Keeping a check on your household costs

The cost of raising a child has now reached an all-time high, according to figures recently released by insurers LV
(source article, Daily Telegraph, “Cost of a child his record £222,000”, 24th January 2013).

Pound Coins money by Images of Money, Flickr

According to the figures, raising a child to the age of 21 costs a staggering £222,458. Perhaps more alarming is the Insurer’s prediction that if costs continue to increase at the same rate each year, the cost of raising a child could reach £350,000 by the year 2023.

I’m sure this report comes as no surprise to those of us who are already struggling with rising household costs and making drastic cut-backs to our lifestyle in order to cope with the day to day cost of living.

My family has long given up the notion of going abroad in favour of staying in the England. Even holidaying in England can be pricey – particularly during the peak season summer holidays – unless you make a concerted effort to shop around for cheap deals. As a self-employed mum, I have little choice but to stay local during holidays and half-terms. But at least thankfully, there is plenty to do for free!

If you are struggling with debt or finding it difficult to meet the costs of your bills, here are some handy tips on what you can do.



Make sure you are receiving the benefits that you are entitled to: More details can be obtained from the government’s service and information website at

  1. Council Tax: provides help meeting your council tax.
  2. Housing benefit costs: Provides help towards your rent.
  3. Education Costs: For help with school meals, clothing or financial support for sixteen year olds staying on at school or college.
  4. Child Tax Credit: Paid to people responsible for at least one child.
  5. Working Tax Credit: Paid to people who work at least 30 hours per week.
  6. Disability Living Allowance: For people under 65 who have personal care needs or problems with walking because of a physical or mental disability.
  7. Carers Allowance: For people who regularly spend at least 35 hours a week caring for a disabled person.



Many people end up paying too much tax through their PAYE Code. If you are a part-time, full-time employee or receiving a private pension, make sure you are on the right tax code. More details can be found on HM Customs & Revenue at


Reclaim money:

  1. Reclaim the infamous PPI, which in some cases was missold on mortgages, insurances, credit cards and other loans. Consumer champion Martin Lewis has more details on how you can reclaim this yourself without using PPI Reclaim companies (who will take a whopping 30% off any money reclaimed). For more details, visit his website at
  2. Reclaim money in lost or inactive accounts. Free service at


Save on household bills

  1. Take a leaf from granny and revisit the art of thrift! Save money on your shopping bill by using coupons, steer clear of BOGOF (buy one, get one free) deals unless you know for sure that they are genuine deals, and stick to your shopping list.
  2. A well-known tip that we sometimes forget, is to visit the supermarket later in the day when many items have been reduced. If they’re freezable, then don’t worry about the seeming impending “sell by” date. Simply freeze them when you get home so that you can use them when required.
  3. Check whether you can make savings on general household and utility bills by comparing costs across providers. There are a variety of online comparison and switch websites which make the job of comparing and switching much easier.


Debt Problems

  1. For more serious debt problems, do seek help as soon as possible. If you are struggling with paying your utility bills such as your gas or electricity bill, talk to your provider and ask if you can make a payment plan. Once you agree upon an amount that you can afford, do make every attempt to keep up your payments (for example, by paying via direct debit), otherwise they could cancel your plan and demand full payment.
  2. Some energy suppliers provide fuel grants to help customers with fuel arrears. For further details, visit The British Gas Energy Trust: or  The EDF Energy Trust:
  3. If you need help with paying your water rates, check whether you are eligible for the Watersure Scheme, a scheme which helps some people meet the cost of their water rates. There are, however, specific qualifying criteria. Visit the Citizen’s Advice Website for further details at and type ‘Watersure’ in the search box.



Organisations which you can approach for further help and advice:

  • Gingerbread: Provides expert advice, practical support and campaign for single parents. Helpline: 0808 802 0925 or visit their website at
  • National Debtline: Free, confidential and independent advice on how to deal with personal debt problems. Helpline: 0808 068 6368 or visit their website at
  • Business Debtline: Free, confidential and independent advice for self-employed people on how to deal with business debt. Helpline: 0800 197 6026 or visit their website at
  • Citizen’s Advice Bureau: or
  • Step Change: Charity providing free debt advice: Helpline 08000 138 1111 or visit their website at



THE AUTHOR: Mary Cummings, Work Your Way Small Biz Resource for working mums and


Photo credit: Pound Coins image by Images-of-Money-Flickr.

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