We know times are hard at the moment. On this page you will find useful hints and tips to help you make the most of your money and advice on where to go if you need more help.
If you are struggling financially then make sure you are claiming all the money you are allowed to.
Use the Government's benefits calculator to see what you could claim. This should only be used as a guide and the results may differ from what you are actually offered.
If you are struggling to pay your fuel bills due to the impact of Covid-19 you may be able to apply for a Winter Warmer Fuel Voucher.
Fuel vouchers are available for families and households in Worcestershire on pre-payment meters, paying by Direct Debit, paying when billed or direct to a suppler, for example someone using LPG, oil or solid fuels.
You can apply for a Winter Warmer Fuel Voucher if:
- You receive Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit
- You have an annual household income, before tax, of £30,000 or less, have recently been made redundant, have been furloughed and are waiting to receive your first payment and don’t now when it will be, are self-employed and your income is unpredictable and/or you are waiting to apply for payment from the Government.
People can also be referred by a food bank.
The Government has issued general advice to people struggling to pay essential bills because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Create a budget
Creating a budget will help you live within your means and avoid getting into debt with loans and credit cards. A budget is a financial plan which lists the money coming into your household (income) against the money going out (expenses). It will also help you work out what you need to spend money on and what you want to spend money on.
To work out a budget for your household follow the steps below:
- List your monthly income
- List your recurring monthly expenses
- Take away your expenses from your income
If your expenses are more than your income, work out how to cut unnecessary spending. You can then develop a savings plan if there is any money left over.
Use the Money Advice Service's online budget planner to help you.
Tips to help you manage your money
- Keep track of your spending. Only spend money you have and avoid getting into debt.
- Plan ahead and protect against unexpected costs or events. Save money if you can.
- Make informed choices. Pay the bills you must pay first (rent/mortgage, Council Tax, living costs).
- Control your spending. Make sure you only buy the important things and don’t buy anything you don’t need. Keep a spending diary.
- Use price comparison websites and switching services to get the best deals on things like your gas and electricity supply, your phone contract and your weekly food shop.
- When you are food shopping, make a shopping list and stick to it.
- Understand what might happen if you lost your job or you got into debt.
- Renegotiate credit card repayments/loan repayments to reduce your monthly out-goings or pay more if you can afford it.
- Do not borrow money from payday lenders with excessive interest rates or Loan Sharks. Try a credit union instead. Visit sixtowns.co.uk for more information.
- Look at ways of increasing your income. Sell things you don’t need, check you are claiming all the benefits you are entitled to, look for new work or development opportunities with your existing employer.
- Look at ways to cut your expenses. Shop around for the best deals, cook your own food and eat what you buy. The average family household throws £700 of food away every year. Visit www.lovefoodhatewaste.com for help.
If you are worried about your finances, then seek help as soon as possible.
Call South Worcestershire Citizens’ Advice Adviceline on 03444 111 303.
Call the Government backed Money Advice Service for free and impartial advice on 0800 138 7777.
Credit Unions are an alternative to high street banks. They are not-for-profit organisations created to support their members rather than shareholders. They can be used by anyone and offer a range of services including current accounts, savings accounts, Christmas saving accounts and loans.
They are a welcome alternative to pay day lenders and loan sharks which we advise you to avoid using.
There are two Credit Unions that offer services to people living and working in Worcestershire. Use the links below to find out more about them.
Have you ever been offered a cash loan? Did they fail to give you paperwork? Did they add huge amounts of interest to your loan? Have they threatened you? Are you scared of people finding out? Have they taken your bank card, benefit card, passport, watch or other valuables from you?
If you answered yes to any of those questions then you could have borrowed money from an illegal money lender, more commonly known as a loan shark. You are not alone. It is estimated 310,000 people across the UK are in debt to illegal money lenders. We support the work of the national Illegal Money Lending Team to raise awareness of what loan sharks are, support victims and direct people to safe and legal alternatives.
If you suspect a loan shark you can report in confidence by calling 0300 555 2222, text 078600 22116 or use the online form at www.stoploansharks.co.uk where you can also find more information.
If your income is low, you have a poor credit rating or you only need a small amount for a short period of time then there are alternatives to loan sharks that are legal and safe, such as a Credit Union.
If you are in debt and struggling then please seek financial advice.