Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Monday, 19 January 2009

Squeeze panel: Mary Ann Day

Mary Ann Day
Age: 61
Job: Pensioner
Income: State pension
Mary Ann Day is 61 and a pensioner from Leeds in West Yorkshire.

She is divorced and has lived on her own for 25 years.

Mary retired and sold her old house so that she could live near to her son in Southport.

Her biggest worry is high energy bills.

DECEMBER

It has been the most expensive and traumatic year for me as I retired in January, moved out of my house in October and into my flat a few days ago.

I could not have picked a worse year to undertake all these projects, but I made it in the end.

I have seen spiralling energy prices which made my move more urgent and prompted me to drop my house price considerably. Food prices increased by the week and although I stated I would not compromise with quality, I did reduce quantities of meat and fresh fruit and veg.

As I have to travel by car more the increase in fuel costs has made a big impact on my outgoings, but fortunately over the last six weeks when I have been commuting between Leeds and Southport every six days or so, petrol has reduced dramatically.

I have definitely had to pull in the purse strings. I have used public transport and where possible shopped around for special offers.


I would hope that the economy would stabilise and that the banks, energy companies and the government start doing something for the people that they serve, not themselves.

Most problematic was the heating and it still is, as I am very wary of turning the heating on because of the soaring energy costs. It has been uncomfortable and believe me an extra sweater won't make me any warmer.

I have not really done any Christmas shopping but I will spend much less than in previous years and my family understands this. I am only buying presents for my grandchildren. My children and my mother will get small gifts.

My final blow has been that my flat needs a new kitchen as it is unsafe as it is, so I will have to use what little money I have left to finance this. The positive aspect of this is that it will be an investment for the future, especially as my money is earning so little in the bank.

My hopes for the new year… I would hope that the economy would stabilise, that the banks, energy companies and the government start doing something for the people that they serve, not themselves.

Everyone I know is affected by the credit crunch, old and young, people who are earning and pensioners like me. It has been tough for everyone, and there are people far worse off than I. We all need some kind of morale booster for the new year, something to look forward to.

NOVEMBER

My move went OK in the end but unfortunately I have not been able to move into my new flat.

Contracts have not been exchanged yet due to some hitch, so technically I am still homeless.

I am spending my time hopping between my children's houses in Leeds and Stockport. I am living out of a suitcase and all my possessions are in storage.

My children are kindly looking after me, so other than petrol, the odd meal out and treating my grandchildren, my financial outgoings have not yet settled into a normal pattern.


This will be the biggest change of my life. Moving house after 34 years and trying to find new friends


I don't have to buy any food or household items. Petrol is cheaper at the moment which is an absolute godsend.

I haven't even thought about Christmas shopping. This will all have to be done at the last minute. My new flat will be in Southport where my son lives. I fell in love with the area.

But to be honest I couldn’t afford a one bedroom flat in a nice area in Leeds, even with prices going down.

It would cost £20,000 more for a flat in Leeds similar to the one I have just bought in Stockport.

This will be the biggest change of my life. Moving house after 34 years and trying to find new friends. It's exciting and good.

OCTOBER

I am sorry but I will not be able to write much this month as I have to move out of my house in a weeks time.

It all happened very suddenly, as my buyer needs to be in my house by the end of next week. I have so much to do and I really do not have the time. I have to move from a three bedroom house to a one bedroom and I am exhausted.

It will be another month I think before I can move into my new home as that property is not ready to move into as yet, so I will be staying with my children, which is good as I will not have the usual household bills.

The only thing that is affecting me now is the petrol prices, which fortunately are going down as I have a lot of travelling to do.

SEPTEMBER

I have been on holiday for two weeks. Oddly, I feel like justifying the fact I can afford a holiday, which is foolish I know, but that's how my current status makes me feel.

Before I went on holiday, the petrol prices started to come down, so as I was driving myself to the airport I made sure I was topped up.

When I arrived home I was pleasantly surprised to find the petrol prices has gone down again but when I was out yesterday I noticed they are the increase again, only by a penny, but on a full tank it soon mounts up

I have sold my house at last, but of course in the present climate I am painfully aware that it could fall through. I am planning to go house hunting next week, which will unfortunately result in increased petrol consumption. I accepted a lower offer, but I feel that on balance it is the right thing to do.

When I came home, the weather was so bad I confess I have had to put the heating on for a short while, which is worrying so early in the autumn.

Unfortunately, I have had an unexpected expense as I had a leak in my loft and had to have a plumber, so whilst I saved money while I was away it was cancelled out by this bill.

For house owners, this is always a risk and doesn't only apply to pensioners. This type of thing, together with heating bills, are the most worrying and make me feel quite vulnerable.

AUGUST
WEEKLY STAPLE FOOD BILLS
Breakfast cereal £1.89
Milk £6.75
Vegetables £3.00 - £4.00
Fruit £7.60
Meat £5.00

I am still trying to sell my home, I have had a very derogatory offer, which I turned down. I understand there are a lot of developers out to make money out of people like myself and also people who are more desperate than I to sell which in my opinion is disgusting but unfortunately that is the way we live nowadays.

I did have second thoughts about the offer when I read about the energy prices going up. Fortunately I am not with British Gas I ditched them years ago because they did to me what they are doing to so many now. The energy company I am with now has already increased my monthly payments this year and although I have just given them my latest gas and electric readings and am in credit I dread getting a letter saying they have increased my payments again which I am sure they will. I have no qualms about changing my supplier again if this happens but there are so many pensioners who either cannot or dare not do this, maybe it is them who should receive more help and advice.

I am very conscious of how much energy I use and never leave my TV or Sky box on standby, I have cut the time my heating comes on (only for the hot water at this time of year) but I dread winter as I find it hard to keep warm any time of the year. I try to save my washing until I have a full load but fortunately my washer has a half load facility.

My boiler needs replacing for a more energy efficient one but I cannot afford a new one to save on my energy consumption, catch 22.

JULY

I retired on January 31st this year as I was planning to sell my house in Leeds and move to be near my son, who lives in Southport.

Originally, I wanted to downsize from the three bed semi I have now, to a one bed flat which would effectively reduce my bills and leave with a little nest egg for holidays, etc. Unfortunately, that did not materialise and I have had to reduce my house price so much that I will have little left when I actually do sell it.

The food bills do vary from week to week but I have noticed a marked jump in my food shop.

I try to eat healthy foods, but unfortunately these are the ones which are rising in price the fastest so rather than do without I will just have to cut down.

Petrol prices are the most worrying and I do try and find the cheapest, which sometimes means travelling to get it. I have now received my National bus pass which I am using to offset using my car but the journeys take so long and you certainly cannot do you a weekly shop using the bus, also if I visit people not on a bus route that is out of the question too.

There is more money going out than in so I have to supplement this with savings, which are rapidly going down. On top of these figures are things like dentists, hairdressers, any repairs or things that need replacing, my kettle blew up only last week.

Even though I am over 60 I still want to look nice, dress well and be able to afford things like lunch out or and evening out these things are still very important to most of us.



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