You’d have to have been living under a rock not to know that the cost of living has gone THROUGH THE ROOF lately.

Sadly, I often work with people who are already struggling financially and this recent rise in food, petrol, bills and god knows what else has hit them the hardest – as always is the case in hard times.

Now, let me start by saying I am very aware of the privilege of my own situation – I get to live without fear of eviction or where I might find the money for mine and my family’s next meal – I know I’m one of the lucky ones.

But this doesn’t mean that I’m not careful with money…In fact, I am probably one of the most frugal people you’ll meet! I am very strict my myself and my family about how and what we spend money on, and about where we spend it (see my points later about shopping locally), and it’s through this approach – as well as the fact that a huge part of my work is helping people who are in very serious financial trouble – that I have amassed some useful information on how to better stretch your budget.

I really hope there is something in here that helps you to make your hard-earned cash go further.

Getting your bills down

As with many of the tips in this blog (and the guidance that I give people I work with), it’s not about a huge overhaul of your life. I know that at times of financial struggle, everything can feel overwhelming. It’s about taking small steps to make changes where possible.

One of the first things I do when someone calls me because they are having financial struggles or are at risk of losing their home is to sit down and go through their finances with them – or ask that they go through with a friend. There are many simple things that are easily overlooked when circumstances are overwhelming, so having someone go through everything with you who’s outside of the situation can be really useful. I call this a Bill Audit.

Simply, this is just taking some time to actually pay attention to your accounts. It might seem too simple, but I cannot tell you the number of times that I’ve sat down with someone who was struggling to pay their mortgage, only to discover that they have buried their heads in the sand, no longer open their bills and haven’t looked at a bank statement in months. It definitely feels like a scary prospect and avoiding the issue is a very commonly used coping technique, but it won’t help in the long run and it’s a great feeling to cross off any expenses that you can live without.

How to do a bill audit.

  1. Gather a recent statement or log into your online account for all your bank accounts/credit cards, and anywhere you have money coming in/out.
  2. Write a list of everything that comes out each month
  3. Cancel anything that you don’t need. The things in this category are normally forgotten subscriptions (where they started free but at some point you started getting charged),
  4. Cancel anything you decide you can live without. This might be a gym membership if you’re not getting the use out of it, a National lottery direct debit, maybe even an insurance policy that you didn’t cancel when you switched suppliers (which is what happened to me on my latest bill audit!). SKY TV is also a common entry in this list. If you don’t want to cancel, you can always call and tell them that you are. Sky will regularly HALF their monthly fee if they think they’re going to lose you!
  5. There might be other things that could be reduced down too. Car insurance for example is SO much more expensive if you let it roll over to another year instead of getting a new quote each time.

Once you know where you stand with your current bills, the next step is to look where else you can bring costs down. Here are some of my suggestions.


Reduce your Energy Bills

Gas and electricity costs are one of the main culprits in this cost of living rise. Because all of the suppliers have upped their prices, there’s really not very far to go in cutting your bills down through your supplier. Sadly it’s not a problem that can be solved merely by cutting down on your usage, but reducing your usage will help your bills some, and you’ll be doing your bit for the environment too.

Luckily the weather is warming up now, but in the colder months, I’d often visit 2 or 3-bed homes with single occupants, heating an entire home when they spend 90% of their time in the lounge and kitchen, so I always suggest turning the radiators off and closing the doors on any rooms which aren’t used often to drastically reduce the energy usage. Your boiler uses up the same amount of energy however many radiators it has to heat, but by turning some of them off, your boiler will work more efficiently, meaning the rest of the house will warm up sooner and the boiler will switch off sooner, and you’ll save money because you’re using less gas.

