Tips to Help Narrowboat Owners During the Cost of Living Crisis

The cost of living crisis has affected most households across the UK, whether that be on land or living on a narrowboat. For those living life on the water, costs have risen and this may impact people's everyday lives as the cost of diesel, coal and licences see some big increases.

What is the cost of living crisis?

The cost of living crisis is in relation to the decrease in disposable incomes that are adjusted with inflation. Since 2021, the UK has started to see the cost of living crisis affect many people, with prices increasing and wages not reflecting this. This is particularly reflective in terms of energy prices, in particular the cost of gas which has been key to driving inflation.

How narrowboat owners are being impacted

Narrowboats owners are being impacted by the cost of living crisis in a similar way to homeowners. With general fees and costs of living on board a narrowboat also increasing. One thing in particular that has affected those on the water is how licence fees have increased twice this year by the Canal and River Trust, once in April and again in October. With both of these rises, it adds up to around an extra 8% increase, which on average is around an extra £65 a year. This incremental rise may negatively impact many people and is simply another added cost that has to be thought about.

On top of this, the same way that the cost of coal, diesel and gas is impacting those in houses, it also is a huge impact to those living on boats. Most liveaboards have fitted fires on the boats that can be filled with coal to heat them up on cold days. As many people use coal to heat their boats, they fear not being able to stay warm throughout the cold winter months as coal prices rise in 2022. Many people will question whether they need to heat up their boats and instead may put on extra layers in an attempt to reduce costs where they can.

Not only this but many barges use diesel to run their engines, due to it usually being readily available, safe and usually inexpensive. Diesel engines are known for being reliable and low maintenance, they are also much more adaptable to a cold and damp environment, making them suitable for the water. However, this year especially, we have seen diesel costs skyrocket, for cars and boats alike. This may make boaters question whether they should make a journey or stay moored instead. This will impact narrowboat owners as it partially defeats the point of living on board, whereby people enjoy visiting several locations, exploring new spots and meeting new people. With the rise in prices it can make this slightly more difficult.

With inflation rising, there are also many other price increases that are impacting owners, such as fees for mooring and general and regular maintenance costs. The same way that barge owners are feeling the burden, business owners are too, hence small and large businesses increasing their prices.

Money-saving tips for narrowboat owners

With these tough times in mind, it's essential to find different ways to help save you money, in an attempt to combat the cost rises. There are a few things you can try out that can help, such as:

  • Mooring - If possible, consider letting your mooring if you're not using your boat all year round
  • Maintenance - By taking on basic maintenance yourself, as well as keeping on top of it to avoid incurring larger costs (especially if an issue has been left for too long), you can save quite a substantial amount of money. Of course, larger jobs that may affect the engine, for example, may require a specialist. Never take on jobs if you're not completely sure you know what you're doing as this can result in more damage to your vessel. 
  • Sell unwanted items - Look into selling items that you no longer require. Not only will this raise much-needed funds, it will also free up space on board to offer more storage
  • Solar panels - Investing in solar panels can mean it's no longer necessary to run the engine daily (unless undertaking bigger tasks, such as cooking in the oven or using the washing machine, etc.) Make sure you also keep the panels clean as this will keep them working efficiently
  • Lightbulbs - Invest in some LED bulbs, rather than using standard lightbulbs as these use a fraction of the power
  • Collecting wood - Take every opportunity you can to collect wood for fuel. Every time you're off the boat, and enjoying a walk, for example, be sure to keep an eye out for fallen branches, etc. that can be ideal for burning for fuel
  • Making the most of the colder weather - You can opt to turn off your fridge during the colder months. Instead, use a plastic box with a lid and keep this outside, as an alternative to storing your food in the fridge
  • Turn off electrical equipment - Be sure to completely turn off any electrical items, rather than putting them on standby as this uses a surprising amount of battery life.

Can living on a narrowboat help you beat the cost of living crisis?

It is now estimated that over 20,000 people live on Britain's waterways. Many people are still making this lifestyle change despite costs rising. This lifestyle change allows people to feel closer to nature and opt for a more simple lifestyle, instead of the hustle and bustle. Although living on board will not beat the cost of living crisis, it can offer a much nicer and simpler lifestyle in comparison to living in a house. The costs will depend on the size and specification of the boat however and these are, on average, 20% of the cost of living on land.

Just like everything else, the cost of living crisis has also impacted narrowboat owners, with prices rising in all areas. Although life on the water may not be for everyone, it sure does offer an abundance of benefits, despite the rise in costs.


Are you a narrowboat owner who is struggling to save costs? Discover our top tips for saving money!

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