Save money on benefits, tax credits, low income

Fran Forumite Posts: 11,297
Part of the Furniture Combo Breaker
I thought it would be an idea if we exchanged ideas on how to save money when on lower incomes, quite often people lose jobs or have to give up work due to ill health and don't know where to start. These are some of my ideas:

Firstly make sure you are receiving all the benefits you may be entitled to. You can check this by going to a Citizens Advice Bureau for example with all your paperwork. Citizens Advice have a website with general advice: but you will need help with individual circumstances.

Make sure you prioritize things. Firstly, a roof over your head (your housing situation), gas, electricity and water etc. and things like court fines which if you don't pay could land you up in prison or with hefty fines.

Get any debts you already have under control (C.A.B. can also help with these or there may be a free debt help phone or centre in your area.)

Don't take any more spending on as you are now in a position where you can't afford it.

Use payment cards for eg. phone bills, rent, water, where available and don't be tempted to spend on credit cards and get more expenses to pay out. Use a debit card so you know exactly where you stand. Don't pay by direct debit because every now and then a yearly bill, birthdays, something unexpected will crop up and you may want to pay other bills a week or two later than normal.

On some benefits you are allowed to earn a small amount before it is taken into account - make the most of this, even if it's only a fiver.

Learn/think more about economising with heating etc.

If you are on some benefits long term you may be able to get a Budgeting Loan or a Crisis Loan from the Social Fund (which has to be paid back) or in certain circumstances a Community Care Grant (which doesn't have to be paid back).

Do some voluntary work, you can get expenses that may increase your income slightly.

When buying food, you will have to buy the plain white or striped packets (value etc.). The food content is often fine but costs a lot less. Look out for special offers in your local supermarket.

Check out websites such as this for other money saving tips and advice.

I hope some of this is of some help, if it has been covered elsewhere I apologise. I would be interested to know of other people's experiences.
Torgwen.......... :) ...........


  • System
    System Community Admin Posts: 178,000
    10,000 Posts Photogenic Name Dropper
    Community Admin
    Thank you for that Fran. We have struggled along on benefits now for 3 1/2 years (since my partner was forced to give up work) and found things quite hard to start off with (and on occassion still do) especially as we both used to work at well paid jobs (he was a computer engineer and I was a mechanical engineer). One of the things that I have found very helpful in this time is a computer program called Microsoft money. It takes quite a bit of time to set up all of your regular payments and the like but it is well worth it in the end. Before I started using it we always seemed to forget about at least one direct debit or bill that was due and ended up spending money we couldn't afford to. Since I have been using this though we seem to have a little bit extra at the end of the benefit which we normally use to treat the kids and put a little away for emergencies. I think it is because if we need to get something that we wouldn't normally I go to the program and see what is available to us after all bills are paid. In this program I always put a weekly allowance to cover petrol/food/etc so that money is always there as well. I also make a note of what we have spent our cash on so that we can see where the bulk of our spending is and we can change our habits as need be. I think that it is invaluable to us. We started using the program in October and managed to get through Christmas and the new year without any problems at all ;D It may be psychological but it works for us and could help others as well.
  • Fran
    Fran Forumite Posts: 11,297
    Part of the Furniture Combo Breaker
    That sounds interesting, I'll have to look into it.
    Torgwen.......... :) ...........
  • vanoonoo
    vanoonoo Forumite Posts: 1,897
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Combo Breaker
    I've been struggling on job seekers allowance for a few months now and have a few tricks (mainly tricking myself to be honest).

    I get a giro every fortnight (when they decide I deserve on but that is another story) and instead of paying it into my bank account I cash it at the post office, then pay some of the cash into my bank to cover my direct debits. I kept all my bills on direct debit cos quite few of them are cheaper to pay by direct debit (but I take your point about being able to juggle money week to week if you don't). I then have cash which I use for any day to day stuff. If at the end of the two weeks I have any cash left it goes into the bank account. If at the end of the month there is any money left in the bank account it goes into a savings account.

    I've been lucky that I have very generous friends and a very supportive family, so instead of christmas and birthday presents (which I actually asked to duck out of this year) I was given things like stamps, envelopes, luncheon vouchers and tesco clubcard vouchers (which are transferrable between clubcard holders).

    I buy the "value" brands of most things and perk them up with herbs and spices or additional favlourings if I think they need it.

    I try to plan my meals in advance but usually don't stick to the plan cos it's so boring preparing a meal for one person.

    I stopped smoking.

    I stopped going out, if friends are going out and want me to go they either pay for me or start or end the evening with me at my flat or I go to their homes. I still have a pretty active social life even if most of it is in my own home whilst wearing pyjamas ;)

    When I gave back the company car I bought a diesel fiesta as I believe it to be most economical for the type of journeys I take

    I shopped around for my insurance (do you know that they load the premium of people who are out of work as they are more likely to make a claim?)

