Ethical living · Social justice

Money laundering

The Pilgrim household needs a new washing machine. The bearing has gone (so I’m told) which means our kitchen now frequently sounds like a runway at Heathrow.

We are in the privileged position of being able to choose and buy a brand-new machine. Mr Pilgrim has spent many hours (many!) looking for one with a timer, a hand-wash cycle and a five-year guarantee – at a good price. Our new appliance will cost about £500 and we have some savings we can use to purchase it.

I’ve been thinking about what we would do if we didn’t have the money to buy a washing machine outright.

Live without a washing machine

I could wash items by hand or take them to the nearest launderette. But with a baby and a  preschooler just out of nappies, the washing never stops.


Realistically and sensibly, we need a washing machine.

As I write this, I can’t help but think of people around the world who don’t have that luxury. Adelia, a mother of two small children in Mozambique, has to walk 40km every day to collect water. Her priority isn’t water for washing clothes; she needs water for drinking and cooking.

I have discovered my grandparents didn’t own washing machines in the 1950s when my parents were young. My paternal grandparents had their washing collected once a week and taken to the laundry, and my maternal grandparents washed everything by hand or used something called a copper and laundry tongs.

A 1950s copper washer

Reflecting on washing machines – a household item which I’ve previously never given much thought to – has led me to a new and deeper appreciation of them. Every time I use my new washing machine, I’m going to stop for a moment to be grateful, to remember my grandma and grandad for whom laundry was physically hard work, and to pray for those today, such as Adelia, who are experiencing water poverty.

The charity Water Aid focuses on water, sanitation and hygiene; I’ve joined their mailing list to receive information about campaigns and have signed their pledge to make sure everyone everywhere has access to safe water by 2030.

Credit unions

I wanted to blog last week about credit unions but struggled to find the right words. Instead, in Present Tense I wrote about how my perfectionism was getting the better of me.

For many a credit union is a fantastic way of borrowing money to pay for items such as essential kitchen appliances. I’ve been a member of my local credit union for about five years – saving a little in my account each month so that others in my community can take out loans with very low interest.


Credit unions provide alternatives to rent-to-buy shops. I’ve discovered I could very quickly have this new washing machine from BrightHouse who have a shop on my local high street, but I’d pay £819 over three years for an appliance worth £258.79 –  although to be fair, their deal does include unlimited repairs. I can definitely see the attraction of paying £5.25 per week over three years for an essential household item but it makes me angry people are paying so much – too much. As former Labour leader, Ed Miliband said in his campaign against rent-to-buy shops last year: ‘This is a Great British rip-off. There are a lot of people out there that get into debt and it can cause people untold misery.

I regularly see adverts on TV for QuickQuid, a licensed lender. Arranging a loan for £500 would take about ten minutes online. If I took out the longest repayment package of three months, I’d pay back £120 in the first month, £120 in the second month and then £620 in the third month. Paying back a total of £860! (I was so shocked by this, I had to ring Mr Pilgrim at work to tell him.)

£860!!! I only borrowed £500. How am I going to pay that back? 

You can find your nearest credit union on the Find Your Credit Union website (!). There’s some great stuff (please take the time to have a look) on the Just Finance Foundation website about debt, credit unions and financial education.

(The Just Finance Foundation is the charity developing and implementing Archbishop Justin Welby’s vision for a more just financial system.)

I am passionate about addressing the root causes of a problem not just dealing with the symptoms so I’ll end with this quote taken from the Just Finance Foundation:

‘Many churches across the country are already engaged in providing debt advice to people in desperate circumstances, and this is a ministry that should be celebrated.  But if the church only ever engages in this way, and then sends people back out into a world full of exploitative lenders, unethical banking practices and consumerism hoping for the best then we wouldn’t be living up to the full picture of the Gospel.’

Could you – or your church – promote credit unions as an alternative to exploitative lenders?



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