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Across the UK, people are scrambling to pull money together for their monthly bills to match staggering price hikes.
As energy providers fight to keep up with soaring wholesale prices and winter temperatures take hold, the cost of living is rising at a worrying rate for households. According to trade body Energy UK, households could experience an increase of 45% to 50% in their energy bills this spring.
By April, the proportion of British households struggling to pay their energy bills is expected to triple, according to the Resolution Foundation.
This crisis is impacting people of all ages and backgrounds across the UK and while some are being forced to put other parts of their life on hold to avoid debt, others are on the verge of eviction, being forced to choose between paying for rent, bills, and food.
Tyla spoke to three women who have been affected by the unexpected spikes in monthly bills.
Ellie Pilcher, 26, London
Ellie has been living in London since she was 21 years old. Up until November 2021, she had been paying £25 for gas and £25 for electricity per month with a pre-pay card from her provider.
After she was asked by her landlord to switch to direct debit, Ellie moved to EDF with an initial bill of £23 for electricity and £30 for gas.
She told Tyla: "At first, that seemed fine and manageable so long as I remembered to keep about £50-60 back per month for the bills. And then in January, I got a bill for £34.56 electric and £50.63 gas.
"I'm lucky that I'm able to pay my bills despite the rise, however, it does impact my monthly budget, and erring on the side of caution and putting £100 aside for electricity and gas every month - alongside other bills I have to pay like council tax, internet, and water - means that this month my disposable income is less than £100 and I have no ability to save on that.
"Other costs are rising too, my internet bill has gone up by £9 and my fortnightly shop which was usually £50 is now coming to £70-80 and that's with that non-branded items. All these things add up and my budget is really tight when it comes to living my life as opposed to just living in my flat right now. "
"We don't use two downstairs rooms at the moment because we can't afford to heat them."
Emily Bye, 37, Wiltshire.
Emily lives rurally with her husband, child and dog, and has been relying on a wood burner to keep her family warm through the winter months.
Her family found themselves in a tight spot when they learned that the former tenants of their house had spent extortionate amounts on heating. Because gas providers take the last 12 months of bills into account, Emily and her husband were unable to go on a fixed direct debit tariff.
While they rely on a wood burner for heat, Emily's family are now in the process of installing Air Source Heat Pumps (AHSP), that would allow them to keep warm using renewable energy.
"But with the rising costs, it may end up costing more, which is pretty gutting considering the costs of getting the pump installed, which is around £19,000 all in."
Emily is currently spending £150 per month on electricity alone and £85 per month on logs for the wood burner, which is running all day to keep the lounge and her son's room heated.
"We don't use two downstairs rooms at the moment because we can't afford to heat them"
To keep warm elsewhere in the house, Emily says she uses "two small oil-filled radiators, one in my office and one in our bedroom, on a timer to take the chill off at night. And warm jumpers and blankets! Oh, and when I have a bath, I wear a woolly hat!"
"I am now dreading the next bill due in a few days as it's been cold and I have had my heating on."
Lisa Wright, 40, Nottinghamshire.
In late 2021, single homeowner Lisa was informed by her energy provider that her fixed tariff would expire in from November onward, and warned that if she decided to renew, she could potentially face increases due to a rise in wholesale energy prices.
After shopping around and realising she wasn't going to get a better deal, Lisa decided to stick it out with her provider, but was shocked in November when her direct debit increased from £50 per month to £68 per month.
When December rolled around, prices jumped again to £32.06 for electricity and £72.73 for gas.
"I know this isn't as much as other people have suffered but for me being single and out of the house sometimes 12 hours a day and with only one income It has had a big effect on my budget along with all the other increasing bills", Lisa said.
"I am now dreading the next bill due in a few days as it's been cold and I have had my heating on. I was brought up to be careful with energy usage all my life and both my parents are pretty frugal when it comes to wasting money so I only have my gas central heating on about four hours a day on a timer."
Already working 40 hours a week as a city bus driver, Lisa confessed that these inflated prices are seriously impacting her budget.
"To me, it has become a work to live lifestyle, with feeling guilty every time I put the heating on, watch TV or use other electrical items like the iron which uses a lot of energy.
"Life is definitely not fun anymore for the average working person. I feel there is no reward for working hard these days and I keep being told that in April the bills increase again and it's frightening how some people will survive."
If you are struggling to keep up with your energy bills, go to Money Helper for free guidance.
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