'We Had To Sell My Bike': A Child's Experience Of The Cost Of Living Crisis

As the cost of living crisis unfolded, many of us watched in horror as our bills went through the roof and bank balances stretched further into the red.

Some are no longer able to afford heating, others are skipping meals so their kids can eat, meanwhile baby banks are seeing shortages of infant formula due to high demand. 

While many of us try to protect our children from the reality of this, it’s often impossible to shield them from all of it.

A recent survey of over 5,000 11- to 18-year-olds by youth charity OnSide revealed 1.3 million young people have stopped activities outside of school like socialising with friends, sports and hobbies because it’s no longer affordable.

As a result, 76% of young people spend most of their free time on screens and over half (51%) spend most of their free time in their bedrooms.

Abdulah, 13, lives in west London and says he and his friends are aware of the cost of living and the increase in prices of food and heating bills.

“It’s talked about in the news and it has an impact on us,” he explains.

Discussing how he’s been impacted, he says he notices the price of food rising in shops and adds: “My mum gives me pocket money if I behave well and do chores. It’s gone down from £10 a week to between £2 and £3.50 because she has to spend more money on food and heating and there are six of us in the family.

“I never ask for takeaways now because I know they cost a lot of money. Sometimes we have to turn the heating down.

“Specific games I might want to buy are too expensive now and certain after school things like going to a gym or accessing VR clubs would be too expensive.”

The youngster is excited because OnSide is opening a youth zone in his area, which will cost 50p to enter, with hot meals priced at £1. “At school that would be £2.50 and if you were eating out with your friends the bill might be £15 each. No one can afford that,” he says.

When the youth charity asked other young people about the things they’ve had to give up because of the cost of living, the answers were clear: it is costing children their childhoods.

Here are some of the heartbreaking responses, shared exclusively with HuffPost UK.

1. “I’ve had to stop playing football after school because my family can’t pay for it.”

Age 12

2. “We had to sell my bike; we don’t go places in the car because petrol is expensive.”

Age 12

3. ”[I had to give up] trampolining. I used to go every week but since the cost of living crisis my parents can’t afford it ... it’s not fair and I feel embarrassed saying to my friends that I can’t go trampolining because of lack of money.”

Age 15

4. “I can’t go to the cinema, go shopping or out for food with my friends.”

Age 13

5. “We used to take road trips to aerodromes to watch aeroplanes but the petrol costs too much now to get there.”

Age 17

6. “I go to a musical theatre class but am not going back in September because the price has gone up and it is too much.”

Age 14

7. “I have stopped going to my football club as we can’t afford it or afford to get there. We can’t afford fuel to take me to see my friends and we can’t walk as my dad is disabled and my mum is really ill.”

Age 11

8. “Couldn’t do extra school trips due to the cost and can’t join cycling club due to cost of bikes required to join.”

Age 16

9. “I have stopped going swimming out of school. My mom said that she can’t afford the lessons any more.”

Age 11

10. “We stay in the house more because my dad is overdrawn at the bank for a couple of weeks before payday.”

Age 14

11. “I have quit the gym as the monthly subscription was too much now. I have no longer got any outside home activities that need paying for at all.”

Age 17

12. “I used to play football in two leagues (one for serious, one with my mates for fun) and we have had to stop one. Also, after being mugged for my bike, we can’t afford to replace it so I’ve stopped going to basketball.”

Age 14

13. “I had to quit gymnastics in November, mum couldn’t afford my winter kit.”

Age 12

In response to the survey, almost seven in 10 young people (69%) said they or their families are concerned about the cost of living crisis with the long term effect on the price of goods (62%), parents’ stress (59%), their families not being able to pay bills (40%) and their families struggling to afford food (29%), the top concerns.

OnSide’s chief executive Jamie Masraff said of the findings: “Our survey lays bare the devastating effect that the cost of living crisis is having on young people. It’s effectively locking them down all over again.

“We know that the pandemic increased isolation for children and teenagers. Now high prices are condemning this generation to further loneliness, reducing opportunities to take part in activities in a safe space or socialise face-to-face.

“With young people spending 85% of their time outside of school, it is essential that they continue to experience character building experiences and opportunities that can help them achieve their potential and make them stand out when they later look for jobs or college places.”