With the advent of my husband now living here and actually making money (as opposed to myself, who am currently a drain on the UK's GDP), we have learned a few things about the British pound:
The pound has about as much buying power as a dollar. For instance, coffee (which we don't drink, but have been told) at Starbucks is 3 pounds. Our meal at the Spanish tapas bar in London, El Pirata, last night was around 35 pounds (without alcohol). Rents in London and Oxford (which has the highest cost of living in England after London) can range from 400 pounds for a single room (what I pay in-college) to 2,200+ pounds for a two bedroom flat. The problems with all of this, however, are a) the spot (current) exchange rate is 1.57 and b) salaries approximate what they would be in dollars, given the exchange. So, therefore, paying for things in dollars (from a U.S. bank account) is extremely painful, and people make the same as we do in the U.S. (although there are much less high-paying jobs) but the cost of living is 1.57x more expensive. As my husband said this morning, people are just less wealthy here.
Then there is the matter of tithing. Charitable donations are not tax deductible here (I'm not sure about this, but will find out), but do benefit from a government programme wherein each donation is complemented by a 2.5% matching contribution from the government (we put in 7.5 pounds, the government then puts in 2.5 pounds). Faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints usually pay 10% tithing on their income, but here in England they have been advised by Church authorities that they can, with this government matching programme, pay 7.5% or 8% tithing. Interesting. As traditionally full tithe payers, my husband and I have some accounting to do to figure all of this out.
Finally, there is the matter of taxes. I used to find it silly that some of the windows at King's College, Cambridge were blocked up due to the window tax in the 1700s or the bridge at St. Claire's College, Cambridge was not completed to avoid the bridge tax about the same time. I don't think any of this is silly anymore. Taxes here are about 40%, and will go up, according to Labor Party legislation, to 50% for the higher income brackets. 50%! People fought wars over this in the Book of Mormon, and sometimes, I don't blame them! In fact, I don't even find the Boston Tea Party as much of a historical abberition, and have considered chucking some of London's expensive "cream teas" into the Thames from time to time...