Workaholic Britain is turning into the `grab and go' society

FAMILIES ARE spending more than ever before on "convenience living" to cope with the demands of modern life, according to a survey published yesterday.

Three-quarters of working parents said that lack of time forced them to pay somebody else to do their cleaning, ironing, cooking or DIY, and nearly half were too busy to spend quality time with family or friends.

Experts believe that the nationwide survey of 1,000 adults, conducted by NOP, the polling organisation, confirms that the "Grab and Go" society is here to stay with families paying financially and emotionally to balance the pressures of work and home.

"Today's working families are richer in material terms then their counterparts of just 30 years ago but are becoming increasingly time poor. It seems that we're all working a lot harder just to stand still and we have become so busy that we have to spend more and more money to try to keep our households running smoothly," said Bridget Walsh, the group marketing manager of Abbey National, who commissioned the research.

Nearly three-quarters of the families said they bought take-away food at least once a week because they could not find the time to cook.

People in London, with or without children, were the most likely to buy take-aways, 49 per cent overall, followed by those in Yorkshire at 45 per cent and Scotland at 43 per cent. Nearly two-thirds of people who worked full-time, 63 per cent, found it difficult to find time to visit the supermarket and shopped instead at local convenience stores, adding more than pounds 20 a week to their food bill.

The increasing pace of life has made it more difficult for nearly 70 per cent of the population to manage their time. The survey showed that 37 per cent of those questioned had forgotten an important anniversary or birthday in the last 12 months. People with children found that they were too busy to go to the cinema, 49 per cent, to organise holidays, 36 per cent, or do the gardening, 37 per cent.

However, it is not just household chores that can be farmed out to other people. For an annual fee of pounds 500 organisations such as TEN, Time Energy Network, will do just about anything for you.

"Time is a luxury," said Alex Cheatle, founder of TEN. "We do lots of birthdays, buying cards and presents and reminding people of anniversaries."

When it came to planning their finances, a third of families with children said they did not have sufficient time to manage their day-to-day finances, compared with 23 per cent of households without children.

"Friends, hobbies and relaxation are all increasingly sidelined in the relentless pursuit of wealth and the need to be super-parents," the report concluded.

`I see so little of them'

RUTH AND Hugh Deans live with their two children, Alice, three, and Harry, seven months, in a three-bedroom semi-detached house in Beckenham, Kent. They have a combined annual salary of between pounds 45,000 and pounds 50,000.

Hugh, a landscape gardener, works part-time.

Ruth, 34, is a marketing consultant in London. She works 12-hour days, getting up at 6.45am and commuting for an hour each way to work. "Time is so precious," she said. "At the weekends we always do something special together as a family because I see so little of them in the week."

The couple eat take-outs at least twice a week. "We must spend about pounds 30 a week on take-aways," she said. They pay a cleaner and someone to do the ironing. The family's clothes are bought by mail order.

`We see them all the time'

ANDREW JAMES and Sophie Chalmers live in a six- bedroom converted mill in Wales, with 20 acres, with their three children. They have a combined income of pounds 30,000. Eight years ago the couple left their well- paid jobs, and moved out of London.

They now run a magazine called Better Business working at home. They still have a nanny but overall spend much less on maintaining a high-octane lifestyle. "We spend much less on clothes, eating out and new cars. We no longer have to spend money to compensate for having a stressful life," said Andrew.

The couple have two holidays a year, one somewhere warm without the children. "We don't have to spend every minute with the children because we see them all the time," said Andrew.