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People cut back on food, fuel and clothes as prices rise

People struggling with the soaring cost of living are cutting back on food and car journeys to save money.

That’s the findings of a new survey, which also found that more than half the people asked had bought fewer groceries, and the same proportion had skipped meals.

The findings reveal the widespread impact of prices rising at their fastest rate for 40 years.

Many people have cut spending on clothes and socialising. Some say their mental health has been affected.

Two-thirds of those surveyed also suggested government support provided so far was insufficient.

Worries growing

The survey of 4,011 UK adults in early June lifts a lid on how the economic climate is affecting lives and financial, physical and mental health.

The cost of domestic energy, petrol, and food have all increased significantly in recent months, and the findings suggest more than eight in 10 people are worried about the rising cost of living.

Concern has grown since the start of the year when 69% of those asked said they were worried in a similar BBC survey.

In the latest results, two thirds of those with worries said this was having a negative effect on their mental health. Nearly half said their physical health had been affected.

Day-to-day, individuals are making further changes to manage their budgets. The survey suggests this can be as simple as going on fewer nights out, or getting a haircut less often.

For charity worker Janine Colwill, from Easington, and those she talks to, the changes have been more fundamental.

“We get together with the family every Sunday, religiously, for Sunday roast – but my family and other families are starting to grow their own vegetables,” she said.
“Those people who may not have worried about these things before are now worrying about them constantly.

“With advances in technology, I never would have thought that people would be relying on a food bank or growing their own – and just penny-pinching,” she said.

The survey suggests people are finding various ways to manage and save their money. The findings include:

Some 82% of those asked had switched off lights in the previous week to save money
Trips taken in the car had been limited to varying degrees in the previous six months by 72% of those asked
A large majority (84%) said they had spent less on their clothes at some point in the previous six months
About half (52%) expect to work more hours in the next six months to help to pay the bills.

Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket, said in a trading update for the three months to 28 May that it was seeing early signs that shoppers are changing their habits due to inflation, such as buying less food and visiting more frequently.

Chief executive Ken Murphy also said people are switching to cheaper own-label brands for goods including bread and pasta which have seen prices soardue to the war between Ukraine and Russia, both of which are major wheat exporters.

Prices, as measured by inflation, are rising at a rate of 9% a year, the fastest for 40 years. Interest rates, which also affect the cost of living, were increased to 1.25% on Thursday by the Bank of England – the highest they have been for 13 years.

The situation is being driven, to a significant degree, by global factors such as the cost of oil, gas and food.

But there are UK-specific issues which are adding to inflation such as the tight labour market. Job vacancies are at a record high of 1.3 million meaning employers face paying higher wages to fill roles.

Also, the UK’s dominant services sector – which includes the likes of accountancy and law firms, as well as restaurants and pubs – is seeing price rises.

Drivers now have to spend £103 for petrol and £106 for diesel to fill a family car, according to the RAC. The Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) has predicted food prices will rise at a rate of 15% this summer as households pay more for staples such as bread, meat, dairy and fruit and vegetables.

A typical household in England, Wales and Scotland is likely to see a rise in its annual domestic gas and electricity bill of £800 in October, on top of a £700 rise in April.

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