FOR the first time in a decade Margaret McCall doesn’t have any savings.

The TV is broken and it’ll have to stay that way. Her microwave is showing signs its on its way out but she’s hoping for the best.

The 71-year-old from Motherwell was already finding it tough at the start of the year when her power bill doubled.

Now, with October’s drastic price rise and temperatures set to plunge to as low as -7 in North Lanarkshire, she fears for how she’ll pay her bills.

READ MORE: 'I don't know how I can budget anymore': Scots mum hit hard by cost of living crisis

“It worries me because I don’t have the money,” McCall told the Sunday National. “If I had the house warm the way I had it last year I would have to put £60 a week in my gas meter now.”

This’s a drastic rise from the £26 she was paying in the coldest weeks of 2021. One of the issues for McCall is that her boiler is old and inefficient. But like 34% of Scottish households according to YouGov, McCall no longer has any savings to rely on.

“I can’t save money anymore,” she said. “I was able to save a wee bit before towards any repairs and things but I was already eating into any money I’d saved.

“I recently had to borrow £100 to pay my car repairs because I can’t manage my shopping without my car.

The National: Margaret McCall said her food bills and energy costs have surgedMargaret McCall said her food bills and energy costs have surged (Image: Margaret McCall)

“The price cap is going up yet again in April and I’m absolutely dreading what is going to happen then.”

Despite the chilling costs, McCall is determined not to be cold on Christmas – but it isn’t without its sacrifices.

“That is one day we will have the house warm,” she said. “But we’ll have to be cold other days in order to have a warm Christmas.

“It’s terrible to get to my age and have to live like this.

“I had got to a stage where I was paying off my bills, I could keep my car on the road and shop comfortably.

“Now all of a sudden, bang! And I’m back to where I was years ago when I was struggling because I was paying far more rent at the time.”

McCall said while she is finding it difficult she is far from the worst impacted by the cost of living crisis.

She said single people having to heat their entire home themselves and those on Universal Credit won’t be able to heat and eat this winter. For this group, like many she said, not enough support is being offered. McCall previously worked in residential childcare before starting her own marketing business but had to stop when she fell ill.

“I never wanted to retire,” she said. “I wanted to go on forever.”

Now she is reliant on her pension, which she said is not rising anywhere near fast enough.

“The Department of Work and Pensions sent out the wonderfully large amount of £10,” she remarked. “People are going on strike to get thousands and we get £10 a week increase in our state pension – it’s ridiculous.

The National: Food banks are popping up across Scotland as more people struggle to pay their power billsFood banks are popping up across Scotland as more people struggle to pay their power bills

“And the £10 Christmas bonus? Big deal. I’m not going to notice that this year. It’s laughable.”

Scots are having to get creative to stay warm this winter, the former childcare worker said. A group of women she knows meet up in a cafe everyday and have a cup of tea, sitting there all morning.

For these women, that’s cheaper than staying in their own house.

And they’re not alone. Austerity brought an explosion of food banks across the UK, now the Union is witnessing a similar surge in “warm banks”.

The service, like food banks but for keeping warm, has popped up across Scotland, with public spaces now being used to keep people warm during the cold winter months.

READ MORE: Scotland’s councils plan ‘warm banks’ to help freezing Scots this winter

Libraries, leisure centres and other publicly owned buildings are being used to stop Scots from freezing in their own homes this Christmas.

But it’s not a perfect solution, according to McCall – far from it.

“Not everyone can get to these places, she said. “Some are too far away or if they’re older people they maybe can’t walk the distance to it so they have to sit and freeze.

“But how long is that going to last? Someone has to pay for the heating after all.”

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