COUNTING up her loose change each morning, young mum Rebecca Ryan faces the cruellest of decisions – to chip away at her "rapidly-rising" debt or to eat.
The 26-year-old, from Chatham, Kent, says she has been forced to skip meals so that her one-year-old daughter Maya Jane has enough food and has been threatened with bailiffs multiple times.
With the price of utility bills and food skyrocketing in price, Rebecca, who works as a barista, has been forced to take out loans to stay afloat.
But having racked up £10,000 of debt already, she fears her financial situation is only set to get "a lot worse" as the cost of living crisis deepens.
She told The Sun: “It was hard to live before the prices went up but now, especially after having a little one, it’s getting unbearable.
“Bills are going up and it’s just unachievable to pay them in the short term without getting into debt quite rapidly.
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“I’ve got about £10,000 of debt already and have to call companies every week to explain that I’m paying what I can – if I paid them in full I'd be on the streets.
“It’s heartbreaking to wake up and count the pennies to work out if we can get a food shop or if I’ve got to pay my electricity bill and go without food."
“Some days I’m skipping meals so that my daughter can have food and I don’t see things getting better for a long time.”
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Rebecca’s monthly electricity bill has risen by £100, from £60 to £160, and to combat it she has “switched off everything left, right and centre” as well as her boiler.
She is also struggling to pay off her water bill, council tax and the loans she took out to cover those utilities.
“I went back to work to try and offset it but everything is going up and nothing seems to be happening,” Rebecca said.
“I keep chipping away at my debt but it’s increasing and is going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. At this point, I can’t see it getting better for a long time.”
Rebecca is among the 8.2million families in the UK set to receive cost of living support from the Government.
Around £37billion has been set aside to help desperate people amid rising food, energy and electricity prices.
Among the assistance is for those on income-related benefits and tax credits, who were given a first payment of £326 last week and will receive another £324 later this year.
Despite the help, families continue to struggle and more than 1.3million households do not have savings to fall back on, according to the Resolution Foundation.
They reported that 400,00 people will be forced to rely on financial support from relatives and friends to pay off their bills.
Rebecca said: “I’m paying companies what I can and they are having to accept it, they should be happy that I’m paying them rather than trying to live myself.”
'I can't even afford toys for my daughter'
Rebecca, who has a partner, says she’s trying to remain positive about the future – but with growing debt, she fears the future is bleak.
“I can’t even afford to get toys for my daughter because I’m paying bills. If I don’t pay them I will have debt collectors after me,” she said.
“It’s not a nice situation to be in but I have to get on with it. I dread to think what it will be like for her when she grows up.
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“If I can’t afford to pay electric bills or for food, what will it be like for her? Will she be able to afford a home in 20 years' time? Is she going to be able to afford to eat?
“There’s not enough help available, let alone for parents or the elderly. Something has got to change and it needs to change soon."
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