January and February can be blue months for many of us, with the fun of Christmas over with and summer (and the sunshine!) still months away. The cost of Christmas can hit your bank balance hard, especially in the case of single parents.
If you’re struggling to make ends meet right now, it might be a good time to give yourself a ‘money makeover’ for the New Year. You might need to set aside a few hours to sit down and assess your finances, but it will make 2014 a much better year for you and the kids. Your bank account will thank you!
Save money in minutes by:
1. Switching suppliers
Right now, it’s never been quicker or easier to switch suppliers for everything from gas and electricity to broadband, mobile and TV. You don’t have to spend hours trawling the internet and comparing tariffs either, as there are easy switching services like uSwitch that will do it for you, and complete the switch. Some even offer cashback for switching.
2. Checking what benefits you’re entitled to
Single parents are often entitled to benefits, but many of us don’t realise that we can claim them. If you are entitled to Tax Credits (now called Universal Credit), Income Support, Housing Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Childcare vouchers or any other single parent benefits, you should find out how to claim them. It could make all the difference to the household budget. If you need help, and it can be a bit baffling, the best place to go is Citizens Advice.
3. Cutting the cost of debts
If you only have one New Year’s resolution, make 2014 the year that you do something about your debts.
Burying your head in the sand will only make things worse, so let’s be brave and face up to debt. The consumer website MoneySavingExpert has loads of helpful tips to help you clear debt and stay in the black, including advice on balance transfers, which debts to tackle first and how to cut the costs of debt. There’s also some general advice about family money-saving. And, if debt is getting you down, head onto the Single With Kids forum to get some help and support from other single parents who’ve experienced the same problems.
4. Grabbing yourself some cashback
Every time you buy something online, you could be getting cashback using a site like Quidco or TopCashBack. These sites have a whole catalogue of retailers, each with different cashback rates. For example, Argos may offer 3% cashback on online purchases. As long as you click through the cashback website to get to the retailer, you can get this cashback and effectively make all your purchases that much cheaper. If you’re buying something anyway, it’s always worth checking whether you can get cashback on it.
5. Making your savings count
Savings rates aren’t anything to write home about at the moment, but there are things you can do to make your savings go further. Experts recommend that if you haven’t got a savings account at the moment, the first thing to do is to get an ISA. These are Individual Savings Accounts that work the same way as normal savings accounts but with the brilliant benefit that the interest on your money isn’t taxed by the government – so you get to keep it all!
6. Trimming your outgoings
The beginning of a new year is the perfect time for single mums and dads to take a good look at their spending. Ask yourself – do I actually use my gym membership, and do I really need to pay a small fortune for a full TV package? If making ends meet is tough at the moment, taking a look at your Direct Debits and making these kinds of changes could make all the difference. Make sure you check that you’re not paying for anything you aren’t using, such as a subscription for a magazine you don’t get anymore or an annual membership that automatically renews.
7. Switching to non-branded goods
In many cases, the supermarket’s own brand or even value brand is just as good as the big brand name. In fact, many single parents find that they don’t even notice the difference! Our advice is to give non-brands a try – if you like them you can save a bundle on food shopping.
8. Planning out your meals for the week – before you go food shopping!
This, and never going food shopping when you’re hungry, is one of the best tips for saving money on groceries. Single parents with busy schedules can especially benefit from writing down a list of meals for the week, not forgetting breakfasts and lunches, and creating a shopping list from it. This ensures you have everything you need for the week, and don’t have to buy anything at the last minute, and makes it less likely that you’ll be tempted to overspend on things you don’t need in the supermarket.
9. Getting a tax rebate
Loads of us could be due a refund on tax we’ve overpaid in previous tax years – extra cash that could come in very handy! HMRC doesn’t always send out rebates automatically, so you might have to take the initiative and chase it up yourself. Simply get in touch with HMRC and state your case, saying why you think you’ve overpaid your tax, and the taxman will tell you whether or not you’re owed anything.
10. De-cluttering and making some extra spending money
Post-Christmas time is perfect for rooting out things you don’t need anymore and selling them, either on sites like Ebay or Gumtree or in your local newspaper classified section. Got a new phone for Christmas? Send it to a mobile recycling site for some cash (and get that lovely eco-friendly feeling). If the kids got new toys or games from Santa, why not make some extra cash by selling their old things? You’ll have more space and more money.
Get some support…
Remember, if you’re struggling with money worries or debt, there is a world of support, advice and sympathy to be found on the Single With Kids forum . It’s likely that other single parents have been in the same boat as you, and their help and advice could be invaluable. The Single With Kids team could also be able to help you out, if you need to get away on a stress-busting holiday but don’t have a lot to spend. Get in touch or have a look at the website to find out about our value breaks.