April has come and sadly the price and tax increases have not proved to be an April Fools joke. Awful April is here and we are all faced with the difficulties of squeezed budgets.
A lot of people are really struggling. Foodbank usage is up and many are already behind on their bills. I’m not going to suggest this post holds all the answers. After a disappointing Spring Statement, money saving expert Martin Lewis has already acknowledged there are very few answers right now. But, you may be able to make your budget go a little further.
Awful April is going to be tough for a lot of people, but there are some steps you can take to help you cope with all the increases.
In this post I’ll cover:
- Check tariffs
- Re-do your budget
- Claim everything you can
- Cut subscriptions
- Ask for help
Energy bills are on the rise.
One way to counter this is to look at your tariffs. For example, my energy is almost half the price between 12am and 7am.
This means anything I use between those times will be significantly cheaper than during the day. You can use timers to put your dishwasher and washing machine, for example, on in these periods.
I also try and charge phones and laptops as soon as I wake up in the mornings – around 6am on work days! This means the majority of my charging is on the cheaper tariff.
With lighter mornings and evenings on their way, hopefully we’ll need less lights during the day, which will also help.
Re-do your budget
There is no point pretending your previous budget will still work. Going over budget each month will just be demoralising and frustrating.
Instead, re-do your budget to reflect increased prices and bills.
This is a really useful process as it might highlight some areas you can cut costs. For example, can you take £50 out of your ‘fun budget’ each month? This may not be ideal but could free up some extra room while times are especially tough.
If your budget shows you’ll be short each month, at least you’ll know by how much. It may be possible to make up this difference through side hustles or using cashback apps.
Addressing the problem is the first step to solving it!
Claim everything you can
Discounts, refunds, and rebates – there are a lot of things you can claim. Make sure you don’t miss out on anything!
Here are some of my favourite ways to save money that aren’t particularly well known:
- Connect your railcard to your Oyster card. Save a third on all off peak travel. This cuts my train fare from over £7 to £2.70!
- Claim 25% off your council tax if you live alone.
- Use cashback apps (these are well-known, but still a great tip).
- Check if you’ve overpaid your student loan. Over 45,000 overpaid on their student loans in 2020/21 and were entitled to an average of £375 back!
This tactic has been suggested and argued about more times than I can count.
It won’t necessarily solve all your problems, but it may help.
Go through all your direct debits very carefully. Check what they are all for and see if any of them can be cut.
Cancelling an unused gym membership or Netflix account may be an easy option. It’s likely a lot of people will have already done this. But, consider whether you can save money on your internet or phone bill. Do you really need to be paying for any extras?
Even phoning up and saying you’re thinking of switching may lead to you being offered a cheaper deal.
If you can’t cut out a subscription completely, see if you can at least reduce it. For example, changing Netflix from one screen to two, or reducing the data package on your phone.
Ask for help
Never be ashamed of asking for help. The worst thing you can do is bury your head in the sand.
If you’re in debt, speak to your credit card provider – or loan provider – to come up with an affordable re-payment plan.
Similarly, if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills, speak to your provider. They have to offer support and help you find a way to speak.
Finally, don’t be scared to speak to your friends and family. This won’t help you pay your bills, but can help you cope with the stress and worry these issues can cause. They may also have some useful tips and tricks to help you.
Don’t forget to follow me on social media @Katie20Percent to keep up to date with all my latest posts.
Did you know I offer freelance writing services, proof reading/editing and personal finance workshops and talks for schools, workplaces and organisations? I also regularly feature in the media. Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out on Twitter @Katie20Percent if you’d like to find out more.
If you found this post about how to cope with Awful April helpful, then please share it on social media. What are your top tips for managing Awful April? Comment below – I’d love to hear your thoughts!