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Are essentials like food and fuel costing you more?

A new report says the cost of essential spending has grown over the last few years, and is now at its highest rate since 2013.

The biggest rises have been seen in food, drink and fuel, according to analysis by the bank Lloyds. Groceries are up 2.9% year-on-year, while petrol is 9% higher than 12 months ago.

So on every £100 supermarket shop, it’s an extra £2.90 on your bill, while each £40 tank of fuel now costs £3.60 more. Do both of these once a week and you’d be spending an extra £78 a year.

And of course, prices could continue to rise for these and other essential costs. We’ve already seen recent increases in energy and telecommunication bills, and more could be on their way.

Finding extra money in your budget

If you already struggle to cover day-to-day costs, any increase in the price of essentials could cause problems.

One way to help cover the extra is to look for any holes in your existing expenditure where you’re possibly spending more than you need to.

A simple tool to help you do this is the Money Advice Service budget planner. You enter in all the bills and other money you spend each month, then add in all your income. It’ll do the maths in the background and quickly work out for you if you are spending more than you can afford.

Then you can look at each line to see whether there are some costs you can do without. You could be surprised just how much is going on things which aren’t really essentials.

How to prioritise your essential costs

As you go through your budget, you need to ensure you have enough for a specific bills.

Though you might enjoy extra TV channels, do you really need them? Are you spending more on going out than you can afford?  

You should be prioritising the costs that could cause you to lose your home or damage your health if you didn’t cover them.

Among the most important are rent or mortgage payments, energy bills and food.

You might also rely on your car for work, making it another essential expense.

There are also bills which you should pay before others. For example, not paying Council Tax or the TV licence could result in a fine or even jail.

Ways to bring down the cost of fuel

If you find your budget is already as lean as it can be, you can try to cut costs of essentials in other ways.

You can’t do much about the cost of petrol at the pumps, but you can reduce your spend by cutting back how much you use.

Some of the tricks include keeping windows shut to increase aerodynamics, or driving more slowly, which can help fuel consumption.

Reduce your supermarket spend

It’s much easier to reduce what you spend on groceries.

As a nation we waste a huge amount of food we don’t need to – and using it up instead of throwing it in the bin can save a family £600 a year. Taking a shopping list to the supermarket helps you avoid buying things you don’t need, and a freezer can help you store leftovers.

You can also downshift your brands to cheaper alternatives, or even switch to a discount supermarket.

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