Cost of living: rays of financial help despite gloomy stormclouds of household bills

As the mercury drops, my determined plan to keep the heating off for as long as possible is moving from optimistic theory to (literally) cold, stark reality – and many others will be in the same boat, dragging oars through chilly, choppy waters, and living in fear of the next large wave.

I once deemed the sound of my boiler firing into action an everyday essential, instead of a reminder about the escalating cost for what has become a luxury ahead of energy bills potentially averaging more than £4,000 a year.

What’s more, even if I didn’t know soaring food prices have pushed inflation to 10.1 per cent, my increasingly expensive grocery haul (the latest of which saw me offered a punnet of cherries for £4, thanks but no thanks) means I wouldn’t need to be a top economist to be aware of the jump.

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We can only live in hope as we head into the winter months, not helped by a growing dossier of statistics, for example the Financial Conduct Authority finding not only that 7.8 million people in the UK are finding it a “heavy burden” to keep up with their bills, representing an increase of around 2.5 million since 2020, but also that 4.2 million had missed bills or loan payments in at least three of the six months before its survey took place.

The organisation is encouraging people to seek help if needs be, a message echoed by many including Advice Direct Scotland, which runs the national debt advice service, highlighting how it has various tools at its disposal to help people carve out a better financial situation. “With so many Scots finding it difficult to keep on top of their bills, it is important that people realise they do not have to struggle alone,” says spokesperson Colin Mathieson.

I’m also heartened to hear the news that the Citizens Advice network in Scotland is being bankrolled by nearly £2 million of new funding from Holyrood to upgrade its Money Talk Team project that it says enables advisers to help people maximise their incomes through access to grants, social security payments and other available adjustments. I’ve heard money described as a good slave but a bad master, so any help to get people’s finances working in their favour should be welcomed.

The Financial Conduct Authority has found that 7.8 million people in the UK are finding it a 'heavy burden' to keep up with their bills (file image). Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto.



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