My costs have gone up, not down, during lockdown
Lockdown hasn’t had many benefits, from the mental health (or lack of) effects from isolating, to the effects on physical health (and their knock-on effects on our mental health) that the closure of gyms has had, it’s been a painful year.
However, one of the widely touted benefits of the year of lockdown restrictions has been the reduction in general expenses; lower transport costs, cheaper childcare, fewer shop-bought office lunches and no foreign holidays all adding up to enable us to save a little money.
The reality, though, for many people, is that lockdown has in fact, increased outgoings.
The savings made by traveling less are often mitigated, or even outstripped, by the increased costs of energy. Especially during the last couple of particularly cold months, heating bills are up massively as people are at home far more than they would have been had it not been for the pandemic.
So, for many, traveling less has actually seen their outgoings increase.
Fewer shop-bought office lunches
This is reality, but must also be weighed against the fact that, for many of the poorest households, there is now a need to buy extra food to feed children who would previously have been in school getting, often subsidized, school meals.
Additionally, for many people in more rural settings, the cost of food has also increased as they’re forced – by lack of public transport and distance to the nearest supermarket – to shop in more expensive local shops.
This is often fallacy, as well. In most cases, nurseries are still insisting that fees be paid by parents, regardless of the fact that their children aren’t actually going to nursery.
So, although parents of school-age children may well be saving on childminders’ fees, those of children who go to nursery are, in many cases, still being charged for a service that they’re not even receiving on threat of places being lost if payments aren’t made.
Fewer foreign holidays
Although this is undoubtedly providing a big saving for those families who are used to going abroad every year – or even every school holiday. For those families that already couldn’t afford to go abroad, this isn’t a saving at all.
Home schooling costs
With schools closed (again), the costs of laptops, internet, printing of homework assignments and other associated costs of home schooling are providing further strain on the finances of poorer families.
Indeed, a new report, ‘Pandemic Pressures’, a collaboration between the Resolution Foundation and the Covid Realities research project at the University of York, has found that during the pandemic, low-income families are twice as likely to have increased their spending than families with higher incomes.
Shopping around for the best deal is no longer possible or practical, going to families and friends for a meal if the cupboards are empty is no longer possible, the ‘Whoopsie’ reduced sections are more in demand than ever, online food delivery services generally have a minimum basket size and delivery slots can be hard to come by, also, not everyone has access to the internet or a functioning bus service. Also, the need to entertain children that are at home 24 hours a day has brought further costs that previously weren’t an issue.
Mike Brewer, chief economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “The pandemic has forced society as a whole to spend less and save more. But these broad spending patterns don’t hold true for everyone.
“The extra cost of feeding, schooling and entertaining children 24/7 means that, for many families, lockdowns have made life more expensive to live on a low income.”
However, a government spokesperson said measures had been put in place to “ensure that nobody is left behind”, including extra welfare payments, job protection safeguards, the £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme, and equipment for home-schooling.
“We are committed to supporting the lowest-paid families through the pandemic and beyond,” the spokesperson said.
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