UK households are failing to make ends meet in 2022, and by quite a lot.
With the constant increase in utility bills – including record energy costs rising by 54% since last April – and groceries and basic items costing more every time you step into a supermarket, the gap between earnings and money needed to cover essentials including rent is widening, according to recent data from the Asda Income Tracker collated by the Centre for Business and Economic Research (Cber).
And because of the soaring living costs, up 11% year-on-year, the pockets of those living in the UK are emptier than ever: there has been an 18% drop in average household disposable income of £175.80 a month.
Research shows that now a fifth of UK households have an average shortfall of £60 a week between what they earn and what they need to cover essentials such as food and transport. It is the lowest amount of spare cash Britons have had in almost five years as, across the country, the average household disposable income has fallen for eight consecutive months to a level not seen since December 2017, leading customers to resort to creative methods.
Here we hear from five seasoned UK households, as they share how they are fighting a shortage of money and escalating bills, one saving hack at a time.
Renegotiate old contracts
“One thing that’s always worked well for me is speaking to the cancellations team, be it your broadband, car insurance, mobile phone, or anything else. Especially when you’ve been with your current company for many years, they usually have some negotiation power. I did this recently with my mobile phone and got it reduced by over 40% for both myself and my wife. My parents also did the same with their Sky TV.”
Ravi Davda – CEO at Rockstar Marketing
Get new clothes from charity shops
“As a freelancer with three children living and working in Bridgwater, Somerset, I do whatever I can to reduce our household bills. I recently switched our energy supplier from Shell to Utility Warehouse. This should save us around £30 a month. I also no longer buy new clothes from stores. When in need of a few new tops I get them from charity shops as I noticed that many national high-street charity shops get brand new unworn clothing in from high street brands such as Marks and Spencer. Instead of paying £10-£20 for a fashionable t-shirt, I can grab one for around £3, instead.”
Helen Garfield – E-commerce Marketing & Social Media Manager at The Creatives Desk
Your phone is draining money
Some people are dead set on having the latest Android or iPhone models, but you are paying through the nose when you get a new phone through a big network and this can really make a big dent in your bills when you have two adults and a couple of young adults or teenagers around the house.
You will save over the long term if you just buy a phone outright yourself, and there are usually options to buy interest-free if you shop around.
You can also save by using sim-only or pay-as-you-go mobile phone deals over more expensive contracts that include the latest phone models.
Chris McDonald – Nutritionist at Home Office Gym
Ask for a discount
“Be brave enough to ask for a discount in any setting. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. This was drummed into me as a teenager when my mum would ask the very attractive and similarly aged (to me) sales assistant for discounts on our sports shoes or clothing. If I can be mortally embarrassed as a teenager, asking for a discount as an adult is easy.
Taking this into today’s world, I ask for discount codes from the live chat on sites I buy from, or in person when in a store.”
Connor McAuley – Blogger at Foundered
Stop buying ready meals
“One simple way to reduce your spending is to start cooking more meals from scratch. This can be much cheaper than buying ready-made or processed foods, and it’s often healthier too. So, if you’re looking to save money, these are just a few simple tips that can help you lower your household expenditure.
Luke Lee – Founder and Designer at Ever Wallpaper
People are leaving Instagram and here is why
On June 9th, fashion blogger Michelle Rothenburger posted on Instagram a suggestion for a wedding guest outfit she proudly outsourced from thrift shops for 32 Euros – including a Ted Baker floral straw envelope clutch, and a pair of vintage hot-air balloon earrings and necklace for which she paid 6 Euros each.
Then, Rothenburger vanished from the Meta-owned platform.
For the rest of the month, the Switzerland-based creator who used to post three times a week on Instagram for her 20k+ followers did not upload any content. And no one would see what Michelle was wearing or finding in second-hand stores for the whole month of July, either.
The influencer was not sick, nor had she lost her password to access her Instagram account created four years ago.
Like thousands of users across the globe, Michelle Rothenburger took a break from Instagram after the content she regularly posted on the platform started to stall, making her doubt how much time she was dedicating to a social media outlet that was no longer bringing her feasible engagement.
