DESPITE working as a much as she can mum-of-one Leah Callaghan, 39, never uses her oven to cook and she lights candles at night to save on electricity.
She and her partner Stewart, 40, who works full time, say their “lives have been turned upside down” by the rising cost of living.
الزوج, who live in Shropshire, have a two-year-old daughter called Nolah and are struggling to make ends meet this عيد الميلاد.
It comes as soaring فواتير الطاقة and food prices have left millions needing support.
Leah says rising costs have left her feeling “degraded” وهي “lies awake at night” worrying about money.
قالت: “We only put the heating on at night for the little one so she can have her bath.
“We don’t flush the toilet every time now, as I nearly had a heart attack when the water bill came last time.
“We use candles in the evening to light the room just to save on electricity, and luckily that also generates some heat.”
Leah says their household bills have increased by £400 since the summer, and they have been forced to change virtually every aspect of their lifestyle.
الأكثر قراءة في المال
To save money in the kitchen Leah and Stewart rely solely on their air fryer to cook food and have had to stop using the oven all together.
In order to battle rising energy bills they have sold the belongings they don’t need.
Leah said: “Our bill was £65 when we first moved in two years ago.
“Now it’s £180 a month and we all know it’s going to get worse. The council tax was £120 for a while and now it’s gone up to £160.”
With Christmas approaching the pair are “worried sick” about their energy costs when the whole family is at home.
They’re hoping to have a full Christmas dinner but expect they’ll have to save cash by buying a chicken rather than a turkey.
Leah said: “I sometimes lie awake at night just going through my banking app wondering how we are going to live off what we have with bill after bill coming in.
“We’re just chasing each pay day. It feels degrading and leaves you feeling, مثل, ‘what’s the point?’
“I feel so bad because I would love Nolah to have so much more and for us to do so much more together.”
Leah works part time as a HR consultant, while Stewart works full time gas surveyor – they each earn £1,300 and £2,200 a month respectively.
Between them they earn too much to qualify for Universal Credit يساعد.
Their rent and bills cost £1,850 a month and once they’ve paid for food, petrol and nursery on top of that, they are left with no cash.
Leah said: “We are rarely left with any money so we often have to use our credit card to get by hence we sell our stuff regularly around the house.
“I’d say we would be lucky if we had £20 spare.”
Both have been working since they were 16 and have never claimed any benefits, they only receive a £87 child benefit payment.
The couple have had to drastically cut back on their food shopping and where they buy it too.
Food inflation reached 12.4% between January and November, meaning some items are seeing their highest prices for years.
Leah says she “it’s so depressing” and she is in shock now when she sees the prices in shops.
The family moved into their rent-to-buy property two years ago.
Their plan was to save enough for a deposit for a house.
“There is absolutely no way we could save that money now, so we will probably have to look for somewhere else to live,” Leah added.
Both Leah and Stewart’s mental health has been badly impacted by their money struggles.
They’re both on anti-depressants and Leah says her anxiety has got worse too.
She had hoped to have a second child but now says it’s “مستحيل” because they can’t afford it.
Recent research by Action for Children found that Leah and Stewart are one of thousands of working families facing “turmoil” this Christmas.
To launch its annual Secret Santa campaign to help vulnerable children, the charity commissioned a Savanta ComRes poll of 2,700 UK working parents and their children.
Nearly all (98%) working parents it surveyed said they have worried about money over the past six months, with more than half (53%) having worried often.
The research also shows a fifth (20%) of working parents worry they won’t be able to afford any presents this Christmas.
Melanie Armstrong, chief executive of Action for Children, قالت: “For most of us the festive season is a happy time, yet as our shocking research shows there will be children all over the UK who face a very different Christmas this year.
‘Instead of enjoying a safe and happy time, many children will wake up on Christmas morning to no presents, food or warmth.
The charity’s frontline workers provide basics like hot meals and proper winter clothes, as well as offering emergency support to keep homes warm and help families pay the bills.
The charity is asking those who can to donate this Christmas and beyond.
Melanie added: “With your help we can be a vital lifeline for even more children across the UK.”
What help is available to struggling families this winter?
Millions of households started receiving a £400 energy bill discount from October 1.
Households will have already received a £66 energy bill discount in October and November.
There will also be a payment worth £67 in December, كانون الثاني, February and March.
Households on pension credit or low incomes may qualify for the مخطط خصم المنزل الدافئ worth £150.
If you’re pregnant or have a child under the age of four, then you may qualify for Healthy Start vouchers to help pay for basic foods such as milk or fruit.
You can apply for free school meals for your child if you’re claiming certain benefits including Universal Credit.
British Gas has confirmed it’ll pay its most vulnerable customers grants worth £750 to help with sky-high bills.
For the full list of help available this winter see our guide.
زائد, هنا five ways struggling families can get free cash to help pay for food this Christmas.