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I sang for the UK at Eurovision, now I’m £40,000 in debt and struggling to heat my house

One EUROVISION star told our Squeeze Team he was faced with the daunting choice between eating and heating, saying: “I would rather not eat than have my baby sleep in a cold bed.”

Before the pandemic Alex Larke, 43, earned almost £55,000 a year as a singing and performance teacher and represent the UK at Eurovision in 2015 as part of the duo Electro Velvet.

In a heartbreaking interview, Alex says the nightmare has also prevented his family from buying their dream home.

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In a heartbreaking interview, Alex says the nightmare has also prevented his family from buying their dream home.Credit: JOHN McLELLAN
Before the pandemic, singer Alex, who ranked 24th out of 27 at Eurovision with the song Still In Love With You, also performed in Rolling Stones tribute, Rolling Clones

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Before the pandemic, singer Alex, who ranked 24th out of 27 at Eurovision with the song Still In Love With You, also performed in Rolling Stones tribute, Rolling ClonesCredit: EPA

But when Covid hit, his income is completely exhausted.

It led to him using credit cards only to pay for essentials and he now owes £16,000 to four lenders.

He also has a £10,000 Bounce Back loan to pay back as well as £15,000 owed on a car loan he applied for long before Covid.

In a heartbreaking interview, Alex – who has two-year-old Theodore with wife Tamara, 39, and two children aged 17 and 5 – said that nightmares have also prevented his family from buying their dream home.

He told The Sun on Sunday: “It was horrifying when a bill landed. Gas and electricity are the worst because you are never sure how much they will be. I feel sick.

“We worked with People’s Energy but it didn’t work out. We have been switched to British Gas and have just received a £52 a WEEK electricity bill! I’m afraid of gas bills.

“We are not very energy users, but the kids are so young I can’t let them sleep in the cold beds. I do not want to eat.

“We cut right back. We only buy essentials.

‘I’m afraid of gas bills’

“If I can be financially stable on my own then a lot of other things will go back to where they were.”

Before the pandemic singer Alex, who ranked 24th out of 27 at Eurovision with electric swing music, Still In Love With You, also performed in the Rolling Stones tribute, Rolling Clones.

We announced our Squeeze Team last week – The UK’s leading council of consumer experts. In the coming weeks and throughout the week on The Sun, our money savers will be here to provide free support to the thousands of people struggling to make ends meet.

And with supermarket prices going up, bills are heating up and taxes are rising, our team’s lifesaver tips really couldn’t have come at a more important time.

We saw an amazing response to our call within the first week, receiving over 200 emails from interested readers.

“I know how difficult things can get,” says Alex.

During the shutdown, project manager Tamara is on maternity leave, which means her income has also decreased. Alex needs a quick fix to keep the food on the table. As the pandemic continued, and the work failed, debt piled up.

“We have to rely on credit cards to cover essentials like repairs, utilities, and business expenses,” he said. Even with Covid’s self-employment grants, I’m still hundreds of months short of being able to meet my travels.

“There was no way I would let my family go hungry, so I used credit to cover the cost. But now I have reached the maximum”.

Alex has just got a new job teaching music at a local school, but he worries their dream of buying a rented house in Welwyn Garden, Herts, is over.

“My credit history has been badly damaged by late payments,” he said. We don’t have any savings either so I fear my chances of getting approved for a mortgage are close to zero.”

Our Squeeze team solves Alex’s problems.

He added: “I can’t thank The Sun on Sunday and the Squeeze Team enough for their help – it gave me advice I never would have thought of.”

How can I cut my bills and turn my life around?

Tashema Jackson, consumer champion on price comparison website energyhelpline.com, said: “Millions of households will see their energy bills rise to around £50 a month in April and the projections Current guess is that they could increase further later in the year.

“The latest forecasts show the energy price cap will almost double to £2,400 from October. So a lot of people are asking me how they can reduce their bills.

“The first thing to do is make sure you’re taking regular meter readings, so you can track exactly how much electricity and gas you’re using on a weekly basis. Also check to see if all of your radiators are already bleeding and hot to the touch when your heating is on.

“Close your curtains to prevent heat from escaping – and consider closing them tightly, which will reduce the amount of heat you lose from your home by up to 15%.

“If you want to maximize this effect, you can stick the curtain on the wall.
“Insulating your home is an absolute priority. It will reduce your dependence on electric heaters, which use a lot of electricity.

“You can buy draft-free foam or tape for as little as £3 and prevent heat from escaping your home from around windows and doors. If you have wooden floors, rugs and rugs can help keep things warm, and hanging pictures or posters on the walls can help insulate your room – especially on walls that face the outside. Anything you stick on the wall will help insulate your home.

“Of course, the bigger the better. For example, a large bookcase filled with books against an outside wall would be better than a small poster. Even wallpaper acts as an insulator.

“Using electrical appliances wisely is another way to increase your electricity efficiency. For example, keep your freezer full, even if it means water bottles in it, as it will use less electricity to keep it cold.

“With your fridge it’s the opposite. Refrigerators need space, especially at the back and bottom, to allow them to function at their best. And shower faster than shower using less hot water and therefore less energy.

“You can also purchase an energy efficient shower to make the most of this savings.”

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

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

I’m in huge debt – how do I get out of it?

Holly Mackay, from Boring Money, a savings and investment comparison website, says: “Debt is like fat – you can have ‘good’ debt and ‘bad’ debt.

“Instead of worrying about the total amount, I would break it down into more manageable chunks and focus on the credit card. The interest rate on the Return loan is quite low at 2.5% and you have ten years to pay it off. So give yourself a break and try not to stress about it today.

“Need to see which credit card you are paying the most interest on and check if you can convert this to a 0% interest transaction.

“Virgin and HSBC are currently having good deals if you can repay the balances respectively within 35 or 31 months.

“Don’t just worry about paying off your debt – do a little bit of work to make sure your credit card has the lowest interest rate possible and you’re paying off the most expensive debt – the balance with the higher interest rate – first. .”

James Newman admits he ‘pictured winning’ Eurovision before the bomb blasts – but says it was still ‘the best night of my life’

https://www.thesun.co.uk/money/17336475/eurovision-money-worries-alex-larke/ I sang for the UK at Eurovision, now I’m £40,000 in debt and struggling to heat my house

JACLYN DIAZ

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