With more than 200,000 homes estimated to be in darkness after the recent mega storm 'St Jude' hit UK shores, the question on most people's lips after the recent surge in gas and electricity prices is; is it really worth turning on the lights?
In a recent BBC article, it is estimated that the average cost of gas and electric each homeowner pays out annually is near £1,400 and with the recent price rise announcement from the six major gas and electric companies in the UK, we are now likely to pay an extra £100 annually on top of this huge sum of money. This cost is simply incomparable to America, who pays significantly less than us.
Growing up, I never paid much attention to the strong statements my parents used to make in regards to gas and electric costs. "You're cold? Put another jumper on" or "If you leave the light on you owe me a dollar" (maybe that was just my family) were just a few of the regular lines my dad would spout out.
However, following recent claims that gas and electricity is on the rise yet again this winter, I now can understand where these typically father-like statements came from.
Having a stable job with a steady income (though my salary does not permit me to live above my means), this huge additional cost isn't so much a worry in the summertime, but when it comes time for bitterly cold nights it's something that obviously becomes something I think about.
Last year, my flatmate and I were lumped with an electric bill we simply couldn't afford. We panicked and turned off all the lights and sat in darkness amidst a few candles and told each other; "Next year, we use the heating resourcefully" and "next year, we turn every light out as soon as we leave the room".
Of course, these rules still remain true, however how little heating can we actually be forced to use in a country that out of 12 months of the year, approximately 7 of them are reasonably cold? And throughout the year, we can count on a huge proportion of it to be dark (okay, I am American - I do tend to slightly exaggerate).
How can two girls who make a steady, above-average income be forced to think of gas and electricity as a luxury?
It's not me or my flatmate I worry about, for as hard as things may be, the heating will still be used this winter (though as previously stated, resourcefully).
It's the people of low incomes who simply cannot afford the huge additional costs - the families living on low wages that have young children to look after, or the elderly who don't have the extra funds to pay for costs like gas and electricity who are on the forefront of my mind.
When I was younger a two week holiday to the Caribbean was a luxury - gas and electricity not so much.
This winter, the only luxury I'll be having is sitting in my candle lit front room wrapped in six sweaters listening to the sounds of the waves crashing on my CD player.