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Proms highlights priorities shift in spending terms

28 September 2012

While the Proms is an enduring reminder of the past history of the UK, the world has changed a lot over the course of the event being held.

Even in the last few decades since the end of the Second World War, technological advances have meant the modern world is almost unrecognisable from that seen 50 years ago.

The Proms came to an end on September 8th after a lavish closing ceremony was held, as it is every year, at the Royal Albert Hall and the conclusion of the two months of classical music is a good time for reflection on how the country's spending habits have changed over the years.

Simon Fowler, writer and researcher at, explained the 40s and 50s were generally seen as being a time of full employment, which meant there was more money available to be spent on household goods.

He pointed out items such as televisions and washing machines were just starting to be mass-produced and this meant the cost came down to a level regular people could afford.

Much of the income of individuals 50 years ago was therefore spent on new technology designed to improve their quality of life, whereas in the 21st century we take a lot of these innovations far more for granted than previous generations.

"Today, housing costs are the major expenditure faced by most households, according to the Retail Price Index from the Office for National Statistics," said Mr Fowler.

He added: "Typically a quarter of household expenditure goes on the mortgage or paying rent and another ten per cent paying for the utilities. [It is] then followed by the expenses of running the car, with food in third place with just over ten per cent of the budget."

It was also noted by the specialist that goods such as fridges are now deemed to be "unexciting" in households , whereas they would have been a major purchase for a home to make in the 50s.

A report by the Work Foundation also demonstrates how spending habits have been affected by the arrival of mass technology over the course of the last 20 years.

It was noted by the organisation that the biggest growth area in the last two decades is in recreation and culture, which it stated is driven by electronic goods like computers, games consoles and stereos.

Meanwhile, the results of the study have also shown that the price of private education has soared over the past 20 years, which is partly driven by the increasing cost of university.

This could mean families are looking for new ways to pay for the education of their children, with a wide range of financial products on the market to meet their needs.

Equity release plans could prove to be handy for older homeowners who want to unlock money from the value of their property to help out a family member with their tuition fees.

As graduates generally earn more than their counterparts who did not go to university for a degree, there is a chance they will be able to pay back the money later in life.

Mr Fowler pointed out that in the 40s and 50s, food made up a large part of the spending of most households, while now it is a much smaller percentage of the incomes of families.

"About a third of the typical household budget was spent on food in 1953.  It was expensive and there was little choice. And for the most part, until the late 1940s, it was still rationed. Tea rationing only ended in 1952," he said, highlighting the fact that a lot of money was also spent on tobacco as the majority of both men and women smoked in that era.

However much spending habits have changed over the course of the last few days, it is sure to be the case that leisure activities are going to remain a priority for the budgets of most people.

This means it is likely tickets for prestigious events such as the Proms will remain in demand for generations to come in the future.

Page last updated: Wednesday 14 August 2019