Gen Zers from across the UK reveal the profound impact the cost of living crisis has had on their lives – SCREENSHOT Media

Gen Zers from across the UK reveal the profound impact the cost of living crisis has had on their lives

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Jun 1, 2023 at 10:00 AM

Reading time: 11 minutes

The cost of living crisis has impacted gen Zers all across the UK. From education and housing to mental health and socialisation, this financial fiasco has left us feeling perpetually drained and less than optimistic about what the future holds. SCREENSHOT recently sat down with Labour MP Nadia Whittome to try and further understand the biggest issues we face as young people at the moment, but also the ways in which the UK government has explicitly failed at legislating for our generation, something that clearly has never been a priority.

As Whittome accurately stated: “We need to keep reminding people that the government didn’t fix the roof while the sun was shining. They didn’t invest in renewable energy and if they had invested in things such as retrofitting houses, then people wouldn’t be freezing to death in their homes.”

Rather than focus solely on the big names and big numbers in this crisis, we wanted to shine a light on the individual stories and struggles of actual gen Zers. By showcasing how the cost of living crisis has financially, socially, and mentally impacted these young people, we aim to bring a new perspective to the table and refocus our attention on what really matters.

We were able to speak to a diverse range of individuals across the nation, who were kind enough to share their inner feelings, both positive and negative, about the profound impact the cost of living crisis has had on their lives and their hopes for the future.

Gen Zers from across the UK reveal the profound impact the cost of living crisis has had on their lives

Name: Izzy
Age: 24
Location: Cheltenham
Occupation: Toxicologist
Living situation: Renting alone
Monthly rent: £600
Monthly gas and electric: £67
Average food budget: £160 (only including groceries) + £80-£100 on food out/coffee etc

What are your political views?

I don’t feel that I support a single political party. There are a lot of policies I agree with at both ends of the spectrum. It’s a constant internal debate when you want the best for society but also have to make life work for yourself (mainly financially). I think there can also be a sense of duty and obligation towards family that inevitably makes an impact on your views as an individual, which in itself may be problematic in developing your own personal views, based on your upbringing and the opportunities you have or haven’t had.

How would you describe your mental health?

I’d say I have good mental health and resilience and I’ve been incredibly lucky not to struggle with my mental health for a prolonged period. Like anyone I feel anxious at times, but I have a great support network of family and friends around me and know ways I can pick myself up when I need to.

The one thing on your want list that you can’t afford yet?

To save enough money for a mortgage on a house.

The biggest thing you’ve got planned for the next 5 years?

Progress in my career and hopefully buy a house/flat to feel settled, secure and independent.

Your biggest fear?

Not fulfilling my potential and feeling dissatisfied with what I’ve achieved, both personally and in my career.

“Even though it’s difficult, I’ve found lots of ways to budget and save money. I live with six other people so we all help each other out and try to make the most of being in our twenties and in London.”

Name: Glen
Age: 27
Location: Belfast
Occupation: Full-time student receiving disability benefits
Living situation: Renting 2 bedroom home
Monthly rent: £750
Monthly gas and electric: £20 per week electric, £80 a month gas from late September – April. £10 per month May through late September
Average food budget: £70 per week

What are your political views?

Irish nationalist.

How would you describe your mental health?

Poor, I’m medicated daily and have a complex mental health problem diagnosed in 2012. One source of happiness though has been removing myself from the 24 hour news cycle I had grown accustomed to over covid. If you only consume bad news it’s difficult to be optimistic and that spills over into other aspects of your life. I’m still up to date with current affairs but have removed the doom scroll factor and that has massively helped.

The one thing on your want list that you can’t afford yet?

Home ownership. I’m paying £750 per month while the average homeowner’s mortgage payment on my street is £380-430. I got a house on this street at a good time as the houses currently up for rent here are £1,000. However, there are also people renting here who are here long term and their rent is only £450 so on our street we have people paying between £450 and £1,000 for rent on sub £100,000 houses.

The biggest thing you’ve got planned for the next 5 years?

I’m saving in a LISA account for a deposit. I will cut costs across the board when I can buy in the next few years.

