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As the cost of living continues to rise, many of us are finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet. Rising food costs, soaring energy bills, it seems like everything is getting more expensive.

We’ve listed a few practical things you can do to help you through these tough times by keeping your finances in check and making the most of what you have.

  1. Cut your expenses and maximise your income
  2. Check you’re getting everything you’re entitled to
  3. Prioritise expenses and deal with problem debt
  4. Create a budget plan
  5. Get creative – other ways to maximise your income and save money

Read on for ways you could start reducing your outgoings and saving money.

Easier said than done right? But taking a hard look at your budget and identifying areas where you might be able to cut back can make a big difference to what you have left at the end of the month or week.

Cut your expenses and maximise your income

Don’t let un-used subscriptions drain your bank balance – For example paid for apps on your phone, TV channels you don’t watch that often etc., that gym membership you took out in January but haven’t used yet?

I recently cancelled a gym membership I hadn’t used for months and months, it was taking a chunk of my wages and basically pouring it down the drain, all because I kept thinking that I’d go to the gym ‘next week’ – of course, next week never comes.

Woman jogging in a park

If your gym membership is draining your income, think about ways you can keep fit for free.

Make work, work for you – The long and the short of it is that you go to work to earn money but the cost of getting there and back and feeding yourself while you’re at work can eat into your income (excuse the pun!).

Lunch times can be costly at work. According to a recent survey carried out by Instantprint, the average person spends £21 a week on their work lunches – that’s £1,092 a year! – add to that your favourite take-away coffee and you could be spending much more.

Instead of buying from high street chains why not take a flask of coffee and a packed lunch to work instead? Save yourself some money and try some of these quick and delicious lunch ideas.

Woman holding a take-away coffee

Don’t get the commuter blues  – Be travel savvy and swap a car journey for the bus. See if your workplace has a car share scheme, or walk to work a couple of times a week. You’d also be helping the planet and walking is a great way to stay fit.

Check out our cost of living hub to find ways of reducing your travel costs Low-cost travel – Portsmouth City Council

Check you’re getting everything you’re entitled to

Make sure you’re being paid the right wage and take advantage of any benefits offered by your employer like interest free loans to buy a bike, discounts on memberships and money off certain purchases.

Are there benefits or grants you could claim? Benefits and government grants are there to help us get through tough financial times. If you’re looking for work, on a low income, sick or disabled, caring for someone, or pregnant you could be eligible to claim a benefit. If you already receive a benefit this might make you eligible for other benefits and support, for instance free school meals, Portsmouth leisure card, help with prescription charges and more.

Check to see if there are other benefits and support you could get, or use the Turn2us benefits calculator.

There are also some government grants that are there to help households in Great Britain with energy bills, but some have not been claimed! Can you believe it? A grant doesn’t need to be paid back so check that you are getting everything you’re entitled to.

The government estimates that up to 1 million pensioner households may be entitled to Pension Credit, but don’t claim it. Some pensioners think because they’ve got savings or own their home they would not get any Pension Credit. Watch this YouTube video to find out if you or someone you know could be missing out on Pension Credit.

Prioritise expenses and deal with problem debt

When you’re living on a tight budget, it’s important to prioritise expenses. Make sure you’re covering your essential spending first, such as food, rent or mortgage payments, utilities, like gas, electric and water. It can help to make a list of essential and non-essential outgoings.

You may also want to consider negotiating with creditors to lower monthly payments or interest rates. Visit our cost of living hub for more advice.

Create a budget plan

If you don’t already have a budget in place, now is the time to make one.

A budget will help you track what you’ve got coming in and going out, so you can see exactly where your money is going each month. This will help you to see areas where you might be able to cut back and save money. Advice Portsmouth can help you put together a budget. They also offer free workshops to help you manage money Find out how you can join a free YOUr Money workshop.

Money Saving Expert has a great budget planner.

A person is making a budget plan. They are holding a calculator and pen.

Get creative – other ways to maximise your income and save money

Top up your food shop – Join your local food pantry. You don’t have to be getting benefits to join. Food pantries and larders are open to all and for a small fee you can pick up a shopping basket of essential items to supplement your regular shop.

Portsea food pantry. Stocked shelves.

There are food pantries across Portsmouth and they are there to help residents top-up their weekly shop if they are struggling to make ends meet. Food pantries are also great places to meet people and enjoy a chat.

Fake-away not take-away – What??? Let’s face it, we all love a take-away right? When life is busy it’s easier than ever to order your favourite food to arrive straight to your door, but it can be expensive, especially when it becomes a regular thing instead of an occasional luxury.

Why not make your favourite takeaway or ‘fake-away’ at home? It will cost less and may even be a bit healthier too! Get some ideas for tasty fake-aways.

Make your home work for you – If you own your own home think about whether you could rent out a room. Find out about the government’s rent a room scheme that could bring in extra money and offer some tax relief.

Charities can help – You might be able to get extra money from a charity in certain circumstances. Some charity grants are open to everyone, others might depend on your situation such as your job or health status. Use the Turn2Us grant search to find charities that could help.

Reduce, recycle and reuse – Have a clear out and sell anything that’s no longer needed. Old mobile phones, CDs, DVDs, clothes – you could have money sitting right there at the back of the wardrobe or in the garden shed. Find out what sells and how to sell it

Why buy when you can borrow or repair? DVD player on the blink? Don’t tip it, take it to the Repair Café. They can help you fix a range of household items. Find out more about the Repair Cafe

Struggling to afford large household items? Use our help for people in financial hardship directory to find assistance. Alternatively, you might be able to borrow certain items for a small fee from the Library of Things.

Find more advice on making your money go further.

A person mending a computer

And lastly, don’t forget about you

All this talk about price rises and cutting costs can be anxiety causing. Worrying about money can really impact your mental health and sense of wellbeing so look after yourself. Visit our mental health and wellbeing page to find out how.