Average households could be paying out an extra £700 per year on energy. Image: Pexels
Financial guru Martin Lewis has had to create a lengthy “survival kit” to help people stay warm and cut costs as the cost of living crisis hammers household budgets.
The soaring cost of daily essentials, driven in large part by last week’s energy price cap hike, means the money saving expert had already pivoted from giving out smart mortgage and investment tips to outlining the differences in price between hot water bottles and heated insoles as part of his “heat the human” advice.
Now Lewis and his team at Money Saving Expert have expanded their support by releasing a comprehensive guide to cutting costs and avoiding unnecessary expenses during the cost of living crisis.
It includes information on how to sell rubbish instead of binning it, the most energy bill-friendly ways to cook food – microwaves are generally cheaper to run than ovens, Lewis says – and how to take advantage of introductory meal subscription box deals to get free food.
“This is a guide I really wish we needn’t be publishing,” Lewis said as he published a breakdown of the cheapest ways to stay warm at home, citing an “overflowing email bag of desperation from people who can’t afford their energy bills”.
“We’re trying to help provide some options and information for those that may need to drastically cut down on energy usage due to financial desperation and some help fro others who may want to do it out of a commitment to green issues.”.
On April 1, Ofgem increased the energy price cap by 54 per cent meaning households paying their heating bills by direct debit will see an average rise of nearly £700 per year. The change impacts around 22 million households.
The price cap does not put an absolute limit on how high a bill can be, but limits the amount a company can charge for each unit of energy used. The increase was driven by soaring global wholesale gas prices, which started rising due to demand outstripping supply in the wake of the pandemic, and has been exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On top of that, this week the government has increased national insurance payments by 1.25 percentage points – which ministers said would go towards tackling the NHS backlog and improving social care – meaning workers will take home even less of their earnings.
Lewis and his team sifted through thousands of tips and tricks from social media followers to create the 90-point “survival kit” for those who can’t afford to wait for policy changes to help them get through the cost of living crisis.
The advice ranges from how to stay warm at home without turning up the thermostat – with the team concluding that USB-charged items such as heated gloves and electric gilets were cheapest – to saving money by getting possessions fixed at a local repair cafe instead of buying a new one.
Lewis also points out that 16 million Brits are out of contract on their broadband and mobile, and could quickly halve those bills by shopping around.
The Household Support Fund, a temporary cash pot for councils to give one-off financial support to struggling households, features in the survival guide as Lewis encourages people to speak to their local authorities.
Meanwhile around half a million minimum-wage workers are thought to be underpaid, the money saving expert said, explaining how employees can check if they are due money back.
Doing one fewer load of washing per week, keeping a washing machine to a maximum 30-degree cycle and only using it when it’s full can cut energy bills by around £28 per year, the guide explains, while it’s even possible to “make money from crisp bags, empty jam jars and wine corks” for those willing to sell their rubbish.
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The energy crisis is “catastrophic for those with the lowest incomes”, Lewis said, predicting a “material drop in the standard of living for most”.
“For some there is sadly no route to cut expenditure below income,” he added. “That will need political intervention. For others, we need a collective endeavour, to work together to take financial pressure off where we can.”
Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Winter. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Winter.