The Richter Scale measures the intensity of earthquakes. It ranges from the unnoticeable to the highly destructive.
So, when Taoiseach Micheál Martin said energy prices are “off the Richter scale”, the chosen figure of speech was more than apt.
In the year to July, electricity was up 40%, gas up 56%, and home heating oil an incredible 92%.
Petrol and diesel are up 35% and 44% respectively.
People in towns and villages across the country will see prices rise this winter
Energy prices have soared higher than anyone could possibly have imagined and provider after provider are passing costs on.
The knock-on effect on everything else, means people in Ireland are facing a winter of bills like no other.
The Government is pledging a cost-of-living package and help for taxpayers in the upcoming budget
We are paying 8% more for our food but some items are much dearer, milk is up 21% and bread is up 14%. Worryingly, the last CSO figures on food price increases showed a 1.7% jump in prices from June to July. Six more months of that will see food prices heading for a 20% hike.
Huge chunks of net pay or welfare are being whipped from people’s pockets, paying for the cost of living surge.
People changing habits to tackle high costs
Whether it’s fueling your car, heating your home, buying food or purchasing any of the other essentials for life you cannot avoid paying more. We are certainly off the Richter Scale. It’s forcing people to change their habits.
In recent days, RTÉ News put a call out on social media for people’s experiences of inflation in their daily lives.
The responses show people are taking action to avoid spending, and sadly cutting back on food and in one case medication. One woman wrote she was “considering coming off HRT because it’s too expensive”.
Another mother said she was “making my dinner smaller to keep the kids fed” and using “lower quality of food.”
Cutting back on food spending was mentioned by many. A person said their family was trying “to cut down on the food shop. Family of six with four sons aged 14 to 21. Very hard.”
Another person, who has a job, told how life has become straitened.
They said: “We don’t go out, we don’t get takeaways, we don’t go to the cinema, we don’t go on holidays. I’ve two kids that don’t wear top brands. We have no life. I work and can’t keep (my) head above water.”
People also outlined how they don’t use the tumble dryer, have reduced the temperature of the washing machine, reduced or stopped going out, are buying cheaper food brands, and are cancelling various subscriptions such as TV streaming services and gym memberships.
They also talk about walking more, buying second-hand items and boiling the kettle less.
It’s now a familiar picture according to Consumers Association of Ireland, which expects people to cut their overall spending to weather the difficult months ahead.
“Purchases will be down in an environment where no one knows what they have to spend” said Dermot Jewell of the CAI.
“Its necessities only and a significant number of people are switching to discounters (for shopping) and seeing that some savings are possible.”
Significant numbers are also seeking help from organisations such as MABS and St Vincent de Paul.
SVP has said it is taking 30 calls per hour from people needing help or 110,000 calls so far this year.
This coming week, mortgage interest rates will see another hike, and the CSO will publish what the latest inflation rate in Ireland is and the latest statistics that tell what everyone is experiencing day to day.
The Government is pledging a cost-of-living package and help for taxpayers in the upcoming Budget.
The latest bumper tax take for the exchequer means there is cash in the Government’s kitty.
The stage is set, anticipation is growing and the financial pain intensifies. Budget 2023 will be revealed later this month – enter Ministers Donohoe and McGrath.