Rise in living costs forcing many people to dip into their financial reserves
The average cost of housing, food, and energy bills have increased by nearly £500 per month as of September last year compared to August 2022, according to statistics regarding the cost of living in the country. This rise in living costs has forced many people to dip into their financial reserves.
The survey showed that over 23% of respondents had to utilise their savings due to the escalating living costs. The average amount withdrawn from savings stood at £2,623. This translates to an astounding total of £32 billion being utilised to balance the increasing household expenses.
Savings levels and home ownership
Interestingly, the research also reported a rise in overall savings levels. However, this increase was primarily seen among homeowners who have paid off their mortgages. These individuals held double the average savings (£33,858) compared to the rest of the sample (£17,575). In contrast, renters, especially those in social housing, only possessed £3,642 in savings. Alarmingly, one in five people (21%) had less than £100 in savings, a statistic that has remained consistent since March.
Concerns over interest rates
The study further revealed that 76% of people were anxious about rising interest rates following consecutive hikes in the Bank of England Base Rate since December 2021. Renters expressed significant concern, with 82% worried about climbing rental payments. Similarly, 80% of homeowners with a mortgage voiced fears about rising mortgage costs. This is a significant increase from the previous year when only four in ten renters and a third of mortgage payers expressed such concerns.
Base rate rise and its effect on savings
The increase in the base rate has positively impacted savings interest rates. Despite this, one in six individuals (16%) plan to use their short-term savings to manage the bill surge. Consequently, they’ll draw less benefit from the now higher interest rates as they dip into their savings to balance the mounting bills.
Significance of ‘rainy day funds’
Almost half (46%) who have or intend to withdraw from their savings have turned to their ‘rainy day funds’. This reaffirms the value of maintaining an emergency fund. Consequently, only a small fraction of people would consider other financing methods to cover rising living costs. These include increasing credit card spending (6%), borrowing from relatives and friends (5%), utilising a bank overdraft (4%), or turning to payday lending (1%).
Long-term investments remain untouched
Additionally, most individuals are determined to maintain their long-term investments, including pension savings. Only a small number of people (7%) would contemplate tapping into their pension or similar long-term investments to handle escalating living costs.
Rising cost of living essential tips
Understanding your expenditure
Start by deciphering where your money goes. It may sound simple, but the actual amount of expenditure each month and its allocation might surprise you when laid bare. Access your bank statements and credit card bills from the past three months, either physically or online, and scrutinise them.
Highlight areas where you need to spend more money on non-essentials. This could be anything from an unnecessary high-end broadband package to a mobile phone contract with unused data. Notably, unused subscriptions like gym memberships often drain money unnecessarily.
Seeking help for energy bills
If you find it challenging to clear your energy bills, don’t hesitate to contact your energy provider to discuss possible payment plans. They should agree on a plan considering your current income and outstanding balance. If you can’t agree on a plan, contact Citizens Advice for assistance.
Exploring Council Tax reductions
You may qualify for a council tax discount depending on your living conditions and cohabitants. For instance, you can enjoy a 25% reduction if you’re the sole adult in the property or if the other occupant is a full-time student or severely demented. Discover what discounts your local council offers at www.gov.uk. Note that different rules apply for people residing in Northern Ireland who pay rates instead of Council Tax.
Unclaimed state benefits
Billions of pounds in state benefits go unclaimed every year. You could be missing out. Turn2us, a national charity, provides a free and confidential benefits calculator on its website. This tool assists you in determining which means-tested benefits you’re entitled to. They also have a grant search tool for information on grants you may qualify for.
Managing debts effectively
If you’re struggling to afford essentials, resorting to one credit card to pay off another, or if your debts are causing you sleepless nights, contact a debt advice charity. Organisations like StepChange or National Debtline can provide free help to manage your debts effectively. The national charity Turn2us has a free and confidential benefits calculator on its website (https://benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk/), which can help you work out which means-tested benefits you’re entitled to. It also has a grant search tool (https://grants-search.turn2us.org.uk/) for information on grants you can apply for.
Saving on food bills
Grocery bills often constitute a significant portion of household spending. Therefore, it’s wise to find potential savings. Plan your weekly meals and jot down a shopping list to avoid buying unnecessary items. Consider switching to a cheaper supermarket or different brands within your preferred store.
 Royal London commissioned a survey by YouGov Plc. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 4222 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th August and 10th September 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and represent all GB adults (aged 18+). 23% of the UK population said they have used some or all their savings to cover the rise in costs. Of these, the average of savings used was £2,622.81. Based on the UK adult (+18) population = 53,188,000 x 0.23 = 12,233,240. 12,233,240 x £2,622.81 = £32,085,464,204.4
 Royal London commissioned a survey by Opinium between 27th February and 6th March with a Nat Rep sample of 4,006 UK adults.
THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT CONSTITUTE TAX OR LEGAL ADVICE AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON AS SUCH. TAX TREATMENT DEPENDS ON THE INDIVIDUAL CIRCUMSTANCES OF EACH CLIENT AND MAY BE SUBJECT TO CHANGE IN THE FUTURE. FOR GUIDANCE, SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE.
THE TAX TREATMENT IS DEPENDENT ON INDIVIDUAL CIRCUMSTANCES AND MAY BE SUBJECT TO CHANGE IN FUTURE.