The cost of living crisis is creating challenges for many of us, and as we start a new year, now might be a good opportunity to take a look at your finances and focus on the things that are in your control.
We’ve prepared some tips and advice that might be of help if you’re worried about your finances.
Set a budget
If you’re worried about money, one of the first things you can try is setting a budget. Write down what money you have coming in (e.g. from your job or benefits) and what money you have going out (e.g. bills or spending money). Useful budgeting tools are available to help with this such as the Money Helper budget planner or our Benefit and Budgeting Calculator.
Start with your outgoing fixed costs (rent, council tax, water, gas etc.) before moving on to other spending. For this, keep receipts over a couple of weeks to see how much you’re spending on areas like food, travel and socialising and clothing.
Once you have this information, consider what costs you might be able to cut down on. If there’s anything you think might be an unnecessary cost, reduce or cancel it altogether. Price comparison websites such as www.confused.com or www.uswitch.com can also help identify any savings that can be made on your bills.
After all of this, a budget can be created for each area of spending (e.g. food, utility bills, gym subscription). You should be able to clearly see how much money you have coming in, what your fixed and ‘optional’ costs are and how much money you have left outside of these costs.
Reach out for help
There’s a number of free services out there that can help you — from financial planning services to debt management advisors to credit counselling services. Some of these services include:
Check your benefits entitlement
Check you’re claiming all of the benefits that you’re entitled to. You can do this using our Benefits Calculator and if you claim Universal Credit, don’t forget to claim Council Tax Support. You can kickstart this process by going to your local council’s website and searching for council tax support. If you are not online, give them a call and ask for them to provide a council tax support application form.
If you’re claiming Universal Credit you can often get cheaper broadband packages or social tariffs with your utilities company. Some companies which offer reduced broadband packages include BT and Virgin Media. To explore the options further, speak to your provider or supplier directly to see what support they have on offer.
Our Money Advice and Benefits team are here to help - if you’re worried about paying your rent, are looking for some help or advice, or are concerned about the impact that the festive season may have had on your finances, please contact us to discuss the support we can offer you.