“I made every meal last”

8:30 am, October 31, 2022

For Carly Newman, every day feels like an impossible equation. Dressed in a red dress and black heels, she left New Cross train station in south-east London on her way home after her weekly day at work. “There’s a good fifteen minute walk, he teaches. This is the price to pay for lower rent. » He had to take his son, Ezra, 4, from his parents. For this single mother, the challenges of everyday life are compounded by the UK’s cost of living crisis. In September, inflation reached 10.1%, its highest level since 1982.

For food, prices rose even more, by almost 40% for some basic products such as butter, milk or cereals. The cost of energy has also increased. The average household bill has almost doubled from £1,277 to £2,500 in the last twelve months. ” My employer requires me to work in the office at least one day a week, said this 36-year-old Londoner, who works at a charity organization. Its place is in the City, so there’s the train, £6.40, the lunch I have to buy myself, £10, and all the cafes tempting me with their £3 drinks. Those days are really expensive. »

“Price hikes are very real”

Carly Newman walks through the door of the cottage where her parents live. Ezra was busy playing. “Look mom, this is for our vacation!” », he slips in, less than proud, showing her a 1 pound coin. He’s taking her to Spain, their first vacation since the pandemic. “I gave a hand to an NGO, on the side of my work, and they paid me in vouchers, said the girl. This allowed me to finance the trip. » This kind of luxury is usually unthinkable for him. However, he earns £3,500 per month, after tax, which is above the UK average salary*.

And defines: “After deducting my fixed costs, I’m almost under 800 pounds. » Inflation dealt it the deathblow. “Every time I go to the supermarket, I have a receipt of at least 30 pounds, he watches, I will only buy two or three trifles. » His gas and electricity bills have risen from an average of £50 to over £100. “That’s what I usually pay during the winter and I haven’t turned on the heating. » He expects charges of more than 150 pounds when the temperature drops.

His mother, Jane Collier, nodded. “The price increase is very real, confirmed this 63-year-old occupational therapist. A soup and a coffee now costs 8 pounds, compared to 5 a few months ago. » He retired this spring, but continues to work two days a week to supplement his pension. To reduce his electricity and heating bills, he installed solar panels on his roof. “This winter, I also plan to use our old wood stove”He slipped.

Also read – As the cost of living rises, the UK faces the challenge of poverty

Time to bring Ezra home. Carly Newman lives in a one-bedroom apartment of about fifty square meters in an HLM complex. He had put thick curtains on the windows and front door, to prevent heat loss. “This winter, I’ll only turn on the heating in one room at a time”, he says. He and Ezra prioritized showering, and he only did laundry once a week.

But these efforts cost him. “What is good living, if it is shivering all winter in your own house? », he asked himself. Carly also goes to the supermarket less often. “I made every meal last, he says. I cook in large batches and save leftovers for the next day, or even the day after. » Meat products and brand names are no longer on his shopping list. He also cut out alcohol. As for contingencies and major purchases, these are financed by his credit card. “I know I’m in debt, he admitted, but i have no choice. »

Using System D

In the UK, more and more residents are turning to System D to weather the storm. Food banks have seen an explosion in the number of their beneficiaries. Indebtedness has reached record levels, with many households forced to turn to loans, some of which interest rates, even limited to 0.8% per day, can exceed 300% per year. Some seniors choose to live with a roommate to cover the cost of the living crisis. A growing part of the population has simply stopped paying their energy bills, joining the Don’t Pay movement, which has 210,000 followers.

I know I’m in debt, but I have no choice

Behind her pleasant smile, Carly Newman is angry. “I have a university education and I have a good job but I’m having trouble getting there, he is carried away. I constantly have to make impossible choices. Take my child to the hairdresser or buy him clothes? This is not normal, the system is broken. » He especially denounced the lack of assistance provided by the State. “It’s like I wasn’t listened to. » Claiming to belong to the middle class, he is part of a particularly affected group. “His generation is worse than ours, Judge Jane Collier.We bought our house in 1995 for 65,000 pounds and it is worth ten times that now. We can always go on vacation. All this was beyond Carly’s reach. »

So far, the British government has done little to relieve households. He has introduced a cap on energy bills, which cannot exceed £2,500 a year, but this will expire in April. Lost in the chaos of a nation in crisis, Carly Newman’s voice won’t be heard anytime soon.

*According to the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS), the median salary in the UK is £31,000 per year (about £2,600 per month), the average salary is £38,000 per year (about 3,200 pounds per month).

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