Reducing a 10-minute shower down to 5 minutes saves between 35p and 90p per day (avg 60p per day =  £219 per year)


Reduce medication costs

If you have to regularly pay for prescriptions, look at the NHS prepaid prescription certificates. The savings are huge, and for once this is one of those deals that doesn’t require you to pay upfront to benefit from it! For a monthly direct debit of just over the cost of one prescription per month, you can get as many prescriptions as you need. So if you’re paying for more than 12 prescriptions a year, this is an absolute must.


Are you entitled to any benefits? 

One of the first things I check when I work with a homeowner is if they are getting any and all benefits that they’re entitled to. If your living circumstances have recently changed you often don’t realise what options are now available, or simply haven’t yet got around to applying yet. Single Person Council Tax discount is a common benefit that people don’t always consider. You can see if you’re able to benefit from any Council Tax reductions here.


Could you make an extra income from your home?

You can rent out a room in your home for extra income, and up to £7500 is tax-free.

People are often very nervous when I suggest this as a solution for mortgage arrears as they fear that they will be bound by lots of rules and regulations like landlords are – and that if the person doesn’t work out they will have to go through a lengthy and costly court process.

The great news is that renting out a single room in a house that you also occupy isn’t bound by the same rules as renting out a full house as a landlord.

If you rent the house out in its entirety, you must protect the renter’s deposit and they have a 6-month secure tenancy, but if you rent a single room they would be staying under license which can easily be revoked if it doesn’t work out.

Learn all about renting a room out, here. 

Meal Planning

Meal planning, shopping and cooking in bulk are the things that most people who have done it would agree are a huge money saver, a great way to make your life run a lot smoother and reduce your waste. But do you do them?

I understand that bulk cooking and shopping in themselves can be a challenge if you haven’t got the budget to buy things in bulk, the space to store food, or the headspace to plan and allocate the time to planning and cooking (I work with enough people who work all hours and would struggle to find this spare time), BUT if you switch to click and collect or delivery instead of going to the supermarket, you can save loads of time for this task. Most supermarkets will deliver over £30, and if you are flexible with delivery times, you can get the delivery for free or a pound or two.

Despite knowing how much easier my life is when I meal plan, every so often I fall out of the habit and it feels like the biggest, most overwhelming task in the world! When that happens I do what I do for most tasks in my life! Break it down into simple, small steps. So when I know I need to do a meal plan, these are my steps-

  1. Check cupboards and freezer and list any main ingredients I can use
  2. List 7 meals (they don’t have to be in order – you can pick which one you have on the day so you’re not restricted). If you’re lacking inspiration, flick through a cookbook, BBC good food, one of the thousands of online meal plans, or ask the family to throw some suggestions at you!
  3. Create a shopping list from the meal plan and order it online for delivery or click and collect


Follow these tips and more on Instagram


Top Meal plan tip! Plan fresh meals for the first few days, and cupboard / frozen for the later part of week!


Joanne’s Top Money-Saving Resources

Jack Monroe has risen to fame by creating healthy and nutritious meals for an incredibly low cost. Her cookbook and blog list the cost of each serving

Leftovers? This fab Tescos Leftovers Recipe Tool comes in SO handy for using up the last bits in the fridge!

Is your supermarket the cheapest? Find out with Which’s Supermarket Comparison.

An absolute MUST for everyone is the Martin Lewis newsletter, he delivers sensible and easy-to-digest money-saving tips and advice straight to your inbox. I have recently saved £40 on my fussy doggo’s pet food!

The Too Good to go app is my favourite way to feel like I’m getting a takeaway, without being too reckless! Restaurants and Cafes/sandwich shops post food that has to be eaten that day, and you can nip down and collect it for an absolute SNIP of the normal cost. I regularly get a carvery takeaway for 4 people from Toby Carvery for £10!

Another favourite of mine is the Feed yourself for £1 a day Facebook group…so many great ideas!

Check what benefits you’re entitled to with the 10-minute benefits checker.

I’m Joanne. I’ve lived and breathed property for longer than I care to remember! This blog is to provide advice and support with problems surrounding property, and life in general.


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