Your biggest fear?

My biggest fear is another housing boom like in 2007. Northern Ireland is still cheaper than the rest of the UK for housing partly due to our history and political instability. If another unchecked boom was to take place I would be totally priced out of the market and would be stuck with these perpetually increasing rents.

Gen Zers from across the UK reveal the profound impact the cost of living crisis has had on their lives

Name: Aries
Age: 23
Location: London
Occupation: Visitor and sales assistant 
Living situation: Renting 
Monthly rent: £350 (cohabitation with partner)
Monthly gas and electric: £25 
Average food budget: £200 a month

What are your political views?

Quite far-left, socialist.

How would you describe your mental health?

I would describe the state of my mental health as not good, and while there are a lot of factors to that, the constant stress about money and debt doesn’t give me a lot of time to deal with my other problems.

The one thing on your want list that you can’t afford yet?

One big thing I want that I can’t afford yet are some really fancy DND dice (dice for playing a tabletop role playing game called Dungeons & Dragons) that are priced between £60 and £120.

The biggest thing you’ve got planned for the next 5 years?

My plans for the next five years are very much based around my partner who has a lot more access to money than I do, and buying a house with them. In terms of my solo plans, I hope to go on a long trip around Asia.

Name: Natascha
Age: 24
Location: West Norwood
Occupation: Designer/student 
Living situation: Sublet in South London with 6 flatmates
Rent: £370
Bills: £50
Average food budget: £200

What are your political views?

Liberal.

How would you describe your mental health?

Mental health is pretty good, I’ve spent a lot of time working on it. I feel anxiety about housing and cost of rent, being evicted (especially for asking for too many maintenance things so we just don’t) and not being able to afford somewhere else. I feel very fortunate that I have parents that I know I could always move back to but that’s of course not ideal.

The one thing on your want list that you can’t afford yet?

It’s difficult to know where want and need crosses over. I could really do with a new laptop as I work as a freelance designer and mine doesn’t hold up well with certain software etc. I’m worried as my shoes are getting quite old and I know I’ll need to buy new ones but I could always buy cheap trainers rather than £100 ones. There are other things that I need to buy such as a new clothes rail because mine is broken etc.

The biggest thing you’ve got planned for the next 5 years?

I find it difficult to think about the next few months, let alone years. I would like a job that covers the cost of living comfortably, rent, gym membership, spending money to do things. However, I also would like to travel or have a job that allows me to earn enough to go on holidays. Equally, I would feel guilty in a corporate job that is costing the Earth and other people.

Your biggest fear?

I’m not sure, probably losing someone I care about or not having my support network.

Name: Alex 
Age: 26
Location: East London
Occupation: Advertising creative
Living situation: Living with two friends
Rent: £950
Bills: £70
Average food budget: £160

What are your political views?

It’s complicated.

How would you describe your mental health?

Generally good. I’ve recently embraced pessimistic nihilism and it’s made me feel a lot better about life in general because I don’t expect anything to go well. So when something does go well, I feel pretty good about it.

The one thing on your want list that you can’t afford yet?

My gut went with Vespa.

The biggest thing you’ve got planned for the next 5 years?

Moving to New York or San Francisco.

Your biggest fear?

That’s really hard… My biggest fear is dying.

Gen Zers from across the UK reveal the profound impact the cost of living crisis has had on their lives

Name: Matt
Age: 28
Location: Leicester, East Midlands
Occupation: Energy Specialist (basically customer service for an energy supplier), was previously working part-time and completing a PhD on the side until September 2022, when I had to abandon this due to the rising cost of living (I couldn’t afford to keep up the PhD while also only working part-time)
Living situation: Living with my partner’s parents after the landlord sold the property in November 2022 (we found out the landlord was selling only a few days after I had officially ended my PhD, which was an extra kick to the gut!). We’ve used the time since to save up money, though, and are now on our way to buying. We’ve exchanged on a new build but not completed
Bills: None currently, but previously £160/mo
Average food budget: Roughly £200/mo when we were renting

What are your political views?

Leftist.

