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your stories

'I just can't keep my head above water': Your stories of coping with the rising energy costs

We asked readers to share their stories with us. Here’s what they told us.

EARLIER THIS WEEK, we asked people to share their stories about how the rising energy costs have impacted their lives.

Prices for electricity, gas and fuel have been steadily increasing over the last couple of years, but now, due to reduced supplies, high demand and geopolitical issues around the world, they have reached new heights.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused prices to spike globally, driving oil and gas prices to their highest levels in years and causing many countries to reconsider their energy supplies.

With wholesale energy prices reaching their highest levels, energy providers are having to pay more for electricity and gas, and have begun passing that cost onto consumers.

On Thursday, Flogas became the latest energy company to announce a price hike. In May, its electricity and gas prices will increase by 27% and 29%, respectively.

Bord Gáis, Energia, Electric Ireland and SSE Airtricity have all recently announced price increases for their customers as well.

Soaring energy costs have also caused annual inflation to accelerate from 5.9% in February to 6.7% last month, well above the European Central Bank’s (ECB’s) target of 2% across the Eurozone.

The Government is planning to introduce a number of measures, which could include mandatory time-of-day pricing for electricity to help save on household bills, but it has  ruled out any further financial support.

With the Carbon Tax set to increase next month, along with rent, house prices and childcare costs all above the European average, it’s fair to say that people are feeling the pinch.

So The Journal readers got in touch to share how the rising energy costs have impacted their lives. 

While the responses we received were varied, each person who shared their experience with us has had to cut back on something in order to save money to heat their homes or keep the lights on.

‘I need a warm atmosphere more now than when I was young’

Peter, a pensioner living alone in a rural part of the country, said that he has had one 8×10 feet room in his three bedroom home completely insulated in order to economise.

“I will spend most of my time in there, thus cutting my electricity usage in half,” he told The Journal.

He also said that he intends to use a small, portable fridge instead of a fridge freezer in order to cut down on electricity costs.

“The cost of electricity is outrageous. If the electricity companies were losing money, it might be different, but that’s not the case. Every one of them are profiteering with Government assistance.”

Peter’s house has turbary rights, the right to cut and carry away turf from a specific plot of bogland, in a nearby bog, and he said that he intends to use turf again to heat his home.

“I’m a pensioner and I need a warm atmosphere more now than when I was young,” he said.

‘It’s a real worry where all of this is going’

A woman in her 60s living with her husband in the southwest of the country said that she now has to think twice before using her electric oven, and only uses it if she’s cooking multiple dishes.

She told The Journal that she and her husband use their electric shower once or twice a week maximum and have shortened the time they shower for.

“Our electricity supply is with Energia, who recently increased their prices by 15%. We pay Level Pay, but in February, our bill went up by a third in comparison to the same time in 2021, so I am having to top up the monthly payment some months. I also now switch everything off at the socket after every use,” she said.

The woman and her husband both suffer with chronic pain conditions, and she was recently made redundant due to the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning she now relies solely on her husband’s pension.

She also recently sold her car as she could no longer afford to keep it. “We are down to one vehicle and since the diesel prices have gone up so much, we really think before we go anywhere.”

We drive the 18 mile round trip to do grocery shopping each week, but if I have a hair appointment or either of us have medical appointments, we do the grocery shopping on the same day so we don’t go out more than once a week.
I once covered the whole of Munster for my job. I couldn’t afford to get another job now in a similar field to match my qualifications and experience due to the transport fuel cost increases, even if my chronic pain condition didn’t exist.

“It’s a real worry where all this is going because when fuel increases, everything increases, including groceries,” she said.

While going into summer is “a bit of a relief” in terms of heating costs, she said that she and her husband are already purchasing their coal and briquettes for next winter before the Carbon Tax increase in May.

The woman added that although the Government’s €200 electricity credit is very welcome, it’s the ongoing increase in prices which will cause her to have to really think before using any power.

“The zero PSO on electricity will help and we would definitely benefit from reduced off-peak usage prices, although I’m hoping that’s not dependent on having a smart meter because we don’t really have need for one,” she said.

‘Eating out is a no-no’

A woman in her 60s living in Leitrim said that she took early retirement and is currently living on a very modest occupational pension until she receives a State pension.

