There’s no doubt that 2022 has been a tough year. Just as we thought we were coming out of the financially turbulent years of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine took most of us by surprise. We then faced an energy crisis, rising inflation, a mini budget that sent the financial markets into a tailspin and mortgages careering skywards, a ‘winter of discontent’ with strikes, strikes and yet more strikes. It’s no wonder that many of us are worried about how we will cope with what has come to be known as the current ‘cost of living crisis’.
However, fear not. There are always things that can be done in situations like this and we’ve listed a few ideas to help keep you on track this winter. Let’s start with 3 of the most important ones…
1. Make sure you have a budget for your household or setting’s income and expenditure
As with most things in life, good planning is often the key to being able to manage your household or business finances well, or not! And having a budget that accurately includes all your income and expenditure, will help identify where there are places where purse strings may need to be tightened, or indeed, where there is room to relax a little. Many people have never done a budget but there are a lot of helpful websites and information available especially now, to help people set up a household budget and help them stick to it. Have a look at the ones at:
- Money Saving Expert (Martin Lewis) website
- National Debt Line free budget planner
- Microsoft Excel budget planner templates
2. Maximise your income – claim for things you are entitled to
Every year, millions of pounds of benefits and financial help are unclaimed by people who either do not know they are entitled to them, or do not know how to claim them. As financial guru, Martin Lewis, says on his website: “It’s a common misconception that benefits are only available if you’re out of work – but even some families with an income of £50,000 or more can qualify for help.” There are many different types of support that people can get from child benefit to help with energy costs and universal credit.
There is a benefits checker on the gov.uk website that you can access here, or alternatively, you can contact the Citizen’s Advice website to see if you are eligible for things that you are not currently claiming. They can also help put you in touch with other financial benefits such as grants for home improvements, subject to different terms and conditions, but going on the principle, ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’, it’s better to ask than not.
On the Money Saving Expert site too, there are lots of tips and ideas of how to increase your income from simple ideas such as using vouchers, to getting paid to switch your bank account.
If you are looking at your budget from the perspective of your early years setting, then there are lots of ways that you can get financial help through grants and other benefits schemes. There are too many to list here, but you can find out more on the gov.uk website here which lists hundreds of different types of support ranging from a grant to relocate your business to Scarborough, to support and grants for SMEs to help them to reduce carbon emissions.
3. Spend your money wisely
Once you have a budget and have maximised your income, the final step is to make sure you spend your money wisely and live within your means. The Charles Dickens quote from “Great Expectations” rings true here, where he says:
“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen, nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty-pound ought and six, result misery.”
Being prudent means being smart about what you buy and there are lots of tips online to help you. We have listed a few of our favourite ones below, but a quick internet search will bring up a lot more.
Top 30 money saving tips
- Turn the heating down/off in rooms you don’t use – ‘heat the person, not the room’ and set thermostats on radiators
- Make use of railcards or season tickets for travel
- Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry and learn your buying triggers to help avoid them
- Make use of charity shops and preloved items
- Buy things with a friend to get bulk discounts
- Make do and mend – repair things before you throw them out
- Buy less meat or cheaper cuts – chicken thighs instead of breast for example
- Put on a full load of washing to be more efficient
- Put extra blankets on the bed rather than turn up the heating
- Look in the sales but don’t be misled – only buy what you really need
- Shop around for the cheapest petrol – see https://www.petrolprices.com/
- Switch your energy supplier to the lowest tariff – see uswitch
- Car share or take the bus
- Send post 2nd class but send it earlier
- Extend the time between hair cuts by a month or two
- Make use of vouchers and loyalty schemes
- Look out for free websites and giveaways – e.g. https://uk.freecycle.org/
- Contact a food bank or waste donation places – https://fareshare.org.uk/
- Make use of refilling centres and stop paying for packaging
- Buy fruit and vegetables loose from a market stall or local seller
- Refill water bottles, don’t buy ready-filled ones
- Reduce takeaway drinks – make one at home
- Make your own packed lunches
- Switch to non-branded items or supermarket’s own brand
- Check all mobile and phone contracts then switch to cheaper options when out of contract
- Check for online promotions
- Check newspapers and magazines for 2-for-1 offers and vouchers
- Check your bank account for unused subscriptions or repeating charges you don’t use or need
- Use comparison websites to compare financial products on insurance, energy and credit cards
- Keep positive and keep smiling!
When money is tight, it is really important not to ignore the problem, but to face things head on. Contact your suppliers or creditors to ask them for help. Most of them have a legal obligation to do so, even if it is giving you more time to pay. Best of luck.