Useful Money Saving Links

Useful Links for Money Saving

Here are a few of my favourite sites, that I use when shopping around for various goods and services :
Switching Gas & Electricity suppliers
(You will need a recent energy bill and bank details if you decide to switch, ideally your annual usage statement would be the best)

Buying/Switching Mobile Phone and/or Tariffs

Phone or Broadband Deals

Budgeting / Money Advice

Moving From Benefits into Work

  1. Firstly it is important to try and do the majority of the legwork before starting your new employment.
  2. Initially I advise all clients to carry out a benefits calculation, ideally they should look to do one called a better off calculation. As this will ask for your current benefits and then ask you to input employment details and wages. It will then recalculate what your entitlements will be based on your expected income. Although not an exact science it is a good approximation.
  3. When you start work you should do several things, first inform the Department for Work and Pensions (Jobcentre) 0345 608 8545 or if claiming Universal Credit 0345 600 0723 you will need to have NI Number, details of hours and wages, start date, type of contract, etc.
  4. If you are in receipt of Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction, or both. You should inform your local authority in writing, typically via a change of circumstances form and explain that you are starting work, start date, hours per week, etc.

Extended benefit payments
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support

If you move from benefits into work, or extend your hours to 16 or more per week, you may be entitled to four weeks run on of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support at its previous level if: – the work is expected to last for at least five weeks; – neither you nor your partner has claimed a Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support extension in the last 26 weeks: – you (or your partner if you have one) were claiming one of the benefits below before work started or hours increased:

Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • Income Support
  • Income-related Employment & Support Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Contributions-related Employment & Support Allowance.

After the 4 week extension period expires Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support will be based on your new income.

How to claim

  • You (or your partner) must be about to return to work or have just started work of more than 16 hours per week
  • When you close your out of work benefit claim with Jobcentre Plus the extended payment of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support should be arranged automatically
  • You must confirm that you have been claiming benefits for the previous 26 weeks and that the work is expected to last for at least five weeks
  • During this four weeks you can give details of your expected earnings to your local council who can process your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support claim with your in-work details.

Support for Parents
Childcare Element of Working Tax Credits

An award of Working Tax Credit (not Child Tax Credit) can include an amount towards the cost of childcare with a registered childminder or nursery. This can also include childcare costs such as summer school and after-school clubs.

The amount is 70% of the actual childcare costs up to £175 for one child and up to £300 for two or more children (so an amount up to £122.50 or £210 can be included in the Working Tax Credit award).

An amount towards childcare can be included for

  • A lone parent working 16 hours or more a week
  • A couple if they both work 16 hours or more a week
  • A couple if one partner is working 16 hours or more a week and the other partner is incapacitated, in hospital, entitled to Carer’s Allowance or in prison.

Childcare Vouchers
If a person cannot get an amount towards childcare included in their Working Tax Credit they may should ask their employer if they run a childcare voucher scheme. The employee receives a voucher towards childcare in return for a reduction in their pre tax salary. This allows them to purchase childcare without paying tax and national insurance on that amount and can save up to 30% of childcare costs.

Note that accepting a cut in pay that drops a person’s salary below the national insurance lower earnings limit may affect future entitlement to benefits such as Maternity Allowance and State Retirement Pension.

Not all childcare provision is payable by vouchers so parents will need to ensure that their childcare provider is happy with this arrangement.

Most people would be better off receiving help with the cost of childcare through Working Tax Credit if they qualify, but the calculator can illustrate what the better option might be for someone based on their circumstances.

Early Years Learning
There are free ‘early learning’ classes (for example, a school-attached nursery) available for all 3 or 4 year olds (starting from the term following the child’s third birthday).

This is for at least 38 weeks a year and 15 hours a week (to be spread over at least three days). Families with a low income may also get free classes for 2 year olds.

Help for disabled people
The Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) at Jobcentre Plus provides specialist advice to disabled clients on finding work, job retention and getting practical help through the Access to Work scheme.

Access to Work
If you have a health condition or disability which affects your ability to work you may be entitled to financial support for costs such as travel to work and workplace adjustments through the Access to Work scheme.

There is further information about Access to Work here:

If you are unemployed and moving into work or a work trial (not voluntary work) or have been working less than six weeks, Access to Work pays 100% of the following costs:

  • Travel costs if public transport can’t be used
    A support worker or reader in the workplace
  • A communicator for support in interviews
  • Workplace adjustments which are not considered ‘standard equipment’. Guidance is available on those items considered ‘standard equipment’ (such as analogue hearing and walking aids) at your local Access to Work Contact Centre.

