The latest ONS report has revealed that the cost of living crisis is hitting people living in the most deprived areas of England hardest. Many of the self-employed are finding rising costs, especially energy bills, a thorn in their side for their personal and business finances. What are they doing about it?

Amit Patel, adviser to Welling’s mortgage broker, Trinity Finance, says the cost-of-living crisis is a “time bomb waiting to explode, except for the rich.”

Patel says: “This government has been in office for over a decade and still blames others for the decisions they have made. Most at risk right now are the vulnerable people in society left to their own devices.”

The broker believes the rationale behind the Bank of England raising its base rate to stop people from spending is “flawed”.

“Most of the population spends money only on food, heat, rent, mortgage and the necessities of life. Every rate hike has ramifications further down the road. How many deaths will it take before the penny drops and this government wakes up and smells the coffee? Enough is enough,” she says.

Is it time to work in cafes and libraries to reduce costs?

Freelancers living in older properties are not only feeling crushed by rising costs, but also being locked out of their homes.

Rebecca Thompson, owner of The Sea Glass Company: she related her situation and what she is doing to alleviate the impact of rising costs, such as heating bills.

“We live in an old house and after originally paying over £250 a month for gas and electricity, we are now paying over £450 a month flat rate and that’s just to take the cold out, it’s not hot at all,” says Thompson.

“If that’s the case for us, there’s going to be a lot of vulnerable people out there who will suffer, but won’t say anything,” she says.

After the shocking revelation that they saw their smart meter at £110 last week for daring to have it at 18.5 degrees, they have now dropped it to 14 degrees.

He explained: ‘We were averaging around £60 a week in the winter months. As business owners we work from home 70% of the week and once we have gathered all the information we will look into whether it would be cheaper to be less home based and more cafe/company centre/library based, taking into consideration the cost of transport and parking versus being warm enough to work. Due to the nature of what we do, that’s not always an option.”

Spreadsheets can help you track your spending

However, they are proactive and do “anything that will keep us warm and reduce our costs.”

“We will create a spreadsheet and track the cost of our daily activities. e.g. washing clothes, making coffee on the hob, taking a shower, number of lights etc. We have purchased a heater for the rooms we base ourselves in to take the chill off when needed, have ordered thermal and hot water bottles, fingerless gloves for writing and extra blankets.

They are concerned about how they will deal with their mortgage payments when their fixed rate mortgage runs out in the next couple of months and their fixed rate gas and power runs out in April, ready for the next price hike.

“We have decided to discontinue our direct debit in April 2023 and switch to monthly meter readings instead. It’s too scary to do this in the winter unless we can significantly reduce our usage with the information we’re currently collecting. Troubling times ahead,” Thompson said.

Energy saving tips

  • If you work from home, kick yourself first thing in the morning by keeping the heat on for an hour and a half while your family gets ready for the day and heads to work or school. So use a pluggable space heater only in the rooms where you work during the day. Top 5 Best Portable Heaters 2022 (topconsumerguide.com). You may need to relocate your home office to a smaller room so that the heat is contained.
  • Keep your feet warm to distribute body heat: keep a rug under your feet, a blanket over your knees, and wear socks and slippers.
  • Invest in a fleece jacket that you can wear indoors.
  • Keep the doors to the office closed to keep the heat in all other doors closed so that when the heat comes on in the evening the heat is not lost.
  • Invest in draft excluders and thermal or cotton-lined curtains for front doors or passageways, especially in older homes with drafty areas. You can get reasonably priced curtain rods at places like Wilkinson. You can sometimes find second hand lined curtains in charity shops or specialist second hand shops such as The Curtain Exchange if you are looking for something more upmarket. You can get some hem tape to shorten some curtains if needed. All you need is an iron – keep the heat setting of the material.
  • Bring your laptop to work in the public libraries to keep your heating and electricity bills down.
  • Look for co-working spaces where you can conduct meetings while keeping tighter control over heating and electricity costs.

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