“I used to spend between 4 and 6 hours creating each post. Now I try to spend no more than 30 minutes. My reach has dropped by around 75% in the last few months and it just feels like a monumental waste of time” – says Rothenburger, who moved from North America to Switzerland in 2018.
Unbeknown of the break taken by the fashion influencer in Switzerland, Trish Martin, a digital marketing specialist based in Australia, was conducting her own social media experiment in June. She decided to stop posting any content on Instagram for 30 days and document the journey using rival network TikTok.
“I am leaving Instagram…for all of June!” – Martin announced on the last day of May. “I am doing a massive marketing experiment. Instagram is where my people are and it’s a big part of how I generate revenue. So, to completely ditch it for a whole month? Well… it’s not comfortable. But moving outside of our comfort zone is where we grow”, the content creator explained before signing off for the next four weeks.
During June, Trish would make daily updates about her life without Instagram and share them via TikTok and her email list. A month later, to her surprise, her Instagram account gained more followers from not posting anything than it did when she was uploading content daily.
“Instagram is going to play a very different role in my world from here on out that is for sure, and that’s exciting! Change is important in marketing; you’ve got to move and adjust with it. And if you focus on seeing change as an exciting thing instead of scary, imagine the opportunities that could come.”, celebrates Trish, who is back on Instagram but with less regularity in her content.
“I am definitely not leaving Instagram or anything. It still plays an important role in my business. But my strategy around it will be very different and it is no longer going to be my main social platform. After the experiment, things will never be the same again”, says the founder of the online business community Chromatical Club.
Over in Somerset, a county in South-West England, content creator Emma Shoesmith has noticed a lack of engagement in her posts since January, for which she hires a professional photographer once a year to shoot images for posts and online courses.
“I used to run a production company. So, apart from spending £500 on photos per year, I create all the content, from designing promo posts to shooting my own videos. I enjoy it and I’ll always try and repurpose it on YouTube or in my emails and not solely rely on Instagram to get my work seen”, explains Shoesmith, who went on to take drastic measures:
“I also unfollowed everyone on Instagram as a test to see if my engagement changed. It felt like quite a radical act, only reserved for people like Beyonce”, says Emma, referring to the American singer who has just released her seventh album, Renaissance, after a six-year hiatus, and who follows zero people on the platform. Like Beyonce, 20-year-old singer Billie Eilish also doesn’t follow a single person on Instagram, despite having over 100m followers herself.
“Once I unfollowed everyone, I cut all the sketchy energy ties and my creativity started to flow. I can now keep myself focused on my own work and not get side-tracked by what my peers are doing. My plan is to come off it completely in the future. However, I need to have my marketing eggs in other baskets before I completely make the switch” – anticipates the content creator who pivoted to business coaching and mentorship in 2020, when the global pandemic swapped away clients and axed marketing budgets.
Michelle, Trish, and Emma have never met each other and share different interests.
The common thing between the three women located in different parts of the globe is Instagram, and how it is no longer a place they spend much of their time after a significant drop in the engagement witnessed across in-feed posts on the platform. And these digital creators are far from being the exception when it comes to Instagram users seeing less and less likes, comments, or followers interacting with their content.
Earlier this year, a research study released by social media scheduler company Later highlighted the dip in engagement numbers of in-feed posts, as Meta continued to push Reels as a priority on the platform: there was a 44 percent decrease in the average engagement rate for an in-feed post on Instagram from 2019 to late 2021.
“I remember when Instagram used to be fun. You would post a photo and the likes and comments would come pouring in. There was an incentive to keep your content coming regularly and frequently”, recalls Michelle Rothenburger.
For the past few months some content creators were finding solace in TikTok and its phenomenal reach; Others have decided to take their content to other social media platforms, while setting a deadline to quit Instagram.
“Instagram is dead to me. I recently announced that from September I will only be on TikTok and LinkedIn. In the past couple of weeks, I had 0.2% engagement on Instagram vs 500%+ on TikTok, plus thousands of new followers. It is a no-brainer”, confesses diversity and inclusion consultant Vanessa Sanyauke, founder of Girls Talk London, an organisation partnering with businesses to help them connect to female workforces and expand opportunities in male-dominated sectors.
Not everyone, though, is thrilled to be on the Chinese ByteDance-owned platform, though.
