Babyworld members are tightening their belts according to our poll. We asked babyworld members to reveal how they have been affected by the credit crunch… and to pass on their tips for managing.
According to daily news reports, it looks like the credit crunch is here to stay, at least in the short term. Evidence from the Daily Telegraph a couple of weeks ago pointed to no definite improvement in sight at least for the foreseeable future. According to the newspaper, prices are rising faster now than they have in the previous 16 years, prompting chancellor Alistair Darling to admit that taxpayers were struggling to afford both fuel and food.
But are all these gloomy forecasts hype or is the economic downturn here to stay? Evidence from babyworld members suggests that they are really feeling the financial strain, as Wendy reveals, ‘We are noticing the rising prices and we have had to cut back on things. I’ve made a budget and we have to stick to it: just simple things like eating out only once a month, only spending £40 per month on petrol, etc. My shopping now has to be kept under £80 per week, so I have to shop far more carefully.’
Rising food bills
Many people commented on the sudden increase in food bills just before the full extent of the credit crunch appeared in the media. Recent reports suggest that staples have risen astronomically from this time last year, with butter going up by 65%, pasta by 86%, rice by 77% and mince beef by 59%. Babyworld member Denise has definitely noticed the difference, ‘I used to feed my five kids on £70 a week but this week I paid nearly £100 for mostly the same foods.’ Michelle agrees, ‘I used to be able to spend around £50 a week for the three of us and even then sometimes have stuff left over. It’s now an average of about £70 a week. I have changed brands on a lot of things which has made a difference. I remember really looking forward to my son coming out of nappies and kept thinking of the saving we’d make each month on shopping but unfortunately because of rising prices, we never noticed any saving at all.’
Fearsome fuel prices
The Real Cost of Living Index (RCLI) estimates that transport – including fuel costs – has risen by 30% in the last year so it’s not surprising that many babyworld members have been hit badly by sky-high petrol and diesel increases. Mother-of-three Karlie explains: ‘Petrol is killing us. James works the other end of Newport with no direct public transport so he has to use the car. So it does about 16 miles a day. We will have to sell the car because we wont be able to afford to tax it next year. We will just have to get something smaller with a smaller engine.’
The same situation has happened to Cath, ‘We have downsized our diesel people carrier and bought a small petrol car. My husband works in construction and is our main breadwinner so I am worried for the future and his job. For the moment we are just trying to be careful but it is a worrying time.’
Unfortunately for Sue, buying a more fuel-efficient car isn’t an option. ‘I changed jobs before Christmas with the thought we would be better off but the fact that my mileage has gone up has meant we are as skint as we were! My car is probably inefficient being an old banger but we can’t afford to buy a more economical car.’
Ever-growing energy bills
The managing director of energy firm Centric Energy caused a bit of a stir a couple of weeks ago by advising the general public to turn down their thermostats and wear an extra jumper to try to avoid ‘potentially significant’ energy rises. The RCLI has already revealed that utility bills are up 11% on this time last year so is anyone in our community being held to ransom by gas and electricity rates? Jane is certainly worried by the prospect. ‘We are trying to use less electricity and gas. I haven’t used the tumble dryer for ages although that will be more difficult in the winter. We have also had a new boiler installed as the other one (inherited from previous owners) was so inefficient.’
Back to work
Recent research has shown that families are more than £450 per year worse off than this time last year, not an insignificant amount. How are babyworld members managing with this drop in household income? Many, it seems, are returning to work earlier than desired or planned to bring an extra monthly pay packet home. ‘We could no longer afford to live on the one wage and as a result I went back to work,’ says kjayne. ‘We got increasingly further into the overdraft every month so I had to go back.’ Pinkmandie is in the same boat, ‘I was hoping not to go back to work for a year to be with my children but I have had to accept a job to start in September to cover rising food and fuel costs. We live within our means and are careful but can’t afford to live on one wage any more!’
Letting go of the luxuries
The Centre for Economics and Research stated that one consequence of the economic downturn is that families might have to forego such luxuries as holidays because the rise in prices across the board cannot be matched by most pay increases. For those who are determined to get away somewhere different for one or two weeks of the year, this means having to work extra hours, as Wendy now does ‘just to be able to carry on having the odd trip out or holiday.’ Kelly’s family have had to stop having a weekly takeaway to afford a holiday but she’s still worried about the cost when other financial demands are high. ‘We’ve stopped having takeaways and I’m trying not to use the tumble dryer at all. We go away in August so need to save for that, and have had to buy a new TV and washing machine within two months.’
The proof is in the poll
We decided torun a poll to see if there was any major way in which babyworld members were trying to save money. Around 18% revealed that they no longer buy luxuries, 14% have started buying cheaper brands, 6% aren’t going on holidays (but no one’s spending less on holidays), 4% are driving their car less and 2% are buying more things second-hand. However, the biggest single group of respondent – at 36% – said they are doing all of the above. So it seems as though most of our online community is feeling the effects of the credit crunch and, for those who aren’t, they are being extra careful to avoid being caught out later should the situation worsen. Hard days may be ahead but our impression is that you’re a savvy lot who know how to stretch your pound that little bit farther to ensure your families still have a decent standard of living.
Top tips to save money
babyworld members share their top tips on how to save money. You never know – one of these (or more) might work for you!
- ‘In the last year we’ve made some fortuitous choices, on environmental rather than financial grounds, which have ended up saving us a small fortune. We changed cars for a small and very efficient diesel which, even with higher fuel costs, means our fuel bill is down about a third on last year. And we have solar panels and a wood burner which means we don’t have to worry about electricity or gas prices.’ Alison
- ‘I’ve always shopped for food online as I hate supermarkets and it’s much easier to keep watch on what you’re spending.’ Michelle
- It used to cost me about £40 to fill the petrol tank up but it’s now over £60. A tank lasts a month, but I’m trying to make it last a bit longer now the prices have gone up. Our food shopping has gone up in price a lot; I’m budgeting weekly now rather than just going shopping and throwing things in.’ Kelly
- ‘I am desperately trying to budget more and even selling some stuff on eBay in the hope to get a few extra quid.’ Shelley
- ‘I don’t find that shopping online helps. We shop with Sainsbury’s and I find that they only tend to stock the organic and more expensive items (that we buy) online whereas in store I can find the cheaper stuff. It is actually cheaper for me to shop in store than it is online. Also, I use the calculator on my phone to add up the total as I go along… sounds silly I know and it takes a while but it’s worth it.’ Ellie
- ‘We’ve started to buy in bulk as well and freeze a lot so we go shopping less.’ kjayne
- ‘ I drive more slowly than I used to and it definitely makes a difference to my fuel bill – my petrol lasts longer’ divine