If you lived through the 1960s UK, you know about feeding the meters. Well, no need for cash now, but the bills are piling up as more bodies at home for more hours per day, doing more things means more water and electricity and cooking gas being used, but maybe a lot less fuel for car journeys.
For our household, through mid-April (a month of stay-home living) electricity usage and cost are up about 80 percent; water usage is up about 20+ percent and the bill is up about 30 percent. Our household is now twice as large, with three extra women–one teen and two over-80s. Cooking is with gas, but fridge, microwave, washing machine, lights, routers (now increased to deal with my wife’s and daughter’s videoconferencing needs) must all be adding to demand. We’ve enjoyed lots of cool nights (21C/75F), though days have been hot (30+C/88+F), so AC has not been used much (teenagers seem to get hot during the day, so my teen and I have a regular battle to turn hers off). We’ve not had much rain, but the yard gets watered a few times a week, as usual. But, the extra showers and more litres of water drunk are showing up along with all the extra laundry (in part to add extra hygiene to thwart possible infection of clothes).
I filled my car up with fuel about a month ago, and the few trips I’ve made means my usage has been very low; I’ve not been out of town, only about 5 miles round trips.
Our food bills are also higher, but we are able to get lots of fresh agricultural items, much of which may be in surplus so prices should be lower, but we may be facing higher costs if we choose delivery, or just in terms of waiting to get goods wherever we go. We don’t dine out much, but may do so a bit more to help support some of our local businesses, especially those owned and run by friends.
Several people have been commenting on social media about their extra costs, but seem to be unaware of how their own circumstances have changed, being at home almost 24/7 and meeting almost all their own needs at their costs (at least for the moment, though they may have arrangements for reimbursement later). For those whose incomes are not affected, this is not too difficult, but imagine if your pay was day to day and you now have no work; higher bills and less ability to pay. That’s disaster looking you in the face. That’s reality, too, for many in Jamaica. Added to the higher financial burden may be the burden of having less time to do the necessary task of shopping, or that it takes longer because numbers of people allowed in a place are limited. It’s a new and interesting puzzle to daily or weekly life.
Many people do not have savings, and cannot withstand a week without pay, so as the COVID19 stay-home protocols are in place, many more people are going to face financial hardships. Some countries have already put in place and started to disburse funds in support of those who have lost pay and are out of work, but it’s too early to see how well that works in terms of reaching those in need and how long it keeps them afloat.