Skip To Content

    What Even Is The Budget? A Guide For People Who Give, Like, Half A Shit

    Help! There's a man with a red briefcase on the telly talking about money stuff! What do I need to know?

    Who is that man?

    Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

    That's George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer. He's in charge of money things in the government. That's why he's wearing a bow tie.

    Why is his face like that?

    Simon Dawson / Getty Images

    Because he has a new Budget to tell us about.

    Why does he have a red briefcase?

    Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

    Because that's where he keeps his Budget.

    Why he uses a red briefcase is a long story but the basic answer is ~tradition~. The original red Budget briefcase was made in around 1860, when William Gladstone was chancellor. Gladstone's speeches went on for bloody ages, so he needed a special case to carry his huge number of documents around in.

    After that everyone kept using it, just because. With a few breaks for chancellors who wanted their own fancy red briefcase, Gladstone's briefcase stayed in use until 2010, by which point it was knackered and falling apart. So they got a new one. Which cost £4,300.

    Am I crazy or was there already a Budget a couple months ago?


    You're not crazy! Well, you might be, but not because of this. There have been three mini-budgets and something called the Autumn Statement in the last 12 months.

    The Autumn Statement is like the less impressive sibling in the family of Budgets. It’s just a little update on the government’s plans for tax and spending, based on whatever horrors have been revealed in the Office for Budget Responsibility’s economic forecasts.

    The Autumn Statement usually comes in December, because the United Kingdom is a backwards country.

    Also, the chancellor isn't allowed to drink while delivering the Autumn Statement – but he is during the actual Budget. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    What is money?

    [At job interview] Interviewer: So tell me why you want this job. Me: I have no money and I prefer when I have money.

    Money can be exchanged for goods and services.

    What is George Osborne doing with our money?

    Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

    He handles your dough with his dough fingers.

    He shapes it very carefully.

    He shapes it into an economy.

    OK, but what's he doing to this gate?

    Lewis Whyld / PA WIRE

    Nobody knows.

    Why does the Budget matter?

    Food $200 Data $150 Rent $800 Candles $3,600 Utility $150 someone who is good at the economy please help me budget this. my family is dying

    If your personal, household budget is bad, you will become poor and die.

    On a national level, it's kind of the same, except if you tried to build a new railway line from your bedroom to your bathroom it probably would not make your home more productive.

    So they're actually completely different. Except for the candles.

    What happens on the day of the Budget, and is it boring?

    Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

    Yes, it's very boring.

    Basically George Osborne stands up in parliament and makes a very long speech with lots of numbers in it for about an hour, while people behind him cheer, then Jeremy Corbyn stands up and says why George Osborne's numbers are bad numbers for a slightly shorter time while the people behind him cheer (or not, given how many of the people behind him hate him).

    Then everybody talks about the numbers for ages until they lose the will to live.

    Are there any tricks and sneaky things we should keep an eye out for?

    Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

    The Budget can be very sneaky indeed, because the opposition and the press don't get to see the Budget beforehand, so it can sometimes take quite a lot of time to read through the small print and find out what's actually going on.

    Basically the chancellor gets to present the Budget in the way that makes him look best, which can often involve lots of ~innovative~ maths to make it seem like the country has lots of money (or less money if they want an excuse to cut things) and that his policies are a great idea that will make everybody happier.

    Why have some things been announced in advance? Was somebody naughty?

    Toby Melville / WPA Pool / Getty Images

    It is now a tradition that virtually all of the important announcements in the Budget will be leaked to the press in advance, so that the government can get bad news out of the way and see how the more controversial decisions will go down.

    This is technically very naughty because in theory parliament should be told about all these things first, but everybody does it so nobody raises much of a fuss.

    Why does everybody keep talking about rabbits?

    Buena Vista Distribution / Via

    Politics people are not funny, but they do love running jokes that only make sense to them. One of these is that chancellors will often have a "rabbit" that they'll pull out of a hat on Budget day – a big exciting announcement that they didn't tell anybody about beforehand, which will distract everybody from analysing all that small print.

    George Osborne, who clearly yearned to be a stage magician, is especially fond of rabbits.

    So what do we already know about this Budget?

    Nigel Roddis / Getty Images

    Actually not that much. The government have been quieter than normal on the leaking front, which either means that a) there's lots of bad news and they're kind of hoping that if they don't mention the Budget everybody will forget it's happening, or b) George Osborne has a very large rabbit that he's very excited about surprising everybody with on Budget day.

    But we do know some things! These include:

    Bad news! There'll be an extra £4 billion of cuts because the British economy is in worse shape than everybody predicted.

    Ben Birchall / PA WIRE

    Also, announced separately to the Budget: There'll be £1.2billion worth of savings made by "reforming" how disability benefits are paid (i.e. around 600,000 disabled people will be worse off).

    Good news! There'll be an initial £380 million of spending on a load of big transport projects.

    Ben Birchall / PA WIRE

    Manchester and Leeds will be joined up by the HS3 rail line (which isn't really a new line), London gets Crossrail 2 (which is), and people crossing the North will also get a new trans-Pennine road tunnel. (All these projects won't cost £380 million, that would be super cheap. They'll actually cost many many billions of pounds, the £380 milzo is just to get them started.)

    Oh, and there's also a scheme announced separately to give low-paid workers who save money a bonus.

    But yeah probably mostly bad news.

    Ben Birchall / PA WIRE

    As is explained in more depth here, George looks likely to have missed his economic targets, has been forced to back down on some of his other plans by the threat of a rebellion in his own party, and the government is already facing a backlash over its education plans.

    How will the Budget actually affect me?

    Twitter: @CatsAndMoney

    You are a cat with a considerable amount of cash, so I wouldn't worry too much about it if I were you.

    Or if you are not a cat, stay tuned after the Budget for loads of analysis answering questions like "What If I Make This Amount Of Money And Am Shortly To Inherit A Haunted Mansion, Will It Be Taxed Quite Severely?" and "I Will Never Be Able To Buy A House And Just Found Out I'm Pregnant, Ha Ha Ha, Oh God Won't Somebody Please Help Me?"

    When do George's Budget dreams actually become a reality?

    Stefan Wermuth / Getty Images

    Depends on the thing. Old Georgie will say "with immediate effect" for some things, and other things will come into effect with the beginning of the next tax year (so April 2016).

    If he doesn't mention when something will take effect, you'll have to look in his special Budget red book, which in theory gets published as soon as his ass hits the chair after the speech.

    Why do they give away weird small things in the Budget? Like seagull research? I heard a thing about seagull research.

    Twitter: @CatsAndMoney

    You did hear that!

    Last year Osborne came under criticism for cutting £250,000 of funding from the Budget that had been set aside to research aggressive seagulls.

    As one Conservative MP warned: “The problem does seem to be escalating...The seagulls are losing their fear and getting more courageous.”

    Why does Jeremy Corbyn look sad?

    Ben Pruchnie / Getty Images

    Because the slugs have been a menace to his courgettes this year.

    And also, because he has to come up with a very clever response to the Budget, and he has to write it WHILE the Budget is being announced. It's like one of those anxiety dreams where you have to stand up in front of loads of people and talk about something you've never seen before like you know what you're doing.

    So that sucks.

    Hooray, I love learning about the Budget! Where can I learn more?

    Toby Melville / Getty Images

    Immediately after the Budget has been announced, at like 1pm, everyone will start yelling on the news.

    You can find BuzzFeed's own yelling about the news here.