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I couldn’t afford to heat my house but Squeeze Team saved me £1,000

ONLY mum Symone McKitty-Smith still wears a coat to stay warm and rummages through stores for bargains – but still finds herself stuck in debt after her energy bill skyrocketed out of control control.

But now, thanks The Sun on Sunday’s Squeeze Team, she is feeling positive about her future.

Single mom Symone McKitty-Smith still wears overcoat to keep warm

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Single mom Symone McKitty-Smith still wears overcoat to keep warm
The Sun on Sunday's Squeeze Team is our team of top money-saving experts

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The Sun on Sunday’s Squeeze Team is our team of top money-saving experts

Our energy expert Tashema Jackson visited Symone’s home in Manchester this week, and our team analyzed her bills.

Within hours they had saved her almost £300 – and thanks to their expertise, she is on track to save more than £1,000 over the year.

As Britain feels the pinch, with energy costs, taxes and the cost of living all soaring, our Squeeze Team is acting to the rescue.

Young nurse Symone, 30, in tears last night, said: “I cannot thank you all. This latest Energy bill scared me. Debt piled up. ”

Heating is the biggest problem for Symone, a single mother of daughters Nevaeh, eight, and two-year-old Amara.

She was using a manageable Utilita prepaid meter until an “energy expert” from a company called Money Expert called last September.

“They told me they could save me money,” says Symone. I was very emotional. I was waiting for details on how I pay on prepaid meter but they never came”.

Instead, she receives a quarterly UK Gas bill of £296 for electricity and £273.79 for gas.

Need help?

If you have questions about how to deal with rising costs, email our team at bomzeteam@thesun.co.uk

“With the meter up front, I know where it is, I can track it and manage it,” says Symone.

She earns £9 an hour and takes home £750 a month on average.

She owes 900 pounds tax council owes money, has a monthly childcare bill of up to £500 and her council rent is £420.68 a month.

She gets £700 a month in General Credit but has now cashed out at source to pay off the £500 in house debt she has amassed during the lockdown.

She also has a £500 family loan from a credit union which she pays back at £50 a month.

She spends an average of £220 a month on food, £40 on clothes, £50 on phones and £11 on WiFi.

She skipped lessons to help Nevaeh’s dyslexia, the girls’ one-time £3 swim lessons, plus home and life insurance.

“We don’t have an expensive TV subscription, I get my news on the Sun app and we use the Fire stick to watch TV,” Symone said.

Another big pressure is food. She shopped the yellow labels and shops around for bargains.

She said: ‘Nevaeh is really fussy so I have to send her to school with a packed lunch, which is very expensive.

“Amarah has autism so it was difficult. She will only eat beige food. I have to buy milk to breastfeed my baby.”

This is our way Squeeze team Experts say that Symone can save a small fortune. . .

ENERGY (save £400 a year)

TASHEMA, Consumer Champion at energyhelpline.com, said: “Symone should never change energy suppliers.

“The entire country was told not to swap at the time last year – there was no better deal.”

Tasema and her team have been in touch British Air“We are delighted that we were able to get her meter readings and bill updates,” said.

“As a gesture of goodwill, Ms. McKitty-Smith has accepted our offer to pay 50% of her bill and we will agree a reimbursement plan with her for the rest.

“We also agreed to install a smart meter to make it easier for her to see what she is spending.”

Money Expert did not respond to our request for comment.

Bill Bullen, founder and CEO of Utilita Energy, the UK’s only supplier set up to help households use less energy, said: “This is really frustrating. bear.

“Symone has moved from an affordable and manageable pay-as-you-go tariff to a standard variable rate as a ‘pay-as-you-go quarterly’ customer, which is expensive Best.”

Tasema also helps Symone save energy in the home.

She said: “The sofa and laundry left outside to dry, both on the radiator and the air conditioner in front of them, get trapped in heat.

“By putting laundry on the air conditioning units to dry in the bath, the living room warmed up.

“And when the heatsinks were working properly, I turned the thermostat down one degree. This would save Symone £100 a year.”

FOOD (£350 plus a year of savings)

SYMONE spends £14.20 a week on packed lunches. Martyn James of the Squeeze Team directed her to Wythenshawe Food Bank, for £3 will buy her seven packages of products including fruit, bread, tins and dry goods.

MOBILE PHONE (save up to £40 a month)

CONSUMER King Scott Dixon says Symone should switch to a SIM only offer when her current contract ends.

“Two months before her contract ended, she needed to shop around and switch,” he said.

“Currently on O2, you can only pay £8 a month for 10GB of data with unlimited calls and texts.

“You also get free hot drinks, savory products, and potentially additional movie tickets.”

Universal Credit & Debt MANAGEMENT (save £60 a year)

SCOTT recommends you to register hardship fund – cash grants up to £60 available in Manchester.

