With rising inflation and increases in energy bills, fuel, food prices, National Insurance and more, people are facing the biggest squeeze in household budgets in more than 50 years.
To help your money go further, we've teamed up with our energy partner PECT and Citizen's Advice Rural Cambs to offer practical advice on things you can do to reduce your expenditure and lessen the impact of the cost of living crisis.
Check your entitlements
Complete a benefits check to see if more money help is available with your everyday living and housing costs. This could include:
- Universal Credit
- Disability and Carers benefits
- Pension credit
- Help with childcare costs
- Working from home allowance
You can find links to a number of free benefits calculators on the Gov.uk website.
Other help you can apply for:
- Council Tax Reduction/Housing Benefit: If you need help to pay your Council Tax or rent, you may be eligible for a Council Tax Reduction and/or Housing Benefit. Apply online or phone 01354 654321.
- Discretionary Housing Payments: If you rent your home and claim Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit, then Discretionary Housing Payments can provide help with rent or housing costs. Apply online or phone 01354 654321.
- Healthy Start: If you're more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4, you may be entitled to help to buy healthy food and milk. Visit the Healthy Start website for more information.
- Prescriptions/dental care/glasses: Check your eligibility for free help on the NHS website.
- Free school meals: Check if your child can get free school meals on the Gov.uk website.
Household Support Fund
The Household Support Fund (HSF) has been created to help people experiencing immediate financial hardship to pay for food and household energy bills.
Support is offered in five ways:
- Support for pensioners who are struggling financially
- Through Trusted Partners
- Cambridgeshire Holiday Voucher Scheme (CHVS)
- Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) Programme
- Support with food and household energy
The HSF is money Cambridgeshire County Council has been awarded to help those in need and most affected by the cost of living crisis to support them to resolve their financial issues. It is not charity. Find out more about the Household Support Fund on the Cambridgeshire County Council website.
Help in an emergency
Cambridgeshire Local Assistance Scheme (CLAS): CLAS can provide information, advice and practical support and assistance in times of exceptional pressure. You may be eligible for a CLAS award, which can be in the form of supermarket vouchers, energy vouchers, new cookers, or recycled white goods and furniture. Visit the CLAS website for more information or call 0808 248 7807.
Save money on energy, water, and everyday costs
- Take advantage of FREE home energy advice: Fenland District Council has teamed up with energy advice organisation PECT to offer Fenland residents free help and advice on how to make their homes warmer, cheaper to run and more energy efficient. Their Warm Homes advice service can provide information on the national Warm Home Discount; choosing the best energy tariff; details about further grant funding for home energy improvements; and free small energy-saving measures. To take advantage of the Warm Homes service, call 01733 568408 (extension 313) or 0800 8021773, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and to use an online referral form, visit the PECT website.
- Warm Homes Discount Scheme: You could get £140 off your electricity bill under the Warm Home Discount Scheme. To check if you're eligible, visit the Gov.uk website.
- The Local Energy Advice Partnership (LEAP): LEAP is a free service that is helping people keep warm and reduce their energy bills without costing them any money. To get in touch or to find out more, visit the LEAP website.
- Water bills: If you are struggling to afford your water bill, Anglian Water's Extra Care Support Team can help, with a personalised plan to find the cheapest tariff or a flexible payment plan. For more information, visit the Anglian Water website or call 0800 169 3630.
- Save water: Anglian Water also provides advice on how to save water, and in turn money, and you can apply for a water meter too. Visit the Anglian Water website for more information.
- The Save Money Save Water website collates all the free water saving devices available from the water companies across the UK, such as aerated shower heads, which give you the same shower pressure but uses far less water to do it.
- A number of phone and broadband companies offer discounted tariffs to customers which receive certain benefits. For more information, visit the Ofcom website.
- Many streaming services such as Netflix and Prime Video allow multiple people to use the same account. For instance, under a standard Netflix subscription for £10.99 per month, two people can watch simultaneously and up to five accounts can be added. Contact your streaming service provider for more information.
Food shopping is one of the biggest weekly expenses for families, but there's a range of things you can do to help reduce your spending:
- Set a budget: Each week or month, set aside a certain amount for food. Make sure it's realistic and try to stick to it.
- Plan your meals: Spending a few minutes checking what food you've already got in and then listing which ingredients you need will reduce the chance of impulse buys. Try to think about including cheaper meals, or batch cooking to cover two dinners.
- Shop online: Buying online also keeps impulse buys to a minimum. You can also review what you've got in your basket and remove one or two less important items if you go over budget.
- Store it well: Check the best way to store foods so they don't go off before you use them. Check use-by dates too. If you don't have a plan to use something before its use-by date, can you freeze it? Batch cooking and freezing portions will also help you save money and reduce food waste.
Make a budget - and stick to it
Use a free budget planner to keep a daily record of your everyday expenses, including bills, food, pet supplies, clothing, haircuts etc. Knowing exactly where your money is being spent, and how much you've got coming in can help you get out of debt and start saving. Visit the independent Money Helper website to get started.
Take action on debt
If you have bills or borrowing that you cannot afford, get free, independent debt advice from a regulated debt advice service. A debt advisor can help you get some breathing space to manage your situation better and work out the best way forward.
- Citizens Advice Rural Cambs can provide free, confidential help and advice with debts, as well as managing your money, benefits, tax credits, housing, work, and family/relationship concerns. Contact 0808 278 7807 or visit the Citizens Advice Rural Cambs website for more information and to use their online chat service.
- StepChange can provide free, confidential debt advice and money guidance. Call 0800 138 1111 or visit the StepChange website.