She said that her retirement budget has always been tight so she’s used to budgeting and not being able to spend freely.

“Being single, I have the flexibility to alter things to keep in budget that families would perhaps not have,” she told The Journal.

Her budget means she has reduced the amount of food and household shopping she spends, as well as cutting back on clothes and non-essentials like perfume and books.

“I keep it very simple and can eat well for not too much money. Eating out is a no-no. I even think twice about a takeout coffee! As energy costs continue to rise, my spend on food will reduce even further. This is the only way to balance the books,” she said.

She has also cut back on how often she uses her central heating. “I have oil and cost increases here are my main worry.”

I put it on for an hour at a time, whereas before it would be on a whole morning or evening. The house is quite big and there is no denying that it does get cold. I might put the coal stove on and keep that one room toasty in very cold weather. Throws and thermal underwear are being used.

To keep electricity costs down, she is only doing one washing machine load a week, taking shorter showers and making sure unnecessary lights are turned off.

“The smart metre is good for checking usage day-by-day and I am making an effort to reduce usage. For me, the €200 electricity payment is over two months usage and very helpful.”

She said she stays local and doesn’t use her car to travel outside of the county anymore, and she no longer goes on holiday. “The budget simply will not stretch to that. I’m not really bothered anymore though, it’s too much hassle,” she said.

“It looks a bit grim on paper but it isn’t really, I am managing and avoiding any debt.”

‘If we get cold, we layer up on clothes now’

A woman living with her family in Tipperary told The Journal that for them, turning the heating on to keep warm has become a last resort. 

She said: “We have had to cut back substantially on using our oil fired heating. It is literally on for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. If the day is in any way warm or mild, it’s switched off. If we get cold, we layer up on clothes now or light a fire.

“How did we come to be in this predicament that heating is a luxury and not just a necessity? Where will it all end?”

She said that while they have not been pushed into fuel poverty, they know several people who have.

“I know people who are having to choose between feeding their family and feeding the meter. It’s a disgrace. We are thankful that this is not our situation.”

The couple live in a 1930s North facing bungalow and the woman said she would like to have the house retrofitted, but that it’s impossible to afford.

We would love to avail of the deep retrofit to improve our energy efficiency, but the Government grants are nowhere near enough to put it within our reach. We were quoted nearly €50,000 that we’d have to fund ourselves – and even at that I think we’d have been doing well. I’m sorry, but who has that kinda money lying around?

Neither the woman nor her husband commute anymore. If they did, she said, it wouldn’t have paid them to work.

“My husband did a 100km round trip every day and I did nearly 250km with toll on top. I pity anyone on the road for work right now. I’m just basically tipping around and being ‘Mom taxi’, and my diesel costs are nearly double what they were last year.”

‘I just can’t keep my head above water’

A single mother of two children living in Clare told The Journal that she’s good at planning meals, keeping costs down and negotiating the best deals, but that she simply can’t cut back any more.

Both her children work part-time and take two buses to travel to and from college during the week, but don’t qualify for the adjacent travel rate.  

“My food bill has gone up by 30% in the past six months. I put €50 diesel into the car each week and I have not gone anywhere other than work in months – I even do the food shop on the way home on a Friday,” she said.

I currently have no oil to heat the house. It ran out last month and I can’t afford to fill it. My car tax is due in May and it honestly makes me sick with worry as to how I’ll pay it.

To make matters worse, she said, she has just been given a rent review, with the price set to go from €800 per month to €1,600 per month on 1 July. 

“At this stage, the choice between eating and heating will be no more because I will not be able to afford either with this rent increase,” she said.

While she has checked for alternative accommodation, there are no properties in the town where she lives and only 14 in the whole county. The cheapest is €1,150, but it’s off the beaten track, so it would make it impossible for her children to get to college.

“The cost of living in 2020 and 2021 was a struggle, but this year, I just can’t keep my head above water,” she said.

I spend my days juggling money to keep people off my back but I’m not living. This is not living. I’m honestly just getting through each day, trying my best to support my children and get them through college in the hope that they’ll have a better future.

“I just hate that in a first world country, where I’ve worked all my life, things are so hard. Life shouldn’t be like this.”

Some quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.

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