If you’re having trouble making ends meet due to the current cost of living crisis, it’s vital to look at ways you might be able to ease some of the financial pressure.
Although inflation is slowing, costs are still increasing across the board on most things ranging from food to clothing and household goods, with rising interest rates pushing up borrowing costs for those with variable rate mortgages, credit cards and loans. These increases in general living expenses are making it particularly tough for those on lower incomes to manage their spending.
Here’s our rundown of some of the ways you might be able to get help if you’re struggling to stay in control of your finances.
Mortgages and rent
If you think you’re not going to be able to afford to pay your mortgage, contact your lender as soon as possible to discuss the options that might be available to you.
There may be certain ways to make your monthly payments more manageable. For example, you might be able to move your mortgage from a repayment to an interest-only basis, although you’ll need to be able to demonstrate to your lender that you’ve got a plan in place to pay back the capital you owe at the end of your mortgage term. Alternatively, you might be able to temporarily extend your mortgage term, or if you’re not tied into your current mortgage deal, you could think about remortgaging to a cheaper rate to reduce your monthly payments.
A fee-free mortgage brokers should be able to advise on the best remortgage deals which you’ll be eligible for.
If you’re renting, let your landlord know as soon as possible if you’re not going to be able to pay your rent. They may be able to work out a way you can temporarily reduce your payments. Landlords can’t start eviction proceedings against tenants until they have missed more than three months of rent payments, so even if yours is unsympathetic, they can’t ask you to leave straight away. The charity Shelter has plenty of useful information and housing advice for those struggling to pay rent.
If you’re overdrawn on your bank account, and you do not have an arranged overdraft or you have exceeded the limit on one, charges can rack up quickly. Contact your bank directly to ask how they can help you. They should try to help if you’re finding ti impossible to meet everyday living costs, and going into the red on your account. For example, they may offer to reduce or cancel fees, or offer a manageable repayment plan.
If you fail to get the help you need from your bank, and you’re struggling with spiraling debts, it may be worth contacting a debt charity to see if they can provide a solution. You can find out more about overdrafts in our guide How overdrafts work.
Credit cards and personal loans
If you’re worried about paying off your credit card balance, you could consider switching to a balance transfer credit card with a lengthy 0% introductory interest rate. This would let you pay off what you owe without building up hefty interest charges on top of it. We regularly update our list of the best balance transfer credit cards so you take a look at some of your options.
If you’re having trouble paying off a personal loan, get in touch with your provider directly and see if you can arrange a different repayment plan that suits you better.
Energy regulator Ofgem has set the energy price cap at £1,928 a year on average from January to March (up from the October £1,834 cap).
Remember that the Energy Price Cap is not a cap on the amount you can be charged for your energy. The actual amount you’ll pay will depend on how much energy you use, so those living in bigger homes or properties that aren’t energy efficient could pay much more than £1,928 a year, whilst those using less energy will have lower bills. Read more in our article What is the energy price cap?
Many people are currently in debt to their energy supplier, although some might be entitled to some help with their bills. Find out more about what your options are in our articles Are you eligible for help with heating costs? and What can you do if you can’t pay your energy bills?
Further Cost of Living Payments are being provided to eligible households and individuals this year. Those receiving means-tested benefits will receive a total of £900, pensioner households will receive £300, and individuals on disability benefits will receive £150.
The £900 payment follows a £650 grant for people in receipt of means-tested benefits that was paid in two instalments last year. You can read more about this year’s payments in our article Over 8m start receiving cost of living payments.
If you were born on or before 26 September 1955, check if you’re entitled to the Winter Fuel payment. This is a tax-free amount of between £100 and £300 to help pay your heating bills over winter, and the amount you receive depends on your age and anyone else in your household. If you’re not entitled to the Winter Fuel payment, you might be eligible for the Warm Home Discount Scheme, which gives you a one-off discount on your electricity supplier between September and March.
Read more in our article The energy bills crisis: what can you do about soaring costs? You can also find tips on how to reduce your energy bills in our article Save money on your energy bills.
You might be able to save money on your water bills by having a water meter installed. Some companies, such as the Consumer Council for Water, provide a calculator to help you figure out if getting a meter installed could keep your bills down. Find out more about this and other ways you can reduce your water bills in our article How to reduce your water bills.
Most water companies offer support to customers who are having problems paying their water bills.
Options may include moving to a capped tariff where your payments won’t exceed a certain amount, taking a break from payments until you’re able to get back on track, or your provider might agree to lower your bills temporarily.
What you’ll be offered will depend on your individual situation, so get in touch with your supplier to see what help they can offer.
If you don’t think you’ll be able to afford to pay your council tax because you’re now on a lower income or claiming benefits, you might be eligible for a council tax reduction which could reduce your bill by up to 100%. The amount you receive will depend on where you live, your circumstances, your household income and whether you have children or other dependents living with you. You can apply for a council tax reduction here.
If you don’t qualify for a reduction, you may still be able to ask your council whether you might be able to take a break from payments for a month or two. The support available varies from council to council so it’s worth contacting your local council to find out what help they can provide – you can find their contact details here.
Petrol and diesel
Although the Government cut fuel duty by 5p a litre until March, prices remain steep, so it could pay to shop around next time you need to fill up.
You can search for the cheapest fuel prices in your area at Petrolprices.com, which has data for nearly 8,500 petrol stations across the UK. The site claims that the average user can save as much as £220 a year by always locating the cheapest places to buy fuel.
Seek professional help if you’re struggling
As well as asking for support on your regular bills, it’s a good idea to look at other ways you might be able to reduce your outgoings. Hopefully our articles How to save money – 21 money saving tips and 28 frugal living tips might have some useful ideas.
If you’ve explored all of your available options and are still struggling, your council may offer a local welfare scheme for families and individuals who are struggling to meet basic costs. The Household Support Fund, which was extended until 31 March 2024 in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, is provided by the government to councils for this purpose. Contact your local council to see if you might be available for support. You can read more about this in our article The Household Support Fund Explained.
If you’re finding it impossible to manage your finances during this difficult time and are worried about your debts spiralling out of control, it’s important to get professional help as soon as possible. Charities StepChange, National Debtline and the Debt Advice Foundation all offer free debt advice and may be able to help you arrive at a manageable repayment plan with your creditors. The sooner you act, the better your chances of finding a workable solution so don’t be ashamed about speaking to someone during these times of crisis. Find out more in our article Are money worries affecting your mental health?
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