Budgeting tips for low income families

I meet a lot of families who are struggling on a low income.  Here are just a few things you can do to make life a little easier.

1. Create a personal budget

A good starting point is to work out what money you have coming in and what’s going out. Making a budget gives you a good idea of where your money goes, and shows you where you might be able to save money. It will also help you see whether you are living within your means.

You can find information and guidance on completing a personal budget from National Debtline. If you’re in debt, you’ll also need to know if you’ve got enough money to start paying your debts off.

2. Claim all the benefits you’re entitled to

You can find lots of information about benefits for families here https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits/families. I would also recommend that you complete the Benefits Adviser online calculator to find out what you are entitled to https://www.gov.uk/benefits-adviser.

 3. Find ways to cut costs and become a savvy shopper

You often have more control over what you spend than the amount you have coming in.  Review your personal budget to find out if there is anything you can easily cut back on, or shop around for a better deal. View Money Saving Expert on how to boost your income, and the Money Advice Service Cut-back calculator.  You might be surprised at how much small things add up!

3.1 Use comparison and cashback websites

Whether you want to save money on for example, car insurance, utility bills or your mobile phone contract, use the top two comparison sites MoneySupermarket.com and GoCompare.com to compare prices from retailers.  Also check Confused.com and Comparethemarket.com.

Once you’ve found the cheapest quote on one of the comparison websites, visit one of the top Cashback websites to find out if the retailer can offer you cashback on that product or service.

Set up a free account with one of the top Cashback sites such as Top Cash Back, log-in and then click on the retailer and product or service you are interested in.  The Cashback website then takes you to the retailer’s website where you make the payment.  Before you make the payment, check the price is the same or a similar amount to the original price you found through the comparison website.  The payment is then tracked and you will be paid cash via the cashback website. However, please note that cashback sites can only pay you if they get the money from the retailer.  Also ensure you test the tracking on the cashback website.

For further information on how to save money on utilities and phones, view http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/.

3.2 Supermarket Shopping

Plan your meals for the week and write a shopping list based on a budget – this may help you to avoid making impulse purchases.

When you’re at the supermarket, buy items from the top and bottom shelves; high value items are always placed at eye level.  Try some of the Own Brand or Value products and see if you notice any difference.

You may want to consider visiting your supermarket at a specific time of the day when prices of products (near their sell-by-dates) are reduced.  You can ask one of the staff at your store to identify the best time to visit.  At most supermarkets, the largest reductions usually start at 7pm.

Alternatively, we highly recommend the supermarket comparison site mySupermarket which allows you to compare prices of products at each supermarket at a glance. You can select which supermarket you usually shop at (Tesco, Asda, Sainbury’s or Ocado) and mySupermarket will make you aware of cheaper products by showing you a £ icon. If mySupermarket shows there are more savings in one of the other supermarkets on this website, you can switch supermarket by clicking on the supermarket tabs. Before you start ordering, you must check that the supermarket can deliver in your area and how much they charge for delivery.  The benefit of food shopping online is you can calculate how much you’re spending as you add each item to your cart and ensure you keep within your budget!

You may wish to consider downshifting your supermarket. We highly recommend ALDI for staple goods and they have a great selection of fruit and vegetables that are often half the price of other supermarkets.  Aldi like most supermarkets will stack from the bottom or back of the shelf, so reach to the back or bottom of the shelves to find the longest ‘use by’ and ‘best buys’ dates.

3.3 Get holidays for less

Take a look at the Money Advice Service guide on how to save money on holidays https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/get-holidays-for-less

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