How can I manage the cost of living crisis?
NABS’ lead senior support advisor offers advice on how industry professionals can save during the cost of living crisis.
Understandably, the cost of living crisis is a concern for many of us. Although this will be a difficult time, there are some things you can do to try to lessen some of the worst effects, and it’s important to know that there is help out there for you.
General budgeting can be a huge help if you don’t do this already. You could consider using the Money Helper budgeting tool to be on top of your income and spending and to help you see where you could cut back.
Other types of planning can help you to save money as well. For example, you could try meal planning during the week rather than buying lunch when you go into the office or having takeaways in the evening. It might take a bit of work but you can really save this way.
If you have credit cards and loans, you may wish to speak to your provider about payment holidays or reducing regular repayments to make them more affordable. You could also speak to StepChange for free, impartial debt advice. NABS regularly refers people regularly to StepChange because their advice is always brilliant and simple to follow.
Can your employer do anything to help? It’s worth speaking to them about any changes you could make. For example, working from home more often could reduce your travel costs — on the flipside, you may find that going into the office more helps you to cut down on energy usage at home. Consider what’s more cost-effective for you and chat with your manager to design your working pattern accordingly. Some companies are introducing cost of living salary reviews and extra payments; if you feel confident to do so, perhaps you could suggest this happens in your company.
Energy usage is a really big theme here and one where you can make a tangible difference to your outgoings. You could explore whether you qualify for any of the government support being offered. This includes a £400 energy rebate from government for all UK households and cost of living grants if you’re on certain benefits or tax credits , which differ depending on your circumstances. The government has also said energy bills for a typical household will be capped at £2,500 for two years, from 1 October.
If you’re struggling to pay fuel bills, firstly, ensure your bill is accurate by submitting a meter reading (rather than your provider basing your bill on estimates, which could be inaccurate). Also, do speak to your provider to agree a payment plan rather than just not paying or reducing your gas and electricity so much that your health suffers. Your provider should offer a range of support options so it’s worth finding out what they can do.
Many bigger energy firms have charitable trusts which could support you. Beyond these, you may also wish to explore other charities, such as NABS, your industry charity — we offer support grants to eligible applicants to help with financial difficulties. You could also search for other charities on the turn2us grant tool.
There are a few tweaks you could experiment with to reduce your energy usage, such as turning your appliances off of standby mode and only boiling the water you need in the kettle. They might sound like small changes but together they can make a welcome difference to your bill. The Energy Saving Trust has more ideas to explore on its advice page.
If you celebrate Christmas, it’s worth giving some thought now as to how you might approach it. Christmas can be an expensive business at the best of times. This year, you might consider agreeing with your friends and family to reduce spending on presents. You could also start putting some money aside now to spread the cost.
It’s important that you don’t feel pressure to spend money that you don’t have. This year, more than ever, people should understand if you need to cut back on gift-giving.
Finally, it’s important to recognise the emotional impact that the cost of living crisis may have. Worries and strain about paying the bills can lead to anxiety and other mental health challenges. Don’t bottle it up. Please give us a call on the NABS Advice Line where we’ll be here to listen and help in confidence.
Steve Rowe is lead senior support advisor at NABS.