  Yes, you have to wear your shirts an extra day because you can’t really afford laundry, shave less often because you can’t really afford razor blades, walk rather than take a bus because you definitely can’t afford bus fare, wear your shoes and clothes until they wear out because you can’t afford to replace them, and visit a food bank every week to get by because you can’t really afford groceries.  If you do all this, you can—sort of—get by.

But then there is the dreaded five week month.  From Wednesday to Wednesday, from cheque to cheque, the distance is five weeks rather than four.  Your piddling $50 dollars a week goes down to $40 a week, effectively a 20% reduction in income.  Now times are really tough.  Your hand to mouth existence becomes Dickensian.

Bah, humbug!

It happens four times a year, as I mentioned, because there are 52 weeks in a year, not 48, and only twelve cheque days.  And the Christmas cheque is always—always—a five week month.  That’s the way it works.  Welfare plans it that way.  Go ask anyone.

This year the gap between cheques stretches from December 18th to January 22nd.  Most months your cheque runs out long before the next one arrives.  Over Christmas and New Years this means perhaps two weeks waiting for the next cheque without a nickel in your pocket.

Time to join the food line-up.  Time to search out free dinners.  Time to give Tiny Tim a tin cup.

Time to take up crime.

If you’re on welfare, Ebenezer Scrooge (or is it Ayn Rand?) is in charge of your life.

Merry Christmas, everyone!