12 Apr 2022

More than six in ten households forced to make cutbacks for first time due to rising cost of living

  • 42% say cost-of-living crisis has led to them monitoring spend more than ever before, poll shows
  • Households attempt to shave costs as lights go out, heating goes off and people ‘make do and mend’
  • 77% want to be more self-sufficient but 17% currently face a bleak decision to either ‘eat or heat’
  • 29% can’t afford a full tank if fuel prices exceed £1.80 a litre – as diesel continues to hover above £1.70
  • Nationwide, part of Green Homes Action Group, urges government to deliver a long-term solution to better protect households from volatile energy prices

The extent to which British households are having to change their spending habits and manage their money, as a result of rising energy and fuel costs, has been laid bare in a poll by Nationwide Building Society.

More than six in ten (64%) households are needing to make changes to their spending for the first time in their lives, with more than four in ten (45%) saying they will have to monitor their expenditure, according to the poll of 2,000 respondents[1].

More than three quarters (77%) want to become more self-sufficient or less wasteful as the nation cuts back on spending and bills. Many are also being pragmatic about the rising costs, with 45 per cent already aware that there might be further rises in energy costs later this year and preparing for those potential increases. However, that will be of little comfort to the 17 per cent of respondents who currently face a decision to either ‘heat or eat’, according to the poll.

Nationwide, which is part of the Green Homes Action Group - a group of businesses and charities with a shared interest in making the UK’s homes more sustainable through high-quality retrofit solutions for all - is calling for greater focus on a long-term strategy to retrofit homes to make them more energy efficient. The Group believes such action, which must be supported by both government and business, will form the best defence against rising energy prices, while helping the UK meet its Net Zero ambitions by 2050.

Nationwide’s research highlights some of the everyday cutbacks and changes that people are either making or think they’ll need to make as costs continue to rise with the onset of the new energy price cap:

  • 47% are starting to switch off unused appliances in the home to reduce electricity
  • 45% are eating out less to save money
  • 41% have switched to more energy-efficient light bulbs
  • 40% are turning their heating down by a degree or two
  • 34% are only turning their heating on fora couple of hours per day
  • 30% are keeping their curtains closed during cold days
  • 29% are keeping the heating off at home, even when it’s cold
  • 24% are ‘making do and mend’ - repairing old things rather than buying new
  • 20% are having to rethink their weekly budget so they have enough money for food and to heat their home
  • 14% have started growing their own vegetables
  • 11% have made green home improvements (e.g. insulation, solar panels, new windows)
  • 8% have turned their heating off entirely as they cannot afford it

When it comes to the price of petrol and diesel, the poll found that:

  • 10% with non-electric cars say that, at the current price of fuel, they cannot afford to fill their vehicles up
  • 29% can’t afford to fill up their vehicles with fuel, assuming the cost per litre exceeds £1.80
  • 22% say they are now driving slower to help save fuel
  • 53% say despite fuel costs, they’ll have to keep their current vehicle as they can’t afford to go electric
  • However, 33% of those with fuel powered cars say they’ll likely sell their vehicle and replace it with an electric model.

At current fuel prices, it would cost around £82.50 to fill up a 50-litre fuel tank with unleaded petrol and around £88.50 for diesel. However, for the same tank in April 2021 it was closer to £63 for unleaded petrol and £64.50 for diesel[2]. With the research finding that people were needing to fill up their cars around three times per month, consumers were now spending over £240 per month on unleaded and over £260 on diesel, compared to £189 for petrol and £194 for diesel last year.

Claire Tracey, Chief Sustainability Officer at Nationwide, said: “We’ve known for some time that the cost of living has been rising, however what we are seeing today is the cumulative impact of higher prices on our lives. The fact that two thirds of households are having to make major changes to their spending for the first time ever shows the extent to which this crisis is unfolding.

“While our focus absolutely needs to be on supporting those who are worst off financially weather the storm, we must address the long-term situation when it comes to energy. Put simply, a home that is better insulated and powered by clean energy is one of the best ways to protect against rising fuel prices. As consumers brace themselves for yet higher energy prices, the need to retrofit the UK’s homes, which are some of the coldest and leakiest in Europe, has never been more pressing.

As part of the Green Homes Action Group, we want to see the government double-down on its support for the green economy by making it more cost-effective to go green. Price caps only go so far. What is needed is a comprehensive strategy enabling homes to be improved, particularly for those who have the least means to achieve it.”

Today’s findings follow research conducted by Nationwide earlier this year when they found how quickly perceptions around green improvements, particularly when prices are rising, have changed. Some 80 per cent of respondents were now more inclined to make green home improvements than they were six months ago as a means to help protect against further energy price rises.

Notes to editors

[1] Total sample size was 2,000 UK respondents. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21st – 22nd March 2022.  The survey was carried out online by Censuswide. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

[2] Weekly road fuel prices (Weekly road fuel prices - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) accessed 28 March 2022) AA Fuel Price Report (April 2021) Compare latest petrol and diesel fuel prices | The AA

  • Fieldwork was undertaken between 21st – 22nd March 2022. The survey was carried out online by Censuswide. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.
  • For the stats ‘64% of households are needing to make changes to their spending behaviours for the first time in their lives, with more than four in ten (45%) saying they will have to monitor their expenditure’, this was asked in March and the respondents were asked when to think about the April price cap was implemented.