Cost of living: Four in five 'worse off' than last year, survey reveals

Households are facing a cost of living crisis with higher energy bill and rising fuel and food price

Hundreds of people have responded to our survey on the rising cost of living - Credit: PA

Four out of five people in Breckland are worse off financially than they were a year ago, a survey by this paper has found. 

Research also found that almost half of residents in North Norfolk have switched to shopping at budget supermarkets amid the increasing cost of living. 

Ffuel prices are still cheaper now than they were at the start of June

Drivers have been struggling with the increasing cost of fuel - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Moreover, a significant proportion of people are limiting car journeys, cutting out 'micro treats' - small purchases like coffees and takeaways - and going out less in an attempt to stay afloat. 

More than 350 people in Breckland and over 400 in north Norfolk took part in the wide-ranging survey, conducted by this newspaper to assess how people in the area have been affected by steep rises in the price of food, fuel and energy. 

It presented a stark picture of the financial situation in which people have found themselves - and the measures they have resorted to - in recent months. 

Almost all of our respondents (99pc) said they had noticed some form of increase in their monthly bills. 

Other findings from Breckland include:

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  • One in eight people are resorting to using food banks
  • Almost two thirds (63pc) have seen monthly bills rise by more than £100
  • More than a quarter (27pc) of oil customers have seen monthly bills rise by more than £150
  • Excluding mortgages, more than half (54pc) of respondents have some form of debt
  • Almost a third (31pc) have cut out subscriptions to streaming services such as Netflix

And in north Norfolk, we found: 

  • More than three quarters (77pc) of people are worse off than a year ago
  • Two in five households would not be able to cope with an unexpected but necessary expense of £850
  • Nine in 10 people have seen an increase in the cost of their electricity 
  • Two thirds (66pc) have cut down on heating their homes 
  • More than 40pc of respondents have decided to sell possessions to cope with rising costs 

Among the participants in our survey was Laura Black, a night nurse from Dereham. 

Night nurse Laura Black, who is working two jobs to make ends meet. Pictured with her daughter

Laura Black, a night nurse who lives in Dereham with her four children - Credit: Laura Black

The 38-year-old, who works at Dereham Hospital, has seen her energy costs triple following a renewal quote given earlier this month. 

It has wiped out all the family's spending money, meaning she and her partner will only be able to afford one birthday present for each of her four children - aged 14, 13, nine and two. 

In a bid to make ends meet, Ms Black took on a second job last year ahead of price rises that were being widely forecast - and is glad she did. 

Her partner, who works at Tesco, also has a second job at a takeaway restaurant. 

“My partner works six days a week and it just feels like we are both working for nothing," said Ms Black.

“We feel that we can’t treat our children now. We were going to go away on holiday this year, but now that has gone.

Londoners are being impacted by a growing cost of living crisis

People in Norfolk are having to cut unnecessary expenses in order to stay afloat - Credit: Archant

“Our four children are only going to get one birthday present, and I am absolutely dreading winter as bills might go up again. How are we going to heat the house?"

Faced with the prospect of a perilous financial situation, Ms Black and her family are doing all they can to cut out unnecessary expenses. 

That includes all of their monthly streaming subscriptions such as Netflix, Audible, Britbox and PlayStation Plus. 

The price of fuel has been rapidly rising in recent months 

The price of fuel has been rapidly rising in recent months - Credit: Archant

Also scrapped was their dog's pet plan, which will only be reinstated once they have the means to pay for it. 

An ongoing consideration is whether to get rid of the family car. 

"My boys loves socialising online with friends on their games console," said Ms Black. "But we have a smart meter fitted and, once the electricity hits our daily budget, I've said to them that everything has to go off. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to

Chancellor Rishi Sunak pictured before giving the Spring Statement - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

"While the weather is nice it's been okay, because they've been able to play outside, but they have found it a bit tough because all their friends are online, so they are missing out socially."

Fearing the worst for the month's ahead, she added: "It has gone absolutely crazy. We were a comfortable family a few months ago, but this crisis is making families everywhere suffer.

“This [council tax] rebate that we are all waiting for will help, but it is not going to cover our £260 monthly energy bill.

“You are not here to work; you are here to live."

To address what could be the most difficult year in living memory for so many families, the Times is running a campaign entitled 'Your Money Matters'.

Anyone willing to share their experiences can get in touch by emailing thomas.chapman@archant.co.uk.