These are a set of ideas to get you through a short period. Perhaps you have started a new job and don’t get paid until the end of the month? Or you have to move and need to save up every penny for a deposit and the first month’s rent? Or you have applied for Job Seekers Allowance but it isn’t yet being paid?
Or perhaps this isn’t an emergency but you are really in the mood to kick-start your debt reduction plan and are happy to have a tough month at the beginning…
Some of the ideas won’t work for you and some may just sound desperate, but a bit here and a bit there can add up and get you through this rough patch.
Cut your food costs
- List everything you have and work out how to use them up. Lots of rice and bags of frozen prawns – that would be prawn risotto;
- do you have some UFOs – Unidentified Frozen Objects – in your freezer? Take one out this evening and have a surprise for dinner tomorrow!
- make a list of very cheap meals. Porridge, macaroni cheese, sardines on toast, baked potatoes and baked beans, soup made from odds and ends of vegetables. Think veggie. Lots of ideas here Do you need, or want, extra cheap meals, to live on 50p a day for a bit, or even longer?;
- make the Reduced For Quick Sale – the first aisle you go to in the supermarket and find out what times of day it tends to be filled;
- offer to cook a meal for your friends next month if they’ll cook one for you this month;
- go to your local Food Bank. You usually need a voucher for this – ask a doctor, health visitor, social worker, Citizens Advice, welfare officer, the police and probation officers etc. They will also be able to say if there are other local Food Banks – that link is for the largest network of food banks but there may be a different one closer to you.
Find some extra cash
- empty out those jars of pennies;
- look down the back of the sofa, in all your coat pockets and check any handbags or wallets you don’t often use;
- €25 left from a holiday? Change it! If there is someone going on holiday soon at work, see if they would like to buy your euros – then you both save exchange rate costs;
- if you have been given or bought a T-shirt which is still in its bag with the tags, return it to the shop for a refund;
- think about selling Stuff. A car boot sale can be quick to organise. Sorting through your wardrobe, photographing and describing the items to go on Ebay may take longer but you will be surprised what people do buy.
Cut your travel costs
- walk to work or cycle;
- run home from work – save money on gym fees too!
- in London, take buses, not the tube. It may take a lot longer but it’s only for a few weeks;
- ask if you can work from home for a couple of days;
- lift share and split the petrol costs.
Don’t pay any non-priority debts
If you could get through to next month if you don’t make a payment to a loan, credit card or catalogue but can’t manage if you do, then this is what you have to do. These debts are non-priority debts and your other expenses such as food, rent and bills are more important.
Don’t take out a high cost loan just to be able to pay another debt. That may get you through this month but all your future months will be so much harder!
- once you have a payday loan, often the only way you can get through the next months with the payday loan repayment is to take another loan. Some researchers have created an app which looks at why people think about getting a payday loan and how it tends to go wrong, see Indebted lives.
- guarantor loans are even worse. They may sound cheaper than payday loans but then you have no option but to keep paying it if you don’t want your mum, brother or friend to suffer. I have seen too many people describe a guarantor loan as their worst ever financial decision.
Possible help from the benefits system
- Universal Credit Advance If you have applied for Universal Credit ask for an advance payment. This can be paid very rapidly, within a few days. It is an interest-free loan that will be deducted when your UC starts to be paid. If the Job Centre says you can’t apply, go to your local CAB and ask for their help.
- Local Welfare Assistance Scheme (used to be called Crisis Loans). These will sometimes help families to replace things like white goods and essential furniture and enable vulnerable individuals to afford food and heating. It depends on your area exactly what is on offer – find your local scheme here.
- Budgeting loans If you have been on JSA, ESA or Income Support for more than 6 months, you may be able to get an interest-free budgeting loan. That could let you replace a fridge or a broken washing machine. On Universal Credit you can apply for a Budgeting Advance.
- For students Talk to your uni/college student welfare people. Or your tutor or any mentor/buddy. Talk to anyone! There may well be help to get you through but you have to find it.
Do you have a longer-term problem?
Most of these ideas won’t work in the long run. Eating all your store cupboard food means there is nothing left for next month. But they may get you through to the next payday without the need to resort to a Pay Day Loan. If you borrow £200 now for 3 weeks so this month will be easier, that means living on £250 less next month because of the interest added, so it’s better to deal with the smaller amount of pain now.
If your debts are the main cause of your difficulty, then get some debt advice as this isn’t a “one month problem”. Have a look at the Debt Solutions page here for an overview and call National Debtline to talk through what would work best for you.