    I check my utility statements regularly and if I have over paid on anything and am due a credit I either ask for the monthly direct debit payment to be reduced or ask for the credit to go into my bank account.

    I have fought with the council tax rebate office and have finally won

    I use my credit card only if I want to delay payment til the statement comes in and accrue points / cashback / whatever then pay it off in full from either my current account or now depleted savings


    will come back with more.

    oh and I paid tax and national insurance for 17 years before being made redundant and got 6 months contribution based jobseekers allowance then got told I wasn't entitled to any further jobseekers allowance until my "savings" dipped below a certain level. the "savings" were a remortgage I had taken out to do some stuff on my home. I'm now back on income jobseekers allowance.

    my luxuries are my car, my mobile phone, my tv licence and my internet connection
  • frugalgenius
    frugalgenius Forumite Posts: 4 Newbie
    hi, i'm a newbie here so i guess i should introduce myself before i go on

    my name is morrigan and i'm an american expat living in scotland for the last 5 years with my scottish husband and 2 year old daughter.

    i've run a uk specific frugal group on yahoo for 2.5+ years and now have a website and forums as well.

    i was actually just on here looking for information on child tax credit and working tax credit as i've just come out of a training for work program (web design) and have the job centre breathing down my neck again! i'm not entirely certain of the ins and outs of wtc/ctc as i wasn't elegible for them the last time i worked.

    anyway what i wanted to tell you is that frugal genius uk is a very friendly group and we love to have new people pop in and say hello, share a little and learn a little. we've got many people that are desperately skint (me included!) so anyone needing help to really stretch the budget will find it with us. also the members are brilliant for answering just about any question, even if it's off topic!

    i'd love to share a few tips with you now but i'm knackered (it's nearly 3am) and my wee one is restless in the next room.

    i'll pop back tomorrow and give some good pointers. if anyone is interested in visiting the website and/or the yahoo group just say so here and i'll post the link :D

  • frugalgenius
    frugalgenius Forumite Posts: 4 Newbie
    ps i meant to add that the website has a link to the moneysaving expert cuz it's a brilliant resource!

  • oli_3
    oli_3 Forumite Posts: 7 Forumite
    Hi I hope your wee one had a settled night! I have no problem with you posting a link to your site.... the more the merrier as far as I am concerned.
    PS i love the name Morrigan.........does it have some sort of meaning such as good wih money, or drives a hard bargain?
    Anyway all the best with your studies. Having just completed a course at uni. myself I know how hard a time it can be juggling family, finance and fun....
  • Fran
    Fran Forumite Posts: 11,297
    Part of the Furniture Combo Breaker
    Hi Morrigan - Did you get the info you needed on tax credits? This link may be helpful if not:

    I'm sure you have some interesting things to contribute here....... :)
    Torgwen.......... :) ...........
  • Savvy_Sue
    Savvy_Sue Forumite Posts: 45,424
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper
    Specifically if you have children and a low income:

    check out free school meals - they now try to deal with this very discreetly so that the whole class doesn't know

    if there is a uniform you need, ask whether it is available second hand - schools may run second hand shops and uniformed organisations may keep any that are handed back in to pass on to others

    for secondary school definitely (and possibly for primary school) you may be able to get a grant for uniform through the LEA - but apply in good time because it takes time and you are likely to get vouchers which can only be spent in certain shops

    for school trips and activities, consider asking if there is a 'hardship fund' or similar which can help you - and if there is no automatic provision for paying larger sums by instalments go and ask for it

    look out for second hand toy and equipment sales run by local schools, National Childbirth Trust etc - both to buy and to sell!
    Signature removed for peace of mind
  • Fran
    Fran Forumite Posts: 11,297
    Part of the Furniture Combo Breaker
    I believe you can only get free school meals if you are on Income Support now (but it's worth checking). My kids schools in Wales have never contributed to school uniform unfortunately, I don't know if that applies to all of Wales or how much of other countries ??? Thanks to people who are posting here, everyone has a different angle on things :)
    Torgwen.......... :) ...........
  • polandro
    polandro Forumite Posts: 16 Forumite
    I am pretty sure that you can also get free school meals if you are getting CTC and have a gross income less than £13,230.

    Toy libraries are good - the kids are usually bored with the toy by the time it goes back plus they get to play with a large range of items without you having to have loads of storage space.

    Go shopping with a friend so that you can go halves on special offers.

    If you live in London you can get a free bus pass for children under 11.

    Check out to see if you can get any energy saving grants.
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