Monday, June 1, 2020

Cutting the cost of country living

Britons migrating to the countryside in the hopes of alleviating pressure on their wallets might be in for a rude awakening. While property prices might be more affordable, the hidden costs of being disconnected from the city – and all the choice that it offers, tend to stack up.

New analysis from heating oil experts BoilerJuice Connected has revealed that households in Britain’s rural communities are spending upwards of £3,300 a year more on everyday essentials like petrol and groceries compared to those living in towns and cities, the equivalent of £15.8 billion each year across the UK.

The findings showed that the cost of living in the British countryside, which included the prices of fuel, electricity, and groceries, has been rising at 29% more than the average national rate – hitting those living in rural areas the hardest, as they are heavily dependent on cars, drive further and are less likely to be on the power grid.

Research shows that rural households spend an ‘extra’ £535 a year on petrol, diesel and motor oil, an ‘extra’ £561 on cars and vans, and an ‘extra’ £354 on heating oil and other domestic fuel.

The Association of Convenience Stores recently found that of the 19,000 rural convenience stores in the UK, 57% are classed as an “isolated store”, meaning no other retail or service businesses are nearby. What’s more, nearly a third (31%) of shoppers have already travelled more than a mile to reach their nearest shop.

While people may want to shop locally and support the community’s economy, affordability and lack of choice can outweigh this desire and make it necessary to travel even further to access larger supermarkets as unfortunately those living in the countryside often don’t always have grocery deliveries as an option.

When it comes to energy, rural homes tend to be older, bigger and less well-insulated than urban homes, leading to higher heating costs and higher home maintenance costs. The average weekly electricity spend was £14.19 for a rural household – £121 more per year than for households in cities and the average yearly spend on home maintenance was £180 higher for rural-dwellers.

Households in the countryside are also less likely to access to the same technology as their urban counterparts. Only a third (34%) of rural homes have a smart meter installed, compared to nearly half (43%) of city homes.

Top tips for cutting the cost of country living

So what can people in rural areas do to cut the cost of living? There are a number of ways to engage with some of the key obstacles as Lee Cowles, CEO at BoilerJuice, explores:

Check if you are eligible for ECO assistance or the Renewable Heat Incentive

According to the Energy Saving Trust, nearly 20% of homes in rural areas are in the very energy inefficient F and G categories, meaning bills often run higher. But under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme, those who are on lower incomes or receive allowances such as Working Tax Credit or Carer’s Allowance may be eligible to have insulation fitted for free.

Shop around for the best grocery deals

For those living rurally, the weekly grocery shop can mean having to drive miles just to pick up the essentials, so it pays to be prepared and make a list to avoid unnecessary trips for one-off items.

Check the distance between your home and the grocery store to see if it’s more cost-effective to pay for delivery, or take advantage of petrol incentives like Tesco’s 5p off petrol or diesel when you spend £50 on groceries.

If you have a Co-op nearby, sign up as a member to access exclusive discounts and benefits – a percentage of your spend on selected products and services will also go towards supporting a local cause of your choice.

If you’re part of the 1.5m households not connected to mains gas in the UK

It can be especially difficult to keep an eye on energy consumption living in the regions, as only a third (34%) of rural homes have a smart meter installed. But it is possible to find workarounds using technology, one example is BoilerJuice Connected, which gives heating oil users a ‘mains supply style’ experience and enables users to digitally monitor their heating oil usage so you can easily manage and plan for how much you want to spend. Alternatively, standard hacks like turning switches off at the wall when you’re not using electronics do make a difference.

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