Visiting the supermarket has become a source of awe and wonder. And not in a good way.
The ever-growing gap between how little is in your shopping bag vis a vis how much you’ve spent on groceries is eyebrow raising. And that’s without the treats.
An extra 10p seems to have been added on to prices of items here and there...or the size of the packaging on pasta carbonara / lasagne dishes has shrunk. Or both.
There are fewer pieces of chicken in the bumper family packet than there were beforehand, not to mention less variety on the shelves. Have families noticeably shrunk since we last looked?
And it’s not just Brexit or the Northern Ireland Protocol that are to blame.
Forget the ‘buy two and get a super price’ deals – they’ve been off the menu for quite a while, as have the money off vouchers that used to be a welcome perk for the loyal shopper. We’re only talking about the food bill here.
We’ve all been paying a fortune to fuel the cars that still take fuel. The halcyon lockdown days of 99p a litre for petrol and diesel are long gone; so too are the Black Friday-type queues when Go stations gave motorists a financial fillip. Now we’re lucky to find a litre beneath the £1.50 mark.
There’s already a cost-of-living crisis for many consumers here. It comes against a backdrop of stagnant living standards, but the ever-rising price of basic essentials is making a bad situation worse.
Inflation, which is at the heart of the current cost of living crunch, is already sitting at 5.1% and is forecast to hit a 30-year high of 6% in the coming months. Alarm bells.
We started to see our salaries shrink in real terms at the end of last year due to fast price rises.
But this is going to get a whole lot worse for two reasons –rising taxes and soaring energy costs.
Higher national insurance contributions will hit home in April, around the same time as heftier gas, electricity and home heating oil bills begin to cripple many householders.
This squeeze will, naturally, be felt most by low-income families who, despite the £200 one-off payment announced by the Department for Communities on Thursday, will continue struggling to make ends meet.
Is there any respite to all this? Restaurants, nights out and holidays, which were already at a premium because of the pandemic, may become a thing of the past for many of us with modest incomes.
Advice NI has revealed that local people sought help for debts of almost £22m in 2020/21. But that sobering figure is likely to be a far cry from the true picture as people ravaged by the pandemic fail to meet mortgage payments or can no longer earn enough money to make a decent living in the covid contaminated world.
Debt levels, unfortunately, are among the many things that are on a relentlessly upward curve. The credit crunch is already a crisis. How long before it becomes a catastrophe?