Cost of Living advice
Each and every one of us is affected by the cost of living crisis we are currently living through. We thought it would be helpful to pull together some advice and information from trusted sources online and locally to provide you with a guide to help you through this difficult time.
From checking you’re getting the best from your energy tariff, to energy saving tips, through to support and emergency help available locally and more - the information on this page may be of help to you as we all feel the pinch with our bills this winter.
You can also view Southend City Council's practical guide to all of the support available here: SCC cost of living booklet.pdf [pdf] 4MB or their online help page here: Cost of living support – Southend-on-Sea City Council
We hope you find it useful…
Help is at hand
Here in Southend we are fortunate to have several local services offering additional support if you are struggling to afford essentials during the cost of living crisis.
Details of services available have been compiled by one of our partner organisations and can be found below. Please share this information with anyone who you feel may benefit from it.
(Information correct as of September 2022)
All Rise Collective
Free toiletry care bank (no referral needed)
St Marks Centre, Princes Street
Westcliff Free Church
635 London Road
10.30 – 11.30am (Every other Tuesday)
09.00am – 10.00am
(Third Thursday of the Month)
Social Prescribers and SAVS
E-vouchers for Trussell Food Banks
Southend Communities Outreach Group
Food Bank (No referral needed)
Contact Shirley O'Reilly for more details
Email address: email@example.com
Phone: 07876 116552
Balmoral Community Centre
Westcliff on sea
Monday & Wednesday 10.00am – 12.00pm
Friday 9.00 - 11.00am
Food and support for rough sleepers.
Family foodbank and mini market for food and clothes
Monday 6.30pm – 8.00pm (Rough sleepers and vulnerable adults)
Thursday 11.30am – 12.30pm
(Adults only foodbank)
13.00pm – 14.00pm (Adults attending with children) Family foodbank and mini market
20.00pm – 22.00pm (Support for rough sleepers and vulnerable adults)
Free food/preventing waste
App (find in your App store or Play Store – free to download)
Collect food that people no longer require or have collected from shops. Become a ‘Food waste hero’ collect food from local shops to offer out on the app and can keep a percentage of it for yourself.
St Vincent’s Hub/Centre
Support with emergency food and cheap food club (pick and mix)
Any day for emergency food.
Friday 10.30am – 13.00pm – Pick N Mix club. 15 items for £3.50. £4.50 membership joining fee.
Southend ACTION Food Club
Food club at the Southend Children Centres. £3.50 for approx. £10-12 of food. £1 to join.
Email to join.
Centre Place Family Centre, Prospect Close, Southend
Friars Family Centre
Constable Way, Shoebury
Summercourt Family Centre
Fri 13.30pm – 15.20pm
Mon 09.30am – 11.20am
Sat 10.30pm – 12.30pm
Too Good to Go
Purchase bags of food from local shops. Items will be approaching their best before date. Prices range from approx. £3.00 - £5.00 for a bag of food worth around £10.00.
App (find in your App store or Play Store – free to download )
Website – www.toogoodtogo.co.uk
Online – Daily
Eco Essex Rehome, Reuse, Repurpose
Search for ‘Eco Essex Rehome Reuse Repurpose’ on Facebook and click to ‘Join Group’
Offer unwanted items and collect items free. Part of this group’s policy is you have to offer items as well.
Collect furniture, toys, clothes, baby item, bags, packaging, food etc..
Earn cashback on online orders.
App( find in your App store or Play Store – free to download)
One of many cashback sites, which help you earn cashback if you purchase items through their app. The app will take you to the site you require.
Sign up for clubcard points for supermarkets and high street chemists
Check if the shops you use regularly offer a free clubcard. Save up points for vouchers to use.
Websites for advice
Citizen Advice Bureau: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/local/southend/
Money Saving Expert: www.moneysavingexpert.com
Christians Against Poverty: https://capuk.org/
Step Change: www.stepchange.org
Essential Living Fund: Southend: www.southend.gov.uk/extra-financial-help/essential-living-fund
Are you getting the best from your heating system?
Check your meter
If you have a gas boiler - you should have a ‘single rate meter’ where using energy costs you the same regardless of the time of day. This is the most cost-effective way to run a gas-fired boiler so if you’re not on a single rate meter, ask to change it.
For the small number of our properties that have electrical storage heaters you should be on a dual rate meter, as you will benefit from much-reduced electricity rates during the night.
Check your tariff
In normal times, comparing energy suppliers and switching to a new supplier is often advisable, however current advice while the market is in crisis is that there are no meaningful savings to be made for the majority of people cheaper than the price cap, so you are best to sit tight with your current provider at the present time.