“I only have a work Instagram but noticed that the only decent engagement had been from reels, and it limits the way I want to engage with followers. I only really use it for stories now, as a lot of my feed has been random accounts that I don’t even follow or have anything to do with”, says Saziso Phiri, a creative producer based in the UK.
“With the area of work that I am in, I am having to rethink how I approach social media content for my business. I attended a workshop on TikTok for business, specific to my industry, but having deleted TikTok about 18 months ago I am still a bit reluctant about returning”, ponders Phiri, who is also the founder of The Anti Gallery, a curation and artist development platform launched in 2016 to engage art outside of formal art gallery environments.
It probably doesn’t help that young adults who joined Instagram when it first came around, in 2010, are now in their 30s and with lots going on in their minds – namely bills, mortgages, and the perils of adulting in the real world. So, wrestling with a platform boasting more than 2 billion monthly active users worldwide and an ever-changing algorithm that upsets most of them no longer seems to be a priority to consider.
“I am 38 now and there is a sort of boredom that has developed for me around software, it’s not quite as shiny as it used to be and my priorities have changed to making real in-person connections”, says Emma Shoesmith, who is about to start her first Telegram group for sacred life and business coaching.
At the end of July 2022, amid concerns of users being unhappy with how Instagram has been discarding static content over the past 12 months after announcing, last summer, that the platform would no longer be a photo-sharing app, Adam Mosseri, Head of @instagram, tried to clear the air through using the format he wants people to use more: Reels.
“I want to be clear: we are going to continue to support photos. It’s part of our heritage,” Mosseri said while assuring users that he, too, loves photos. “That said, I need to be honest: I do believe that more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time. We see this even if we change nothing. We see this even if you just look at the chronological feed” – the executive tried to explain, while ignoring the fact that those still using Instagram will be more likely to engage with more videos thanks to the social media platform continuously twitching its algorithm and metrics to reward those posting videos with cash incentives and further exposure within the app.
Although Mosseri acknowledged that another Instagram update, a full-screen feed currently being tested for a small percentage of users is “Not yet good. And we’re going to have to get it to a good place if we are going to ship it to the rest of the Instagram community”, it is the negligence toward the photo format, and not how content is displayed on the app, that is displeasing former Instagram fans.
The attempt to justify Instagram’s updates and their push to get people posting more video content didn’t land well with model and actress Chrissy Teigen, who has over 38 million followers on the social media app. The TV personality complained on Twitter that she is no longer able to see photos posted by her actual friends – and they are not seeing hers. Mosseri who, according to the Financial Times, will relocate later this year and build out Instagram’s presence in London by hiring more staff to work at Meta’s new offices in King’s Cross, tried to play it down by answering that “Friends post a lot more to stories and send a lot more DMs than they post to Feed. If you want to make sure you never miss a feed post from a friend, add them to your favourites and they will show up at the top.”
Teigen wasn’t having it.
“The only people I know that post a lot to stories are the ones that know their photos get no engagement any longer, so they are doing the thing they find second best. If photos got the engagement they wanted, they wouldn’t do so many (mostly uneventful) stories.”, Chrissy rebuked straightaway in a tweet message. The interchange of public messages went on for a few more tweets where the only two clear things were how disappointed Teigen was with Instagram and how difficult the platform’s decision-makers are finding it to listen to its users, even the famous ones.
On August 1st, after seven weeks of complete absence, fashion blogger Michelle Rothenburger resurfaced on Instagram with a photo wearing 90s low-rise Diesel jeans she thrifted in Switzerland for 12 Euros. The blurred backdrop of the streets behind her was no different from her other 100s of photos posted prior to her break from the social media platform. But this time, the caption included more than the prices of the second-hand items used, it had a clear invitation for readers to check her blog… away from Instagram.
“Recently I have been focusing on Pinterest and it’s a great complement to my blog. I think brands would have much greater success, nowadays, if they focused their efforts on Pinterest rather than Instagram. I have already driven more traffic in the last few months from Pinterest to my blog than I think I ever did from Instagram”, highlights Rothenburger.
Since returning to Instagram, Michelle no longer has a regular posting schedule and doesn’t know when she will be posting again on the platform.
Since complaining to the head of Instagram that her friends can’t see her photos and telling Adam Mosseri that “we don’t wanna make videos”, Chrissy Teigen is posting more … Reels.
