Single mum saving £1,250 a year with spending changes after cost-of-living left her frightened to turn on her TV
DESPITE only turning her oven on once every six weeks to save on bills, single mum Care Johnson was unable to escape the hell of being trapped in the cost-of-living crisis.
But thanks to the help of The Sun on Sunday’s Squeeze Team, she is looking forward to Christmas with hope — and extra money in her pocket.
Consumer expert Jane Hawkes and accountant Pete Edwards met Care to analyse her bills and monthly spending.
Within an hour they found changes that will help save her just under £1,250 a year.
Seamstress Care, 28, from Oswestry, Shrops, said: “Being able to save a fiver is a relief. This is life-changing. I’ll be able to use the oven a bit more, turn on the TV and look forward to Christmas.”
Care, a single mum to son Rhun, seven, and four-year-old daughter Esland, has been taking extraordinary steps to save.
Since January she has only turned her oven on six times. When she does, she batch cooks dozens of meals to freeze then reheat in the microwave. Despite the fact Rhun suffers from autism and ADHD, which makes him afraid of the dark, Care keeps the lights off and uses solar fairy lights.
She said: “I have sobbed myself to sleep. I always make sure the kids eat well, but many nights I have to make do with cold baked beans.”
Care’s biggest outgoings are £540-a-month on rent and £345-a-month for childcare, schooling and specialist support for her son.
They swallow up more than half of her monthly £1,400 earnings making costumes for theatres and film-makers.
She also receives £30 a week in child benefit. That leaves £125 a week to pay for her energy bills, food, council tax, mobile phone and broadband plus running her car.
Jane, who runs the website ladyjaney.co.uk, says: “By creating a list we were able to identify more areas to save.”
The first was on her mobile and broadband package, which was £91 a month with EE.
Jane moved her to a sim-only deal with Vodafone, with 200GB of data and unlimited calls and texts for £23 a month, saving £68 a month.
The Squeeze Team were also able to help Care save £264 a year on car use. She spends £90 a month on petrol and, because she is a new driver, pays £70 a month in insurance.
But Jane said: “After signing up to apps Liftshare and Nextdoor and connecting with people in her area keen on car-sharing, Care is on track to reduce journeys she’ll drive by a quarter and save about £20 a month on petrol.
“And by adding an older, named driver to her insurance policy it reduced the price by £25 a year.”
Jane also gave details of Government schemes which provide free holiday clubs for kids.
Care is frugal with food and only buys yellow-sticker items, so she picks up a £50 basket of goods for just £5. But Jane helped her to save a further £60 a year. Jane says: “The app trolley.co.uk pinpoints the best deals on staple items like dried pasta, rice and tinned food.” Jane also linked Care with the Healthy Start scheme that can provide families with free milk and fruit.
By signing her up to magicfreebiesuk.co.uk, they found free items including toys, teddies, mags and sticker books worth around £50.
Care is paying £71 a month for her gas and electricity via a tariff fixed to December next year, but Jane discovered her smart meter was not running effectively. It is now getting replaced.
Most of Care’s energy use goes on machinery for work but Pete Edwards, of Warr & Co Chartered Accountants, found she is eligible to reclaim £62.40 of this. Pete said: “HMRC has a £6 per week tax relief allowance that you can claim if your employer does not reimburse you this.”
Care is now on track to save £26 a month or £312 a year on her bills — bringing her total savings to £1,249 a year. She said: “I’m determined to have a career, inspire my kids and come through this crisis stronger.
“Thanks to The Sun on Sunday I’m now on my way.”