However, your existing energy supplier is required to provide you with details of different tariffs that they offer if asked, some of which may be cheaper than what you are currently paying. A quick phone call to your supplier will let you know if you’re on the best possible deal and if not, you can ask them to talk you through the alternatives and opt to change to a better tariff with them if you want to.
Check your thermostat settings
The thermostat for your central heating system is used to control the heating in your home. Depending on your needs, you can set your thermostat to a preferred temperature and if your home’s temperature drops below your chosen ideal temperature, your thermostat will switch the heating on to warm it up. When your temperature has reached the desired point, the thermostat will then turn the heating off to prevent overheating and wasted energy.
An excessive heating bill can be reduced with the ‘step-down’ challenge. By turning your thermostat down by just 1°C, you can save up to 10% on your heating bill. The typical heating range is between 18- 21°C… so why don’t you see how low you can go?
It is also important to avoid the classic mistake many people make with their thermostat. Contrary to popular belief, turning up your thermostat does NOT heat up your room quicker. This method will only send your energy bills skyrocketing.
Top 5 Energy Drainers
1. Wet Appliances
Washing machines, tumble dryers, and dishwashers make up around 14%* of an average household energy bill. This does not mean to say that we should avoid using them completely, using a dishwasher will actually help you to save on your bills compared to washing up by hand. However, avoiding using the tumble dryer could save you around £70 a year.
Make sure you also use an ‘Eco Mode’ if your appliances have one, this will use less energy. When using the washing machine, set it to a low temperature. Your clothes will still be clean, but it will use less energy than a hot wash. It is also a good rule of thumb to avoid doing half loads on any of these appliances, save up enough clothes or dishes for a full load so that you don’t have to run them too often. Reducing the temperature and doing one less load a week on the washing machine and dishwasher could save you a total of £51 per year.
2. Cold Appliances
Fridges and freezers account for around 13% of the average energy bill, as they are constantly on and consuming energy. These appliances have an average lifespan of 17 years, so it is a great idea, if you are buying a new one, to invest in some of the more energy efficient models.
Defrosting your freezer regularly can also help to reduce the amount of energy that it consumes, as it means the freezer’s motor does not need to work as hard!
3. Consumer Electronics
This refers to laptops, computers, gaming consoles, and TVs, which can account for an average of 6% of our energy bills.
The easiest change is to make sure that you are not leaving your devices plugged in and on standby as they can eat up energy even when not in use. This simple action could save you an average of £65 per year on your bills. It is also worth noting that TVs with larger screens will understandably use up more energy, so bigger isn’t always better!
Lighting can use up around 5% of the average energy bill, the easiest way to decrease this is to replace your bulbs with LEDs if you haven’t already. This could save you an average of £65 per year.
Another easy save that we all know by now, is to simply make sure you are turning off your lights if you are not using them or if you are in another room. This can save you an average of £25 per year.
Around 4% of the average household energy bill is spent on powering up kitchen appliances such as the oven, hob, kettle, or microwave. One important thing to note is that microwaves are more energy efficient than ovens as they don’t need to heat up the air space, so if you have the option to cook something in the microwave, you could save yourself some money.
Remember that if you’re cooking in the oven or on the hob, you are usually using the same amount of energy to cook one meal than you would use to cook multiple portions. It’s therefore worth batch cooking several meals at once and then storing the extra portions in the fridge or freezer to be re-heated in the microwave another day. Some dinners, especially curries, taste even better when they’re re-heated!
If you like your cups of tea or coffee, another quick save is to make sure you’re not overfilling the kettle each time you boil it. Only fill it up enough for the amount of water you’re going to use, and this could save you an average of £13 per year.
*Figures taken from The Energy Saving Trust, based on the October 2022 energy price guarantee
Considering turning your heating off?
Advice is very mixed when it comes to the pros and cons of turning off heating altogether, or in certain rooms that have little or no use – but the health of yourself and anyone else living in your home should be a major factor if you’re considering your options at the moment.
Some people maintain that it costs more to re-heat a home from scratch if it’s been left to get cold with the heating off, than it is to keep it at a regular ambient temperature throughout the home – whereas other sources claim it is fine to turn off heating altogether for a period of time. Some also argue that if you leave heating off in a particular room and close the door, the cold air may seep into surrounding rooms where the radiators then need to work even harder to maintain the ambient temperature, in contrast others promote this as a useful way of reducing heating costs.
Unfortunately, there are no definitive answers to these queries and we acknowledge that during this cost of living crisis, some people are having to make difficult decisions about what costs to prioritise and we have to face the uncomfortable truth that some of you may be considering turning off heating this winter, to some extent, due to financial concerns.
