As the prices of everything from food to furniture rise at their fastest rate in nearly 30 years, six women from across the UK reveal their concerns about the current cost of living crisis.
If you’ve noticed the cost of your supermarket shop or electricity bill creeping up recently, you’re not alone. The UK is currently in the depths of a cost of living crisis that has left many people struggling to cover basic expenses, with prices at their highest rate for over 30 years.
The cost of living crisis is a result of a perfect storm of government decisions and global shortages that have left poorer households hard hit.
Shop price inflation in the UK almost doubled in January to the highest level for nearly 10 years, galvanized by the higher cost of clothes, food and furniture. The price of food rose by 2.7% in January, the highest rate since 2013. While global supply chain issues caused by the Covid pandemic have resulted in a lack of household goods and soaring energy prices.
As demonstrated in a viral Twitter thread by author and campaigner Jack Monroe, the cost of living crisis is even more significant for lower-income households. She estimates that the costs of some basic food items have increased by up to 344% within the space of a year, leaving families who were already only just getting by now unable to afford their weekly shop.
We spoke to six women from around the UK about how the cost of living crisis has impacted them so far and their concerns for the future.
“The cost of living is a huge stress on my life”
Chloe, 23, lives in Liverpool and recently found work through the government’s Kickstart scheme after receiving Universal Credit (UC). She now works for a social impact mission helping young people on UC find work placements.
“Having been on Universal Credit before finding work I have seen my finances fluctuate over the last 18 months. I can’t drive and my bus and rail pass for my day-to-day commute certainly isn’t cheap. The cost of living is a huge stress on my life.
My biggest fear is that the costs of living will continue to rise, and as I reach my 30s, it will be even harder to get onto the property ladder and to save for ‘luxuries’ such as driving and holidays – things that were was a lot more achievable for young people 20 or 30 years ago.
Thankfully, I feel that I now have career prospects and the opportunity to climb the employment ladder, but with rising energy costs and the Help to Buy ISA being no more, the thought of buying and heating my own property is a worry for me.”
“Women may have to decide between household expenses and investing in their career”
Sonya, 29, runs a mentoring programme for women in marginalised communities. She worries the cost of living will cause young women to miss out on opportunities.
“I’ve seen an impact on the cost of everyday things like household necessities, utilities and work expenses such as office costs and software for remote working. Speaking to our network we’ve heard similar things – especially from those who come from low-income backgrounds. If you add up the cost of internet, energy and equipment, professionals – particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds – might miss out on opportunities to grow and increase their skillset.
Personally, I have had to reduce some of my overall expenses, and I’m also being careful with my household budget and electricity usage. These kinds of shifts have been a recurring conversation with the women that I’m working with – many are worried that the rising cost of living could mean that they would have to decide between household expenses and investing in their career and skill advancement. Ultimately, it could impact their opportunity to pursue higher-paid roles or change industries.”
“I get the kids to put on extra layers to stay warm”
Rebecca, 36, is a single mother of four living in Newquay, Cornwall. She’s decided to look for a property with her mum after struggling with living costs.
“I was saving a deposit to buy my own house pre-Covid, but property prices have risen so much that I’m no longer in a position to do so. My gas and electricity bills have increased so drastically that I have to hold out putting the heating on and get the kids to put on extra layers to stay warm. Rising petrol prices have also been a big problem, as my children are in three different schools and nurseries eight miles away from each other.
I run my own business and used to rent out a unit to work from, but I’ve now had to start working from home. I’m worried I’ll have to move my children to different schools if petrol prices continue to rise, or if we’re forced to relocate to a cheaper area. They’ve been through so much over the last two years and the last thing that I want to do is to unsettle them even more.
Due to the rising cost of living, I have now made the decision to move in with my mum as we can afford a bigger property to rent if we’re living together. She will take on a share of the bills, which will benefit us both until I’m in a position to buy in the future.”
“I’m scared of getting myself into debt”
Minreet, 41, is a swimming teacher living in London. Working part-time means she’s been hard-hit by the rising cost of living.
“I would like to buy a house in London, but it’s much too expensive. Energy bills, electricity and even things like supermarkets seem to have increased in cost. I also drive a lot, and I’ve noticed that the cost of petrol has risen.
I’m not working full-time at the moment, so I’m worried about how I’ll even be able to pay bills, never mind buy my first home. I’m scared of getting myself into debt.
I’ve started to shop at cheaper supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl and have cut back on driving. I’m also trying to use less electricity and heating, and not to buy any new clothes. If I don’t find a full-time job then I’m not sure how I will be able to survive financially.”
“I don’t know how I would afford to raise a child”
Becca, 27, is a nurse living in Leeds. Although she recently moved into a senior role and now considers her salary to be good, she still struggles to afford luxuries.
“Even though I think my salary is a lot of money, I can’t afford to splurge on expensive holidays, for example. I often say to my partner that if we earned as much as we did and lived back in the 90s, we’d probably be living in a huge house and go on holidays every month. Even in a well-paid senior job, I’m worried about the bills.
Because of the pandemic and not being able to do much for over a year my finances have remained stable. But I worry about future increases and how this will affect me. I am thinking of moving house, as we’ve outgrown our small terrace, but I worry about whether this is a good idea in the current climate. At the minute, it feels very much like you only work to survive.
I’m not sure if I want children, and a big part of the reason is that I don’t know how I would afford to raise a child – I honestly think it would put me in debt. Luckily I can’t envisage ever not being able to pay my bills, but other luxuries will probably suffer. But that’s a small price to pay compared to the cost to the most vulnerable members of our society, and what they are experiencing.”
“Each month feels like a squeeze”
Ellie, 26, is a marketing manager living in London. She is seriously considering leaving the city and moving back in with family due to the rising cost of living
“Although I have a good salary from my full-time job, each month feels like a squeeze. Over the last few months, my bills have increased beyond the norm of seasonal expectation. I now have to budget three months in advance to plan if I can afford to see friends and family, attend weddings or get an eye test.
It’s always stressful to deal with money, particularly when things are tight, but I worry about the impact on relationships with friends and colleagues. I’m concerned that now we’re going back to the office I’ll get called out for not being a team-player if I can’t afford to go out for lunch or to welcome drinks for a new colleague.
To tackle the rising cost of living I’ve cancelled all subscriptions and direct debits that aren’t totally necessary, even if I enjoyed the services they provided. I’ve cancelled my gym membership and I use hot water bottles, jumpers and blankets instead of having the heating on.
I’m single so I don’t have someone else to share the financial burden of rising living costs. I’m unable to save due to bills, rent and an overdraft coming first. I feel like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place of affording to live in my home or affording to live my life.”
Images: Getty, courtesy of interviewees