- People in the UK are turning to TikTok for help, advice, and solidarity as costs soar.
- The cost of living crisis in the country has affected everything from rent, to bills, to groceries.
- While some people receive donations, it’s more about having a community you can turn to.
Peter Woods posted a TikTok on October 23 that showed his struggle with the increasing cost of living in the UK, which rising inflation and devastating energy bills have intensified in recent months. Woods narrated as his camera panned over the few tins of fish he had left before his next pay day, which sat on otherwise bare shelves in his London apartment. He showed an equally sparse fridge which contained one banana, and a bowl of one pence coins that he said he was too embarrassed to take to a shop.
“I did find a pound, so I can buy some bread tomorrow,” Woods said. “But everything’s gone up, it’s ridiculous. My rent has gone up, the electric, the gas, food, the cost of living is really crazy.”
Woods’ story was viewed over 2 million times, and is just one of many being told on TikTok right now as people in the UK struggle to keep up with rising costs — from rent and mortgage payments to groceries and everyday items. Some have been documenting visiting food banks, often for the first time. Others have been showing picked over shelves devoid of bargain essentials at stores, or simply turning to the app to vocalize how they are feeling.
Paris Lewis, a chef and content creator, saw Woods’ video and wanted to do something to help. Two days later, Woods posted another TikTok showing two grocery bags that Lewis had dropped round at his front door, full of fruit, veg, eggs, and other supplies. Woods could not be reached for comment.
Lewis told Insider he usually swipes within the first three seconds of a TikTok unless it immediately grabs his attention, but something about Woods’ video made him watch the whole thing. Then he realized he recognized the street outside Woods’ apartment because he used to work in the area. He quickly went to his nearest grocery store to pick up some essentials such as pasta, tinned tomatoes, and coffee, and drove over. When he arrived, he saw Woods standing up inside the apartment, and he knew he was in the right place.
“I called his name a few times. I was thinking, this is so weird, I feel like a weirdo,” Lewis said. “But he had to get the stuff, he had to.”
People are turning to TikTok for advice and solidarity
Many of the TikToks detailing the cost of living crisis are a window into the everyday frustrations of Britons who have seen prices rise and feel those in power have abandoned their needs.
One woman, who goes by her handle tarnia_tic, posted a raw, emotional video on November 2 directed at the government and power companies. Through tears she criticized them for the delay in getting vouchers that had been promised to help people out with their energy bills, and said she only had £1.57 ($1.81) left to buy food for her family. She said her house was getting damp and cold because she couldn’t afford to put the heating on, which was worsening her health.
“I work 42 hours a week, I’m not a sponger,” she said. “You’re not helping us.”
Although TikTok has become a place where people are raising their frustrations about their money struggles and a perceived lack of help from the government and energy providers, a lot of the time, people are not asking for food, money, or anything else — they’re simply looking for solidarity, advice, and community. Tarnia, for instance, refused several offers of financial assistance and gifts, instead saying she couldn’t accept them, and saying the kind comments of support and guidance were enough.
Some accounts have boomed in popularity with their money-saving tips
The cost of living crisis has also given rise to creators sharing advice on how to save money and stretch their paychecks to cope with increasing costs. At the end of August, Elliot William posted his first TikTok under the name @costoflivingcrisistips and advised people to charge all the devices in their home before October 1, claiming it would save around 80% on their bills. It was viewed 2.5 million times. Another video he posted the same day that showed how to make a boiled kettle last all day went viral as well, racking up 3.1 million views.
“Then I started making videos every day,” William told Insider, using his own experience and that of the people who started commenting with their own tips and tricks. “I feel like if some people genuinely go away with something different to help them then I’m happy about that.”
William thinks people are turning to TikTok because it’s quick and snappy, with his advice videos often under a minute long, rather than spending their time searching the internet about how to make their budget stretch further. He also thinks the community aspect is special, because it makes people feel less alone in what they’re going through.
“Some people are sharing their experiences and it’s very raw,” he said. “If you’re going through the same thing or even if you’re not, you can see what others are experiencing — you can be part of it, and learn from it.”
Jo Rourke, who joined TikTok just over a year ago to keep an eye on what her kids were doing, has also grown a following for her money saving tips recently. She told Insider the community aspect of TikTok is definitely part of why it is such a draw for people.
“A lot of things cost to do and going into the winter life can get very isolating,” she told Insider. “People pop on and they see people that are familiar to them even though they don’t know them, so it feels like you’ve got a community even though you might be stuck at home. And I think that’s a lovely thing really.”
During the coronavirus lockdowns, Rourke felt some of this isolation. As a single mother of three children, she initially wanted to show other parents how to get out of the rut of cooking the same things over and over. Now, her account @thismumcooks has grown an 82,000 strong following on the app, as people turn to her for advice on how to make their groceries last longer — sharing recipes for two ingredient scones and a £2.50 ($2.94) roast dinner, and tips for a cheaper weekly shop.
“I try to show people how they can make interesting and healthy meals on a budget,” Rourke, who recently made headlines with her homemade butter recipe, told Insider. “I’m trying to say to people that actually a jar of pasta sauce can be more expensive than making it yourself, and it certainly doesn’t taste as nice and isn’t as good for you.”
Rourke also shares with her community when she spots a bargain, and pointers on using the freezer more efficiently. She has always lived this way, coming from a family who taught her how to cook from scratch. But she’s realized not everyone has had these experiences.
“You assume everybody knows what you know, but then you’re surprised that they don’t,” she said. “If you’ve not been brought up that way, then you don’t know those skills and then you don’t pass those skills down.”
Rourke hopes her following will help her extend some of this community spirit to a local charity she’s supporting on GoFundMe in Manchester called The Wood Street Mission which supports families over Christmas who may not be able to afford to buy their children presents.
Activists want people to realize a little can go a long way
There is a huge inherent audience for content about making meals go further and finding discounts at the grocery store. According to a paper by researchers at the House of Commons, 4.2 million people (6%), including 9% of children in the UK, were living in food poverty in 2020 and 2021. The same paper reported that according to a YouGov poll, this April, 15.5% of all UK households were “food insecure.”
William said he has been hard up in the past, which is why he knows so much about saving money in hundreds of little ways that add up. Both he and Rourke have both shared recipes for dinners that are under £5 ($5.71).
Lewis said this was something he wanted to raise awareness for when he dropped round food to Woods’ apartment — that even a small donation can be life changing for someone in the moment. People think they can’t afford a big donation to a food bank, he said, but even £5 would make a difference.
“£40 would be really appreciated, but even £5 would give so, so much,” he said. “Giving someone £5 could literally change their week.”