If you are facing this difficult choice yourself, we would urge you to consider the importance of keeping your home warm to avoid health problems, especially for certain groups of people.
The effects of cold homes on our health
The cold thickens blood and increases blood pressure - and breathing in cold air can increase the risk of chest infections. So it’s all the more important to ensure your home and the homes of people you look out for are the right temperature.
Ideally you should heat your home to a temperature of at least 18 °C. This is particularly important if you have reduced mobility, are 65 or over, or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease. Having room temperatures slightly over 18 °C could be good for your health.
If you are under the age of 65, active and wearing appropriate clothing, you may wish to keep your home at a comfortable temperature even if it is slightly lower than 18°C.
Overnight, people who are 65 and over or who have pre-existing health conditions may find bedroom temperatures of at least 18 °C are good for their health; this may be less important if you are a healthy adult under 65 and have appropriate clothing and bedding.
It is important to keep your bedroom window closed at night when the weather is cold.
Keeping the heat in
There are some simple steps you can take to keep heat inside your home:
- Keep external doors and windows closed as much as possible, but open trickle vents if you have them to aid ventilation
- Fit draught proofing to seal any gaps around windows and doors. A simple draught excluder can prevent draughts coming in through gaps at the bottom of internal doors, even an old jumper or blanket will do the trick!
- Draw your curtains at dusk to help keep the heat generated inside your rooms.
- Make sure that your radiators are not obstructed by curtains or furniture.
Condensation, damp and mould
During the colder months, one of the most common issues that is raised to our repairs team is condensation, damp and mould in a property. This affects almost every household across the country and is a natural consequence of moisture in the air finding its way to the coldest areas and condensing when it hits a surface, normally windows or walls.
You can minimise condensation by following these simple tips:
- Open trickle vents in your windows if you have them to aid air flow through the property.
- When having a shower or bath, close the bathroom door and open a window to allow moisture to escape.
- Use an extractor fan while cooking on the hob, or open a fanlight window in the kitchen.
- When drying clothes at home, only do so in rooms that are well ventilated and consider investing in a dehumidifier
However, you will be hard pushed to stop condensation completely so your best bet is to keep on top of it by wiping it off surfaces as soon as you notice it, to help prevent the build up of condensation developing mould or sparking a more intrusive damp problem.
Further Energy Saving Advice…
The Sureserve Foundation are able to offer advice and guidance to help individuals tackle the challenges of energy efficiency and fuel poverty: www.thesureservefoundation.org/advice-and-guidance
To find out more about energy efficiency visit www.gov.uk/energy-grants-calculator or phone the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234.
You can also find out more about support from Government, including support with energy bills and household costs this winter, on the government webpage www.helpforhouseholds.campaign.gov.uk
The Money Saving Expert website provides lots of advice to help manage the increasing energy prices, and other rising costs such as food and fuel. One of their big tips is to do a money makeover to save yourself potentially thousands of pounds per year.
Double check your direct debits
Take a look at what is coming out of your bank account and write down every direct debit. You may notice that you have some set up that you have completely forgotten about or stopped using. Are you still using Disney+ now that you’ve finished your favourite show on there? Has your child accidentally signed up for a monthly payment to a game on your phone? You could save yourself money you didn’t know you were spending.
It is not always necessary to buy name brand products as many supermarket own-brand products are just as good, or even sometimes exactly the same!
Of course, for some products you may taste the difference but items such as paracetamol can be packaged and branded differently for period pains, and marked up in price, but the actual product is the same as you would find in the cheaper alternative.
It’s also a great idea to get signed up to all the supermarket loyalty schemes as it costs you nothing but can get you some good deals on products that you would be buying anyway.
Haggle your suppliers
Always check for cheaper! If your car insurance or broadband is up for renewal, don’t just settle with the price that your current provider asks for.
Do some research and find cheaper prices from other companies and take this to your current provider. They will likely agree to lower their price to keep you as a customer, and if not then you know that you can change providers and save the money you would have spent!
To find out how to effectively save the money that you are putting away from this Money Makeover, visit the Money Saving Expert website – www.moneysavingexpert.com - for lots of tips and advice about how to pick the best savings account for you. Or visit the Financial Advice Service for tailored financial advice Home - The Financial Advice Service (tfas.com)
SureServe Foundation Advice
We think this page by the SureServe Foundation is extremely helpful as it offers advice on a wide range of topics including...
- Heating your home
- Making your home energy efficient
- Saving water in your home
- Support available for bills
Click the link to read through the wealth of advice on offer: Advice & Guidance | The Sureserve Foundation