How would you describe your mental health?

Not great, as I suffer from clinical depression and am waiting on assessment for ADHD. My mental health took a big dip during the cost of living crisis, though, not just with having to give up my PhD because I could no longer afford (this was August/September 2022), but also with having to deal with the cost of living crisis with increased costs, no increased pay, and also having to deal with the other side of things dealing with customers struggling with rising energy costs and feeling helpless with that.

The one thing on your want list that you can't afford yet?

This is going to sound stupid, but I’ve had my eyes on the LEGO Rivendell set that they announced quite recently, but can’t afford it yet. I’ve been saving for it but it’s difficult when also trying to save for things for a new house! It’s the little things, isn’t it?

The biggest thing you've got planned for the next 5 years?

I would say it’s buying a house in June, really, but my partner and I are also considering having kids; however, as with many people we’re concerned over whether or not we’ll be able to actually afford to have kids, considering the cost of the mortgage, but we don’t want to have to put having a family on hold because of the cost of living crisis. Bit of a bad situation, really.

Your biggest fear?

I’m not really sure, but if I had to think really hard I would say I’m absolutely terrified of losing myself, if that makes sense. Having seen two of my grandparents suffer from dementia, and seeing my dad lose a lot of who he was to alcohol and mental health issues, I’m terrified of losing who I am as a person due to my own mental health issues, especially knowing how easy it can be for some people to suddenly snap. Whether it’s through my personality changing for the worse because of my mental health, or me flat out forgetting myself and my loved ones in the way that my grandparents did, I’m absolutely terrified.

My partner’s been really helpful and supportive throughout everything, and I also have a really nice dog, so there is that.”

Name: Emre
Age: 22
Location: Portsmouth
Occupation: Student/part-time football coach
Living situation: Student accommodation
Monthly rent: £750 with water, gas, wifi, and heating included
Monthly gas and electric: All included
Average food budget: £60 – £90

What are your political views?

None/whatever is better for the working people.

How would you describe the state of your mental health?

Healthy, happy, and mature. Not scared to show any type of emotion. 

The one thing on your want list that you can’t afford yet?

Diamond grillz.

What is the biggest thing you’ve got planned for the next 5 years?

Finish studying, own a business, travel the world and probably keep doing what I’ve set my mind to, whatever that thing might be.

Gen Zers from across the UK reveal the profound impact the cost of living crisis has had on their lives

Name: Becky
Age: 26 
Location: Nottingham
Occupation: Laboratory analyst
Living situation: Living with partner, recently purchased house, 95 per cent mortgage, 35-year term.
Monthly Mortgage: £809 (I last paid rent in July 2022, this was £850. They relisted the house after we moved out at £975)
Monthly council tax: $159.73 (band B)
Monthly life and house insurance: £45.40 house, £41.42 life insurance (can’t get a mortgage unless you get these, a fun expense no one tells you about)
Monthly gas and electricity: £280.52 (Currently £282 in debt on gas, and £49 in electricity after winter). This has gone up since April (£238.52), which was up since March (£171.52), up from December (£109).
6 monthly water bill: £178
Average food budget: Weekly budget, £80 ideally. In reality, between £80 to £100 depending on essentials like toilet paper and washing-up liquid.

What are your political views?

Quite Left wing, we should help those who need it, close tax loopholes for the ultra-rich, windfall tax energy producers, stop letting them avoid tax by exploring for oil and coal and put a cap on what they can charge. Also University loans shouldn’t be subject to interest, etc.

How would you describe your mental health?

Fluctuating. Sometimes I feel like I’m on top of it, everything is ok and I’ll be fine. Sometimes it feels like everything is going to crash and burn in an instant, balancing absolutely everything that needs doing plus a decently high-pressure job gets to me sometimes.

The one thing on your want list that you can’t afford yet?

