“The fruit basket is more empty and the gasoline is shocking”: a family’s experience of the soaring cost of living | Inflation
Jwe Daly noticed it in the family fruit basket, which isn’t as well stocked as it used to be. His wife, Jess, noticed it on weekends, when the cost of filling up the family’s car makes long trips necessary to think twice. Inflation has hit the UK, and for households up and down the country, the rising cost of living means tough choices have to be made about spending.
The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that in October the cost of living was 4.2% higher than in the same month of 2020. As some countries come out of lockdown , consumption has increased worldwide, resulting in increased demand. for goods and services – and their prices.
Below the headline inflation rate – the highest in nearly a decade – are even steeper price increases for many basic necessities, such as energy. This week, Citizens Advice warned that one in 10 families are facing a financial crisis this winter, and for all but the richest households, there are shocks at the checkout or when bills land in the box. reception or on the doormat.
Jon and Jess, both 35, live in Norwich, where he works for insurance company Aviva and she works for the University of East Anglia. The couple have an eight-month-old daughter, Robin, and a cat named Polly. The family is in a good position to spot rising prices: they keep a spreadsheet of their expenses and can track their household finances until 2018.
But what they noticed will be familiar to many – and highlights the tough choices households face as they struggle against the greatest pressure on incomes in years. In a deep dive into Daly household finances, we illustrate how the cost of living crisis is eroding household finances for families across the country. “The biggest price increases we’ve seen are for food and gasoline,” says Jess. “The price of gasoline is just shocking right now.”
The Dalys say they are lucky to have a choice about what to do with their money. With the two at work, they know they are luckier than many families who are on the bread line this winter, forced to depend on food banks and unable to afford to heat their homes.
The pressure on finances has caused them to reduce their savings and review subscriptions before renewing them, in case expenses may be reduced or reduced entirely. But their income still covers their expenses and they have no debt to pay.
Like many households, they tend to do a main grocery store – every two weeks, and Morrisons or Asda – and then supplement with some items from a corner store and small supermarket, in their home. Tesco case.
With a young child and blockages to deal with, they haven’t been able to go out for restaurant meals this year, so their grocery budget is pretty much all of their food expenses. “We don’t eat out anymore, so I like to cook good things,” says Jess. “I allocate a certain amount for food and we are reviewing it every month at the moment. I’m looking at the budget and where I can cut costs so we don’t have to skimp on food.
The couple don’t eat most of the meat, which is a savings. But they have noticed an increase in the costs of the things they buy. “Fish is expensive,” says Jess. “Right now we really can’t afford to eat fish more than once a month. You buy a few pieces of salmon and it’s £ 7 or £ 8.
Fruit seems expensive too, and Jon says he’s noticed they don’t buy as much these days. A family shopping list they shared with us shows just how much more things are costing this month than at the start of the year. A comparison of the current prices with those they paid at the end of December shows that peppers, cauliflower and potatoes all cost more now than they did then. These are all things that vary in price throughout the year, but ONS figures show an upward trend in the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables since October 2020, with inflation in both categories of 1. , 9%.
Dairy products have also increased over the past year. Jon says his favorite yogurt is now much more expensive, and that’s part of a larger trend, 9.7% inflation in this category. The cheese the Dalys had on their shopping list is much more expensive today than when they threw it into their virtual cart in December, and has risen by more than the 3% overall rate recorded for “milk, cheese and eggs “. Falling in-store egg prices may mask growth elsewhere, however, according to ONS, a dozen large eggs from free-range hens last month cost an average of £ 2.15, compared to £ 2.26 the previous year.
The Dalys are mindful of what they’re buying – trying to avoid foods that have a lot of packaging or that have been brought thousands of miles away, and Jess says it’s “quite difficult when you’re trying to ‘to save money”.
Although their daughter has started to wean, she still only eats a small amount and therefore has not increased her food bill. There’s the cost of the diapers to deal with now, but the family say they haven’t bought them for long enough to notice an increase in costs.
The meals for the fourth family member were hit by inflation. “The food our cat eats is no longer available,” says Jess. “I just paid £ 4 for a box of 12 sachets. But I feel like since I got Robin I neglected the cat, so the least I can do is get the food she likes. The ONS says keeping a pet has become more expensive: Pet products cost 2.9% more than in October of last year, while vet bills are up 4%.
The other big cost increase the family noticed was gasoline. Recently, UK petrol prices hit an all-time high, and the average cost of a liter of unleaded petrol continued to rise, reaching 146.89 pence this week, according to government data. That’s over 34 pence a liter over a year ago, and it’s made a real difference in the budgets of many families.
Neither Jon nor Jess use the car for work, so they don’t have to rely on it every day. But they started to think twice before using it in their free time. “Last week I refueled the car and it cost over £ 50 which was a bit of a shock,” Jess said. “The cost comes to mind when we decide what to do – we’re not going to take a trip to North Norfolk and use a quarter of a tank of gas, we’ll be doing something local instead. This is definitely a factor when we are planning what to do on the weekends.
The energy crisis has put pressure on the finances of many families. So far the Dalys have not seen their unit costs increase as they are on the flat rate with British Gas but their monthly expense has increased as having a young baby and working from home meant using more heat. “Before I had a baby, Jon would probably have said I was pretty stingy with the heater,” says Jess. “But now he has to be more present. “
Their direct debit increased by £ 20 per month to reach £ 100 in August, and they may have to pay more during the winter. Their fixed rate ends in April, and whatever they do, their costs are expected to rise. They pay roughly the same rate as the variable rate rate, so switching to that rate today wouldn’t have much of an impact, but switching to a new fixed rate rate with their provider would mean paying almost double the rate. what they are currently billed. In April, they are expected to switch to the variable agreement, but that’s when the new price cap comes into effect. Analysts have suggested the cap could be 30% higher than today, pushing average bills down from £ 1,277 to £ 1,660 a year – a worrying increase for UK households.
Recently the Dalys cut their cable and broadband TV bill, which they said had ‘climbed’ to almost £ 70, by canceling many channels, and they are now paying £ 38 for a basic package. Before becoming parents, they used to go to the movies twice a month, but they lost track of the cost of that. When they return, they could be shocked: according to the ONS, cinema, theater and concert tickets are 9.5% more expensive than a year ago.
While Christmas may take its toll on some, the Dalys are planning a small party and have a strategy to cover the costs: From each January, they both pay a monthly contribution of £ 20 into a savings account. When the holiday season arrives they have £ 480 to spend. “It really takes the sting out,” Jon says.