Homeowners hit hard by household bill hikes
Consumer finances are being squeezed by household bills that are rising much faster than inflation, according to new research from the Santander 123 account.
The findings reveal that, in the past 10 years, the cost of household bills has risen by 71 per cent, almost twice as fast as the 38 per cent increase in inflation as measured by the Retail Prices Index (RPI) over the same period.
And as consumers face average water bill increases of 5.7 per cent this month, one in 10 people (10 per cent) says they would not be able to manage financially if their household bills were to rise further over the next 12 months. A further third (36 per cent) say they would only be able to manage by making sacrifices elsewhere.
Santander's analysis reveals that the price of gas has almost trebled (up 181 per cent) in the past 10 years. Electricity has doubled (up 109 per cent), while water bills have risen by 64 per cent, and council tax is up by 57 per cent.
By comparison, salaries have risen from £16,964 in 2001 to £21,093 in 2011, according to latest figures from the ONS - an increase of just 24 per cent, while RPI has risen by 38 per cent and household bills have gone up by 71 per cent.
Impact of household bills inflation
Almost eight in 10 Brits (78 per cent) say their life has been impacted in some way in the past year because of rising household bills, including 29 per cent who say the increases have reduced their overall standard of living and 45 per cent who have become more thrifty because of them.
The findings show that 85 per cent of Britons have made changes at home in the past year alone to reduce the financial impact of their household bills.
Two-thirds of people (65 per cent) are using their heating less or have started turning it down, and one third (30 per cent) has starting using less water.
One in five people (21 per cent) have reduced or stopped using appliances such as tumble dryers that use a lot of power, and one in 10 (10 per cent) have watched less TV in an effort to reduce their bills. One in five (19 per cent) have made their home more energy-efficient and nine per cent say they have installed a home energy monitor.
Increasing household bills have also forced Brits to take their finances more seriously. Some 17 per cent say they now dedicate more time to reviewing their bills and eight per cent have put more money in emergency savings so when bills come in they can afford to pay them. Around one in seven (14 per cent) people has changed energy supplier and one in 20 (5 per cent) changed bank account in order to get cashback or rewards.
Carlos Palacios, banking director at Santander, said: "Times are tough for a lot of people at the moment and increasing household bills are one of the biggest causes of squeezed consumer finances. People have already been forced to make a number of adjustments to their lifestyle to cope with the hikes, and many will struggle to cope with further increases such as the water bill hikes recently announced.
"There are a number of things people can do to reduce their household bills, from installing home energy monitors to analysing their energy usage or changing their utility suppliers. Our new 123 Current Account can also help make a real difference to people by providing interest on balances and cashback on their everyday bills. It's the only account of its kind available and a completely new way to manage your money and household finances."
Santander has launched a simple to use online calculator which customers can personalise to their own household bills and spending to see how much they could save in a year and how much interest they could earn. For more information, visit santander.co.uk.