Adults over 70 and those from lower income households have learnt to be SMARTER with money during the lockdown.
Research has found 40 per cent of over 70s and 64 per cent of those with a lower income have felt an increased financial pressure during the pandemic.
These monetary anxieties have in part stemmed from increased utility bills from staying at home more, which is affecting 31 per cent of adults in lower income households and 13 per cent of older people.
As a result, 64 per cent of those with lower incomes and 40 per cent of over 70s have been wiser with their outgoings by monitoring or cutting back on spending and energy use.
The study of 1,000 adults from each of these demographics, commissioned by Smart Energy GB, revealed the ways they are helping their money to go further, including switching off lights in unoccupied rooms, turning off all unused electrical sockets and using a smart meter to monitor their energy usage.
James Harrison, who lives in Lichfield with his wife and two children, said: “I’ve been furloughed, and my earnings are the sole income for my family.
“I don’t know what the future holds with work and income, so some belt-tightening has been put in place to help keep our finances in check.
“We now plan our weekly food shop and to keep us busy, we’re making forts at home, playing games and walking rather than driving.
“I’ve also been monitoring the display from my smart meter regularly to ensure we’re keeping an eye on our energy bills and cutting down on our consumption where possible.
“The plus side of lockdown is that I am spending more time with my wife and children, which has been wonderful and really brought us together as a family.”
The study found that with 29 per cent of those in lower income homes and 11 per cent of over 70s saying they’re at a financial disadvantage at this time, many are finding ways to save money.
Planning meals in advance or batch cooking, and only buying essential items are among the ways people have adapted to cut costs, as well as not charging devices unnecessarily and taking shorter showers.
But despite the current challenges, 55 per cent from lower income homes have come to the realisation they’re more resourceful than they realised, along with 45 per cent of older people.
The study, conducted via OnePoll, found more than two-fifths of over 70s will look to stick with their new habits when normality resumes, as well as 54 per cent of adults in lower income households.
This includes eating at home more regularly rather than going out for meals, walking or cycling instead of driving where possible and planning meals for the week ahead.
Others plan to shop more wisely in future to continue to cut costs.
Robert Cheesewright, director of corporate affairs at Smart Energy GB, said: “This research shows people are doing their best to manage changing financial situations during these unprecedented times, by carefully monitoring their household expenditure.
“As we spend more time at home, we are inevitably using more energy and an increase in bills could be a concern for those on lower or fixed incomes.
“It’s important that you use the energy you need to keep warm, safe and healthy at home.
“However, making small changes can help households to reduce their energy consumption where possible and better manage their outgoings during a time of financial uncertainty.
“There is also advice and support available for those concerned about energy bills – from how to top up prepay meters whilst social distancing and how to register as a vulnerable customer with your supplier. “
Tips on managing your energy consumption and bills:
• If you have a prepay meter and are worried about topping it up, speak to your supplier about options – such as nominating someone to top it up for you
• If you are of pensionable age, ensure your supplier knows so that they can include you on their priority services register
• Make sure you are claiming all the benefits you are entitled to. Visit the government’s coronavirus page in England, Scotland and Wales, or contact Citizens Advice
• Whatever your situation, you won’t be disconnected during the crisis
• Turning off appliances at the plug rather than keeping them on standby. To help you get into the habit, put a sticky note with a reminder near the off switch
• If you can, try taking a shower instead of a bath, this will save you money on both your energy and water bills (if you’re on a water meter)
• Try and have energy free time – if you have children, make outdoor or indoor dens, or do a jigsaw puzzle together, or try some crafts using existing cardboard & packaging from around the house
• Use the microwave to cook where possible as it can be much cheaper than an oven – you’d be surprised at what you can cook in there, from flapjacks to scrambled eggs!
For further advice on how to reduce energy go to www.smartenergygb.org/en.