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Friday, August 12, 2022

The Squeeze Team helps struggling families recession-proof their finances as inflation soars

WE’VE been told to prepare for a 15-month recession, with rising inflation and interest rates, plus soaring fuel, grocery and energy costs.

The Bank of England announced a 0.5 percentage point interest rate rise on Thursday and Britain faces inflation above 13 per cent.

Mum-of-three Nicola Kinson and husband Rob are terrified about the cost of living

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Mum-of-three Nicola Kinson and husband Rob are terrified about the cost of livingCredit: Adrian Sherratt

On the same day, Ofgem confirmed the energy price cap will now be reviewed every three months instead of six, and rises in wholesale gas and electricity prices could drive up household bills to more than £4,200.

So today The Sun on Sunday’s Squeeze Team consumer expert Martyn James steps in to help three households tackle the looming crisis.

‘We have no savings and had to give up our car – I am petrified for the future’

MUM-of-three Nicola Kinson is terrified this week’s historic interest rate hike will leave her ­family homeless.

The 38-year-old and her husband Rob, 43, a retail manager, have already had to give up their car due to soaring fuel bills and expensive repairs.

They earn £31,000 between them and live in a rented property in Hereford with kids George, 12, Lily, eight, and six-year-old Ben.

Nicola, a part-time teacher, said: “If prices continue to shoot up, we won’t be able to afford to feed the children.

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“Our rent is fixed at the moment at £800 but I’m scared for when the lease runs out as it could mean a huge increase, as other homes in the area are about £1,000 now.

“We have had so many issues trying to find housing before and almost ended up homeless.

“Our energy bills with ­British Gas have gone up £280, we pay £70 for water, £130 council tax, £100 for Sky and my youngest has singing ­lessons that cost £40. After-school clubs are £140 a month.

“We have no savings and had to give up our Ford Mondeo because we couldn’t ­afford to fix it.

“Now we have costs for public transport of £164 a month.

“Our children wear hand-me-downs. We watch every penny.

“We are on a smart meter but the kids like night lights to sleep and we all have devices that need charging, clothes that need to be washed and we watch TV. It all adds up.

“We are terrified for the second energy price hike.

“We shop at Iceland because it is the cheapest. I am petrified for the future.”

The Sun on Sunday's Squeeze Team are here to offer advice to readers

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The Sun on Sunday’s Squeeze Team are here to offer advice to readersCredit: news uk

Squeeze team advice

MARTYN explains: “You are left with so little money that you are in financial difficulty, meaning businesses – from banks to broadband firms – are obliged to help you with realistic plans to manage bills and debts. Contact them and ask for help now.

“Ask the landlord if you can extend the lease and ask the council what support is available if you have to move.

“For grants and loans towards deposits and other bills, see the charity Shelter’s advice at bit.ly/3JxEUod.

“There are many cheap solar-powered night lights for kids, and check out the huge range of apps and websites that offer free or cheap clothes.

“Others find the cheapest option for items you have to buy, like school uniforms – see brokeinlondon.com/top-5-free-budget-fashion-apps.

“Join local groups that swap hand-me- downs, toys and electrical items, along with food exchanges.”

Nicola Frapwell and Luke Fisher fear they cannot afford to start a family

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Nicola Frapwell and Luke Fisher fear they cannot afford to start a familyCredit: Oliver Dixon

‘We can’t afford a baby – this is overwhelming’

NICOLA FRAPWELL and her partner Luke Fisher bought their first home in February last year ready to start a family — but now they cannot afford to have the baby they long for.

Their three-bedhouse in Crawley, West Sussex, cost £375,000 with a 1.6 per cent interest rate on a fixed term, but that ends in December and their £1,100 monthly payment could double.

Data analyst Nicola, 31, said: “We can’t afford a baby with everything on the rise. We are working to survive rather than to live.”

Luke, 36, who works for the fire service, pays £300 a month for petrol to commute, and they pay Shell £200 for gas and electricity.

The couple’s combined income is £60,000 but Nicola said: “The mortgage rate could be three per cent when it changes, which is extortionate.

“We have £205 council tax, £30 on water, £36 to Plusnet, £70 for our phones and car insurance and food on top.

“When one thing goes up, you can try to manage it, but this is overwhelming.”

Squeeze team advice

MARTYN says: “Speak to your mortgage firm now and discuss the best options for when the deal ends.

“They may have a better rate or may extend the term of the mortgage to get you through the next few years.

“There are a range of discount schemes for key workers like firemen, such as the bluelightcard.co.uk/fire_service_discounts.php.

“But don’t pay to sign up for anything without checking with your HR team or reps.

“Conserve energy – dishwashers and washing machines eat energy, so use them on as low a setting as possible and as little as possible.

“Turn down the thermostat a notch to save you around £80 a year, get a smart meter and have shorter showers.

“With your council tax, ask to pay over 12 months, not ten, to reduce the monthly bill.”

Deborah Hodge says she already skips meals to be able to afford to feed her kids

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Deborah Hodge says she already skips meals to be able to afford to feed her kidsCredit: Oliver Dixon

‘Just no way families like mine can survive’

DEBORAH HODGE already relies on food banks and skipping meals to feed her children, Amelia, nine, and 15-year-old Sarah.

The 49-year-old’s contract as a skills trainer ended in March and she survives on Universal Credit payments of £1,518 a month.

Deborah, from Sidcup, Kent, said: “I rent a two-bedroom flat for £900 a month.

“It’s ­falling apart but I’m terrified the rent will go up to cover the landlord’s rising mortgage payments.

“I can’t find work. Amelia lives with autism so I have to work around her school times.”

Deborah has smart meters, no-frills phone and internet deals, a 9pm lights-out rule and a daily one-hour slot to charge gadgets.

She spends £60 a week at Morrisons for three weeks, then £25 for a week when she has one meal a day so her kids eat properly.

She said: “There is just no way families like mine can survive.”

Squeeze team advice

MARTYN tells Deborah: “I’d speak to Shelter for help and support.

“You are entitled to a payment of £326 from the Cost Of Living Support Fund that should have gone into the accounts your benefits are paid into.

“Contact the benefits office to chase it. The second payment is due in the autumn.

“The Government have put together a scheme that covers things like transport, housing help, vouchers and other schemes to help people struggling – see costoflivingsupport.campaign.gov.uk.

“There is also the Housing Support Fund, which ranges from £150 to £200 through your local council, which will also have grants and support for struggling households with food, clothes and service exchanges.

“Free debt charity StepChange can help to consolidate your debts and negotiate reduced payments to all your creditors – see stepchange.org.”



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