To pay for my full licence and get a new motorcycle. I don’t own a car and haven’t passed my test (thanks COVID! I was test ready before then), it is too expensive for both of us to own cars, so I commute on my motorcycle. It’s great because the insurance (after the first year), petrol costs, and general maintenance are much cheaper, but I’m restricted to a 125cc engine, so my bike doesn’t go above 60mph. Not great for national speed limit roads, it’s a bit scary. I need a bigger bike, but the full test is approximately £700 for the 2 sections, not including the theory and any extra lessons if you fail, never mind actually getting a bike after that.

What is the biggest thing you’ve got planned for the next 5 years?

House needs a new roof, we kinda knew this when we bought but it’s in a worse state than we hoped. We also probably need a new car. The 2012 Fiat Punto my partner drives has needed new everything and we’ve slowly kept up, but it screams on motorways and we need something better suited to his commute.

Your biggest fear?

Beyond spiders? But seriously, life stagnation. That this is it until I die, and my friends are in a worse situation than I am. Both I and my partner are generally in a very fortunate position. We both have STEM degrees, we “own” our house (albeit a high mortgage, and we could only do it through super saving in COVID), we are paid at least decently (a good bit below UK full-time average salary but still). We’ve had to fight so hard for the life we have and it’s probably the bare minimum folks 30 years ago would have expected by our age. We don’t do foreign holidays, they are too expensive. I was meant to up my retirement contributions soon, but I can’t because bills are so high. Am I never going to retire?

My friends are worse than me and seeing them struggle makes my heart hurt. I have friends who can’t afford to rent so still live with their parents helping pay bills. I know a couple who can’t move in together because they can’t afford it. They talk wistfully about maybe having kids when they’re in their late 30s. I also know another person who broke up with a partner and couldn’t afford to live alone, so is back with his parents in a village and struggles to do anything social due to commuting and bad public transport. We are all stagnating, it feels like the treadmill of life is moving too fast and I’m watching more and more people I love and care for falling off it, my partner and I barely keeping on it ourselves, when do we fall?

My fiancé and my friends keep me going, they are amazing and help me stay positive and busy with good things and our hobbies together.”

Name: Bianca
Age: 25
Location: East London
Occupation: Journalist and currently senior producer in the media industry
Living situation: Renting with my partner
Rent: £1,700 collectively (so £850 each)
Bills: No gas, just electricity: it really varies by month. I think with the government scheme there were a few months where our bill automatically was around £30 each a month, the most recent one was like £60 each. A few months before it was around £80 each. I think the most we had was like £110 each for a month at some point in 2022.
Average food budget: I would say collectively we spend between £220 to £270 a month on groceries.

What are your political views?

Left. I am not eligible to vote in the UK, but if I could, I probably would vote Labour.

How would you describe your mental health?

I am okay. I am naturally a really anxious person who overthinks and worries a lot about the future and hates uncertainty, but I think COVID-19 really prepared me and taught me to deal better with this. 

I do get anxious about the future from time to time, and sometimes I do overthink things like having good financial stability when I am older, having a house, kids that I realised I really want in the future (the cost of childcare in the UK is actually insane), etc. and how to achieve all this. But I learned to more or less let go of these worries because as a matter of fact, we literally never know what is around the corner, and I will cross that bridge when I get there.

I definitely have a lot of privileges that I don’t take for granted and I do have a good income that allows me to have access to necessities, which I am immensely grateful for, and I acknowledge there are a lot of people in our country who are in a much worse position.

The one thing on your want list that you can’t afford yet?

I would love a house. Paying rent feels like throwing money away every month, especially when you have to wait months for your estate agent to sort any problems in the house. It also feels ridiculous to me that people’s monthly mortgages are around the same prices as rents, but you need this massive chunk of money for a deposit.

The biggest thing you’ve got planned for the next 5 years?

I don’t know hahaha. Focus on my career as much as I can I guess, and enjoy the youth slowly slipping away from me as much as I can…

Your biggest fear?

My loved ones suffering or dying. But in terms of the current political and economic climate right now—I just really hope we all get to live, and not just survive.

Gen Zers from across the UK reveal the profound impact the cost of living crisis has had on their lives

The images in this article have all been AI-generated using prompts taken from the interviews featured above. It says a lot that even artificial intelligence seems to struggle to accurately depict what we’re all going through…