EU member states commit to reducing gas demand by 15% this winter
In an effort to increase EU security of energy supply, member states have reached a political agreement on a voluntary reduction of natural gas demand by 15% this winter. The Council regulation also foresees the possibility to trigger a ‘Union alert’ on security of supply, in which case the gas demand reduction would become mandatory.
The aim of the gas demand reduction is to make savings ahead of winter in order to prepare for possible disruptions of gas supplies from Russia that is continuously using energy supplies as a weapon.
“The EU is united and solidary. Today’s decision has clearly shown the member states will stand tall against any Russian attempt to divide the EU by using energy supplies as a weapon. Adopting the gas reduction proposal in record time has undoubtedly strengthened our common energy security. Saving gas now will improve preparedness. The winter will be much cheaper and easier for EU’s citizens and industry.”, says Jozef Síkela, Czech minister of industry and trade.
Member states agreed to reduce their gas demand by 15% compared to their average consumption in the past five years, between 1 August 2022 and 31 March 2023, with measures of their own choice.
Whereas all EU countries will use their best efforts to meet the reductions, the Council specified some exemptions and possibilities to request a derogation from the mandatory reduction target, in order to reflect the particular situations of member states and ensure that the gas reductions are effective in increasing security of supply in the EU.
The Council agreed that member states that are not interconnected to other member states’ gas networks are exempted of mandatory gas reductions as they would not be able to free up significant volumes of pipeline gas to the benefit of other member states. Member states whose electricity grids are not synchronised with the European electricity system and are heavily reliant on gas for electricity production are also exempted, in order to avoid the risk of an electricity supply crisis.
Member states can request a derogation to adapt their demand reduction obligations if they have limited interconnections to other member states and they can show that their interconnector export capacities or their domestic LNG infrastructure are used to re-direct gas to other member states to the fullest.
Member states can also request a derogation if they have overshot their gas storage filling targets, if they are heavily dependent on gas as a feedstock for critical industries or if their gas consumption has increased by at least 8% in the past year compared to the average of the past five years.
The regulation is an exceptional and extraordinary measure, foreseen for a limited time. It will therefore apply for one year and the Commission will carry out a review to consider its extension in light of the general EU gas supply situation, by May 2023.
UK fans are watching more sports via their phone than a year ago
Whether it’s football, a 100m sprint or cricket, the UK’s summer of sport is set to score with fans, as new research from Sky Mobile reveals that two of the biggest events that UK sports fans are most excited for include the European Women’s football (36%) and the upcoming games in Birmingham (29%) over the coming months.
With several promising British talent hitting the sporting stage, the study of 2,000 sport fans found that two thirds (66%) are expecting a victory from our home teams and sporting stars – highlights the research conducted by OnePoll between 7th and 11th July 2022.
Among those predicting a first-place victory, the favourite to bring it home is the Women’s Euros team (26%) who started the latest football championship with record-breaking results, alongside a predicted gold medal for Adam Peaty in swimming and the England netball team within the upcoming aquatics and team sport events in Birmingham (13% and 12%).
As a sport-devoted nation, 37% of fans are now watching more sport via their phone than a year ago, with more than 2 in 5 of these keeping on top of the latest action by watching on their mobile on the go (43%).
Looking into the cities, London is the most virtually sport-mad, with 39% turning to their phones to watch sporting events, closely followed by sport fans from Yorkshire (31%) and the East Midlands (30%).
“2022 is going to be a golden year for British sporting stars and I’ll be supporting the Women’s football team every step of the way, to hopefully bring it home! No matter where I am or what I’m up to, I like to be part of the action so I’m with the many Brits who’ll be keeping an eye on the matches and games when out and about.’’, says former England player, Arsenal Captain and pundit Faye White.
When it comes to the more extreme lengths the UK is willing to go to cheer on their teams, 40% admit to tuning into their favourite events on their phone at work, and 22% of 18-24-year-olds will call in sick to work, college or university so they can watch their favourite sporting event, reducing to 10% of 55-65-years-olds.
The UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 semi-finals will begin with hosts England taking on Sweden on Tuesday 26 July, before Germany face France 24 hours later.
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