“Ask your local government what you are entitled to,” he said. These grants do not need to be repaid.”

Award-winning consumer expert Martyn James says that Symone should also request a reassessment of her General Credit payments, based on her current financial situation that has changed due to her financial hardship.

And Jonathan Chesterman at debt charity StepChange said: “She could apply for 60-day breathing space under the Government’s Debt Repayment Scheme or she could be eligible for a write-off order to write off the debt. in debt.”

LAUNDRY (save £125 a year)

SYMONE puts two or three loads wash on a day at 40 degrees.

Tashema recommends reducing the temperature to 30C to cut costs by 40%, saving up to 9p per cycle.

Symone wears her work uniform, so she gets a tax break for washing and cleaning.

“The standard fixed cost allowance for washing and storing your workwear is £60 a year, so you can claim £12 a year back as an employee,” explains Scott. pay 20% tax.

“You can back it up for up to four years after your current tax year, meaning you can claim up to five years’ worth, plus up to £60.”

CHILDREN (£600 plus a year of savings)

THE Squeeze Team has secured a 5-day crash course for both girls, worth £85, at Manchester’s Little Angels swimming school.

Linda Cooper of the school said: “Swimming is a life-saving skill. I don’t want to see this family miss out because of the cost.”

Katie Nelson, of North West Dyslexia Centre, provided Symone with a free dyslexia assessment for Nevaeh, worth £295, and a free year of small group tuition at hard to read-academy.co.uk, which usually costs £20 a month.

Q&A

Tashema Jackson and Holly Mackay address Alex’s worries about paying family bills

Q) We are really worried about petrol price.

My husband drives a van for a living and we’ve noticed he spends more on gas.

What can we do? Should he take out a loan and switch to an electric truck?

LOUISE SHIELDS, 37, Norwich

OUR expert Martyn James says: “I’ve always been a bit wary of spending money to save money, so in the first instance, I’m going to look at ways you can become more fuel efficient. than to save cash.

“Start by cutting out the things that mean you use more gas, like aggressive driving, fast acceleration, using the air conditioning and pressing the brakes – all of which reduce fuel efficiency. your material.

“Similar to leaving the engine idling.

“Turn off the engine when you can – but only when it’s safe. You can also save a lot by offloading.

“Filling the tank can make your car heavier, which in turn costs you more fuel.

“But the simplest thing to do is get rid of anything that can add extra load to your car, which will help it run more efficiently.

“If you frequently use the same gas station, ask if they have a loyalty program.

“It’s actually quite expensive to buy new and used cars right now due to supply issues, so I’ll wait it out a bit until prices stabilize.

“You can get financing for business vehicles but if you have a business executive with your bank, see what they have to offer first then compare the deals out there.

“However, if you go electric, you can get a ‘plug-in allowance’ that can cover 35 per cent of the car’s purchase price, up to a maximum of £5,000.

“Details are available at www.gov.uk/plug-in-car-van-grants. ”

Q) I just became a grandma for the first time and want to spend some money each week on my grandson when he turns 18.

What is the best way for this? Should I talk to my bank or try building a society?

VAL GREEN, 55, Preston, Lancs

HOLLY Mackay, from Boring Money, a savings and investment comparison website, says: “Eighteen years is a long time.

“The stock market can make people feel nervous but for this long period of time – and with inflation driving up cash – it’s a logical move.

“Children ISAs allow you to save into a child account. Parents need to set this up but then you can pay.

“Fidelity is a major global brand supporting Junior ISAs with regular savings from £25 a month.

“Check out their Easy Invest option.

“Great UK company Hargreaves Lansdown also has a good Junior ISA and pages of helpful content about investing for kids.

“Don’t assume the stock market is the Wild West.

“You can get a simple bundle of shares in the world’s biggest companies like Google, Visa, Coca-Cola and HSBC – all managed and pooled in one simple account for your grandson .

“That would be a great gift for him.”

Q) I have been self-employed for the past ten years and have no pension.

I 44. Is it too late to open one now? And how much will I have to pay per month? I earn around £22,000 a year.

DARREN MATTHEWS, 44 years old, Wembley

Award-winning tax expert Mitch Young, from Fusion Consulting Group, says: “It’s not too late, Darren – you can definitely still join a retirement plan.

“Each carrier has different products and different payment terms, depending on your needs.

“So you need to see a retirement/financial consultant who can recommend the best products for you.”

Our energy expert Tashema Jackson visited Symone's home in Manchester this week

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Our energy expert Tashema Jackson visited Symone’s home in Manchester this week
Martin Lewis reveals how to pay 0% interest on your loans and credit cards

https://www.thesun.co.uk/money/17482741/squeeze-team-reduce-debt/ I couldn’t afford to heat my house but Squeeze Team saved me £1,000

JACLYN DIAZ

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