If you have already been employed for more than six weeks, Access to Work will only pay a proportion of the costs above. The employer will be expected to make a contribution towards the cost based on their number of employees.

How to claim

  • Speak to your local Access to Work Contact Centre:
  • South East England/London/East of England – 020 8426 3110
  • South West England/Wales/West Midlands/East Midlands – 02920 423 291
  • Scotland/North West England/North East England/Yorkshire and Humberside – 0141 950 5327.

Other financial support available
Jobcentre Plus advisers’ discretionary fund

Personal advisers at Jobcentre Plus offices may have access to a discretionary fund to help certain groups of people in exceptional circumstances. Payments can be made, for example, to buy a new suit to attend an interview or to help pay initial childcare and travel costs.

To be eligible a person must be on a New Deal scheme or entitled to certain benefits, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support or Carer’s Allowance.

In-Work Emergency Discretion Fund

If a lone parent in work has an unexpected financial problem that could stop them carrying on with their job they can apply to the In-work Emergency Discretion Fund.

A person must be:

  • A lone parent working for at least 16 hours a week
  • Their job must be expected to last for at least 26 weeks and
  • They must have been in the job for less than 26 weeks.

The Jobcentre Plus personal adviser can award up to £300 from the In-work Emergency Discretion Fund. Ask your local Jobcentre Plus office for more details.

Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card
You may be eligible for a Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card to help with your fares during the first few months of commuting to a new job if you’re claiming one of the following:

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit, if you’re aged between 18-24 and have been unemployed for 3-9 months
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit, if you’re aged 25 or over and have been unemployed for 3-12 months
  • Incapacity Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance or Income Support, from 3 months into your claim if you are working with an adviser on returning to employment

You won’t be eligible for a Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card if you’re participating in the Work Programme.

Card holders are entitled to a 50% discount on selected rail tickets.

When you have a Jobcentre Plus travel discount added to an Oyster card you can get:

  • Half adult-rate pay as you go fares
  • Child-rate 7 Day, Monthly or longer period (up to three months) Travelcard, or Bus & Tram Passes
  • Jobcentre Plus discounts are not available on transport for london cash fares.

How do I apply?
To apply for a Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card, you’ll need to go to your local Jobcentre Plus office.

To have the Jobcentre Plus travel discount added to an Oyster card, you’ll need an Oyster card which you’ve registered at a Tube station, Oyster Ticket Stop or Visitor or Travel Information Centre. You can then ask the staff to add your discount entitlement onto your Oyster card.

Being budget conscious and thoughtful on Valentine’s Day

Love is in the air again, with Valentine’s Day looming it’s commercially polished marketing campaign and pressuring us into spending money. Well I think it is a time where we should be more thoughtful, whilst not necessarily wasteful, 100 minutes is worth more to your partner.

Here are some Valentine’s Day ideas to keep more of that hard-earned money in your wallet and less in the shops

Most frugal option: Eat at home! You can make a fabulous steak dinner for a fraction of the cost of most restaurant meals on Valentine’s Day. There will be good deals at most grocery stores for steak and shrimp and a bottle of wine at Aldi or Trader Joes is about the cost of one glass of wine at many restaurants. And the big plus is that you won’t be waiting in line to get into a crowded, loud restaurant for your romantic evening. Light some candles, get out the nice dishes, play some sweet music and enjoy the peaceful evening.

If the thought of cooking on Valentine’s ruins the mood completely, then at least get a deal on your meal.

* Go out for lunch instead of dinner – the menu prices are usually less expensive and so are the crowds.

* There is no rule that says you have to go out to dinner exactly on February 14th. Go out on a different night to take advantage of weekly specials that some restaurants offer. Plus, you won’t have to fight the Valentine’s Day masses yearning to eat out.

* You could even get take out for the main entrees from your favourite restaurant and then enjoy a peaceful evening at home. Provide your own dessert and drinks and you have saved a bundle. * Daily deal sites: Groupon and Living Social have all been offering vouchers for restaurants. With these daily deals sites, you’ll find meals that are 50% off the retail price or better.

Fun with the Kids

* Start the day off with some heart shaped pancakes using a cookie cutter. I like to top them with some fresh strawberries or raspberries and powdered sugar.