If you’ve been a regular reader since last year, you might remember that I pre-ordered Starlink – Elon Musk’s satellite internet. I did so in large part because I live in a rural part of the UK that has been overlooked by fibre broadband, 4G, and basically every other improvement to the country’s ageing, decrepit communications infrastructure. I have broadband, which some rural dwellers still don’t, so in that sense I’m lucky – but my download speed at the best of times caps out at around 7 megabits/second, and at bad times I can barely get online at all.
Starlink originally promised to be available in “mid to late 2021,” before revising that to “early to mid 2022.” I would say, as an aside, that Starlink was very poor at communicating that change to me, and for much of 2021 I was holding out hope that I’d hear something from the company, especially because I’d paid a fairly hefty deposit. Better communication with customers may be something for Starlink to work on, at least from my limited experience with the company!
But I’m no longer going to be enjoying ultra-fast space-age internet. I recently cancelled my pre-order – and not because of any complaints about the company or the slowness of their rollout. I can understand that things get delayed, that the queue was long, and when you’re dealing with something as complex as literally launching rockets full of satellites into space, there are going to be bumps in the road sometimes! I’m not a “Karen,” feeling a sense of entitlement, and I want to make that clear.
Unfortunately, though, in 2022 I’m no longer in a position to be able to afford Starlink. The service would cost a little over three times the price of my current internet package, and with rising bills across the board, I can no longer guarantee that I could afford to pay that amount. I certainly wouldn’t want to sign myself up to a contract, committing to pay that money for twelve or eighteen months.
Since mid-2020, my electricity bill has already risen by over 25%. That isn’t because I’m using any more electricity – in fact, thanks to things like LED lightbulbs and a better, more efficient heater, I’m probably using less. But the UK’s privatised electricity industry has been jacking up prices left, right, and centre. And that was before the current increase in oil and gas prices internationally sent energy prices skyrocketing.
In addition to the 25% rise that I’ve had to absorb over the last few months, my electricity bill will soon rise by another 50%-60% on top of what I’m currently paying, wiping out a huge chunk of my already meagre disposable income. Inflation is also biting me in the backside, with food prices having risen already in the last few months, and prices for some of my essential toiletries and other goods also shooting up. As a disabled person on a fixed income, there’s very limited room for manoeuvre, and as such I’m having to make decisions like the Starlink one in order to remain financially solvent in the months ahead.
With all of that in mind, I’ve also decided to cancel my Netflix subscription. With Star Trek: Discovery being withdrawn from the service, and relatively few other projects that excited me coming up in the short term, it’s a significant chunk of change saved every month. Because I can’t really get out to the shops very often, and can’t lift anything heavy, I rely on Amazon for a lot of deliveries, and the cost of Amazon Prime per month is more than worth it when I stack it up next to the delivery charges I don’t have to pay, so keeping that one makes more sense. Netflix is a great service and I don’t dislike it, but something had to go, and when it came to a choice between Netflix and Amazon, Amazon won that particular fight.
In the late 2000s and early 2010s, I got into a lot of financial trouble. Suffering undiagnosed mental health issues, working through a divorce, and other pressures in my life saw my spending get out-of-control, and with the abundance of cheap credit that was given out far too readily by misbehaving banks, I found myself in quite a financial pickle after a few years of mismanaged finances and a difficult period of my life. It got so bad that I had bailiffs show up several times and was even threatened with prison at one point.
It took a long time to crawl out of the financial hole I’d dug for myself, and even now my credit rating is still so poor that I can’t access anything but the most expensive, high-interest loans and cards. So when I say I can feel my back getting closer and closer to the wall, I really mean it. If the current rate of price rises and cost increases continues, I’m very quickly going to have nowhere left to go!
During the pandemic, the government had provided a small increase to the benefits they pay out to people like me who are disabled, as well as to jobseekers and other low-income folks. This extra money was withdrawn back in the autumn, despite a public outcry, and that’s another reason why I’m left with fewer options at the moment. The current government has proven itself to be far too inflexible, unwilling to make changes to policies even as the situation in the real world has changed (and deteriorated). Even in the autumn, when this policy was still being debated, there were many economists, politicians, and other such folks who had the foresight to see price rises and inflation pressures coming. They warned the government not to go down this road – but their voices were ignored, sadly.
The way the government calculates its figures also allows them to manipulate things so they can get away with paying out less than they should. There will be a very modest rise in my income in April, but the rate of this rise was calculated months ago and thus doesn’t account for the current rate of inflation – meaning it will be more than eaten up by the aforementioned electricity bill rise and other price rises.
It’s sad to be starting 2022 with such a bleak forecast and having to scale things back, but this is the reality of our pandemic-riddled world. I fear that we’ve only seen the very beginnings of some of these problems, and that things like electricity and food prices will rise, rise, and rise again before the end of the year. There’s already talk of another significant rise in energy bills in October.
I’m not yet in a position of having to choose whether to “heat or eat,” as the current anti-slogan suggests. But because I’d already scaled back as many of my costs as possible over the years, I don’t have a lot more room to make cutbacks. I usually only heat the living room, even in the depths of winter. It’s -3°C outside as I write this early on a February morning, but I find that the one heater I have in the living room is usually adequate.
There are two remaining subscriptions that I could potentially cull, depending on how much worse the financial outlook gets. I currently subscribe to both Disney+ and Xbox Game Pass for PC – though the latter is currently paid for for the next few months thanks to a Christmas present from my sister! But in theory I could save another few pounds a month by cutting those. But once those are gone, that’s all the wiggle-room I have! Those are my only remaining non-essential bills, and as a disabled person for whom leaving the house is a challenge at the best of times, I feel that it’s important to have things like this so I can access entertainment and keep the old brain cells from decaying!
I’m not in imminent danger of freezing nor of starving… but the fact that, in the UK in 2022, that statement should need to be made at all is pretty telling. I don’t like to get political here on the website at all – but I’m definitely upset with the current government and its inflexibility when it comes to solving these problems.
That’s not to say that I have all the answers, not by any stretch. But in the next few months, and certainly by the end of 2022, something’s got to change. I know I’m not the only one in this position of having to make cutbacks to be able to continue to afford the essentials, and as a disabled person who relies on certain mobility and toileting products, there’s more than just food that I have to buy every month. It isn’t possible to cut back on those things!
So this was a bit of an update, really. I guess you won’t see many Netflix reviews here on the website for the next few weeks and months – but I’ll continue my usual output of Star Trek content, I’ll definitely take a look at anything new from Star Wars, and I’ll keep up my regular commentary on the ins and outs of the video games industry – even if I may not be in a position to play any of the games that don’t come to Game Pass this year!
I try to avoid piracy – except in specific circumstances. If a film, TV show, or video game is available here in the UK lawfully, I’ll either pay for it or skip it. It’s only when greedy, moronic corporations refuse to broadcast their latest shows or make their films available here in the UK that I’ll sail the high seas! And as I’ve said before, I think that’s a pretty fair way to approach it.
If you’re suffering as a result of inflation or any of the other financial issues we’ve talked about today, there is help available. Here in the UK you can talk to organisations like Citizens Advice, and they definitely helped me during the period when I was struggling with debt. I can’t make any further recommendations other than to check what’s available in your local area. I hope that, if you find yourself in choppy financial waters, things settle down quickly – for all of us!
This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.