The rising cost of living has sparked fears among millions of people about how they will pay their bills in the months to come.
Last month, the UK government approved a 3.1% increase in benefits from April 11, in line with last autumn’s inflation.
However, fears have been raised by activists that this comes on top of a reduction in real terms of payments due to inflation, which is already 4.8% for the 12 months to December 2021 and is expected to increase further by the time the new benefit rate comes into effect.
This was compounded by rising national insurance rates, price hikes at some supermarkets and a 54% increase in energy costs announced in February.
The independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has warned that some Universal Credit claimants could see a drop of between £500 and £720 in April. You can find out more about which parts of Wales will be hardest hit by rising energy costs here.
With so much to worry about, however, there are a number of easy ways to save money ahead of the changes coming in April.
Here are some helpful tips to help you get your finances under control over the coming months.
Look for deals on groceries
With life being so busy, people often want to spend as little time as possible in the supermarket, rushing for essential basics rather than being on the lookout for what’s on offer.
But being aware of discounts and specials makes a difference, especially considering how food and toiletries can add up. For example, Tesco’s Clubcard can save you around 1% on your all-inclusive purchases – not a huge sum, but still a saving over the course of a year. Discounts on items like toilet paper, canned food and other food and drink are always swirling around supermarkets, so it’s worth paying attention to even if it means taking a bit longer to shop. You can check which loyalty programs offer the best savings here.
the Too Good To Go App is also useful for finding deals on foods that are soon to expire, while reducing food waste.
Shop around for cheaper bills
One pattern many fall into is automatically renewing things like home insurance, broadband, or TV subscriptions without looking for cheaper alternatives.
While it’s obviously less time consuming and more convenient, one way to save might be to check out what other companies are offering, as you might be able to get what you want, or similar, for less money. .
Using comparison websites like GoCompare, Compare the Market or Confused is always a good idea, but ideally you should also check quotes with individual companies as they might be able to tailor it for you or offer discounts not available on comparison sites.
Recycle or look for things for free
A great way to save money could be to buy some of what you need second-hand or even get it for free.
Websites such as Depop and Vinted offer a huge range of second-hand clothes and other items, while you can often pick up bargains at your local charity shop.
Another option is to use local groups on Facebook where people sell or even give away items they no longer need. Websites like Freecycle, where people also donate unwanted items, from appliances to furniture, are an easy and sustainable way to find whatever you’re looking for without paying a penny.
Look at these subscriptions
Whether it’s Spotify, Netflix, or Prime, most of us have at least a few entertainment subscriptions along the way.
But it’s worth keeping track of what you’re paying for and deciding before renewal whether you really need it or not.
Many websites often have the auto-renewal option turned on by default, so chances are you’re paying for something you haven’t used in months without realizing it, so you should check individual sites and cancel anything you pay unnecessarily.
Enjoy perks like free childcare
For many families, childcare is one of the biggest expenses, but there are plenty of options for free childcare assistance if you meet certain criteria.
If you have young children, make sure you have applied for the free childcare you are entitled to – you can get tax-free childcare if you work.
In Wales, some working parents are entitled to a mixture of childcare and early education for children aged three or four. This includes nurseries, childminders, nurseries, crèches and out-of-school childcare facilities.
To obtain it, you must meet a number of conditions. These are:
- your child must be 3 or 4 years old
- you must earn at least the national minimum wage or living wage for an average of 16 hours per week
- each parent must earn less than £100,000 a year
- single parents must work
- parents of two-parent families must both work
- parents who are self-employed or under a zero hour contract must prove their status and provide the relevant documents
- parents who are employed or self-employed but who are on legal leave, for example maternity leave
- foster families and caregivers may also be eligible
Find out more about the program in Wales here.
Take steps to reduce energy bills
With the cost of heating your home rising dramatically right now, it’s important to take all possible steps to reduce your energy bills.
There’s a lot of talk about costly re-insulation or boiler changes, which will likely be needed in many homes for years to come, but in the meantime, smaller, more manageable steps can make a big difference.
Making sure radiators aren’t blocked by clothes racks or furniture, keeping doors closed when the heater is on, and turning off switches on appliances you’re not using all make a small difference, which can be accumulate over time. Learn more about how to save on your energy costs here.
Sell items you don’t use
Just as you might save a little money buying something used (or free!), you might also get money for items you no longer use.
While you may have no use for that old desk, car seat, DVD collection, or sewing basket, chances are someone will, and you could make some money. by advertising it on sites like Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace.
Reduce fuel costs
The continued rise in fuel prices has many people worried, with prices in the UK currently at an all-time high and giving Wales a grim reading for the past week.
Considering rising fuel costs, it could save you a few bucks here and there if you can use public transport and leave the car at home, even for a day or two a week.
You can get a Railcard, which can save you money on trips around the UK depending on your age. For example, if you’re between 26 and 30, you can get a £30 Railcard which gives you around 33% off most trains. Walking or taking the bus can also be an alternative if you are spending a lot of money on refueling your car.
Check if you can get a reduction on your council tax
With council tax rates also set to increase in many parts of Wales, you should make sure you check whether or not you qualify for a reduction on your council tax bill.
If you meet certain conditions, for example if you are applying for benefits or have a low income, you may be entitled to a reduction or even be required to pay nothing at all. Eligibility depends on each local council, but you can find out more here.
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