Cost of living
Latest advice and guidance
The cost of things like food, gas, electricity and petrol are going up very fast.
Many people are worried about whether they can afford basic essentials.
If you are in this situation and struggling to cope, the most important thing to realise is that you are not alone.
There are many organisations that can provide practical advice and support.
The best advice is always to get help as early as you can.
If you are struggling financially, you are not alone.
It is best to ask for help sooner rather than later as this can help stop things getting worse.
There are many organisations you can get in touch with that will provide help and support.
Do not be worried if you struggle with maths - almost half of adults in the UK do.
Important: Avoiding Scams
Citizens Advice have found that millions more people are being targeted by scams this year as money pressures get worse for more people. They can be very difficult to spot.
For more help on how to spot and deal with this and other scams see Citizen's Advice.
Choose from a range of useful advice and links in the sections below.
You can come back to the contents back clicking the 'Back to contents' link at the end of each section.
1. Getting started: useful websites
When looking for help online it is very important to stick to information from organisations that you know are genuine and reliable.
We recommend starting with the following websites.
The Money Helper service provides free, confidential and impartial help tailored to individual needs.Visit site →
A free and impartial service that gives advice on a very wide range of matters, including money challenges but also family problems, immigration, housing, consumer rights and more.Visit site →
Step Change are debt experts who offer free, flexible debt advice and practical help and support for as long as is needed.Visit site →
This is a Government website that has details of all the Government support schemes available. It also has links to discounts and offers from businesses.Visit site →
2. Check your benefits entitlement
It is a good idea to check that you are getting all the benefits you are entitled to. You can do this with your local Jobcentre Plus.
Sometimes your eligibility can change if your health status or family situation changes.
Using a benefits calculator
You can use EntitledTo's benefits calculator. You will need information about savings, income, pension, childcare payments and any existing benefits (for you and your partner).
If you are under the age of 18 you can use the calculator produced by Policy in Practice.
If you are not a British or Irish citizen and you are responsible for children under 18 you can use the Support for Migrant Families tool. You will need information on your immigration status.
Finding out more about different benefits
3. Maximising your income
Moving into work: It is important to remember that you are very likely to be better off working and that Jobcentre Plus and other employability and advice services are ready to help you manage the transition. You can get help with transport, childcare and other costs.
Wages and deductions: If you are in a paid job, check that you are being paid at least the minimum wage using the Government's minimum wage calculator. You can also check whether any deductions that your employer makes from your wages are correct by using this Government guide.
Employer support: If you are employed, your employer may offer help that you do not know about. Check if your employer offers shopping discounts, support with childcare, low-interest loans, hardship funds or employee assistance programmes.
Help from your local council
Help with essentials: Check your local council's website and see if they can help with essentials such as food, fuel bills or household goods. Each council runs a different scheme. You can find out how to contact your local council on the Government's website.
Council tax: It is sometimes possible to apply for a reduction in your Council Tax if you are on a low income and do not have this already. Start on the Government's website.
4. Government's Cost of Living Payments
In response to the rising cost of living, the Government announced a series of payments that most people in receipt of a benefit to help with low income will be eligible for.
Cost of Living Payment: Around eight million people on means-tested benefits should have received a Cost of Living Payment in July. A second payment of £324 should be paid in November 2022. If you are eligible for this you don’t need to do anything, as you will get the payments automatically. If you are receiving tax credits but not an income-related benefit then the timescale is different. To find out more click here.
Disability Cost of Living Payment: People on disability benefits should have a one-off £150 payment to help with extra costs. This was due to be paid in September 2022. This is in addition to the Cost of Living Payment above.To find out more click here.
Pensioner help: There will also be an extra £300 for pensioner households paid as an increase to their winter fuel payment to be paid from mid-November 2022, but you need to be the right age to qualify for this. You can find out more here by clicking here.
Energy Bills Support Scheme: £400 will be taken off your energy bill from October if you live in Great Britain. This is an automatic grant, which does not need to be paid back and requires no action.
The information on this page was correct on 1 October 2022, but the Government's Help for Households webpage will be updated with the latest information.
5. Debt advice and support
Assessing your situation
No matter how serious the situation, there is always something that can be done. There are many guides available to help you start taking a look at your own situation:
- Citizens Advice: Help with Debt
- Money Helper: Dealing with Debt
- Step Change: Start on the home page and click on Find the right help
- National Debtline: Guide
- Business Debtline: Click here if you are self-employed or run a small business
Seeking individual advice
While not everyone will need it, there are many free, one-to-one debt advice or counselling services across the UK that will help you find a way out if you have problem debt.
The easiest way to find a debt adviser is to use the debt advice locator on the MoneyHelper website.
Speaking to a debt adviser can also help you access a government scheme called Breathing Space, which is designed to give you time (60 days) to receive advice and find a solution to sort out your problems. You can find out more about breathing space in this factsheet from the National Debtline.
"I have never seen a case of debt that can’t be solved. No matter how bad it seems, there is light at the end of the tunnel."Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert
6. Energy bills
Every household should receive a £400 discount on their energy bill in monthly installments starting from October 2022. You do not need to do anything to claim this. If you have a prepayment meter, the discount will be added to your meter or you will be given vouchers.
Other sources of support
- Help to pay your gas or electricity bill from Money Helper.
- A guide from Citizens Advice contains information on what to do if you are struggling to pay your energy bills. They also have a guide to Grants and benefits to help you pay your energy bills.
- Ofgem, the energy regulator, has clear information about your rights to help with energy bills. Their rules mean that suppliers must offer payment plans you can afford and you can apply for ‘emergency credit’ if you use a prepay meter and cannot top up.
- The Charis website has links to many of the grants offered by energy companies and also has other grants that you can apply for.
- In certain circumstances you may be able to get help from the Water Sure Scheme. Find out more on the Turn2Us website.
- You may be eligible for a cheaper deal on your broadband or data, called a Social Tariff. Find out more on the Ofcom website.
- If you are disabled, have young children, have mental health problems or classed as "vulnerable" in a range of other ways, you should get on the Priority Services Register for extra support.
The Priority Services Register
This is a free service to help people in vulnerable situations, for example if you are disabled, have young children or communication difficulties. It means you get priority support, such as heating and cooking facilities if you are cut off the supply.
Each energy supplier or network keeps its own register, so you need to call your gas or electricity supplier to get on it. The Ofgem website explains what you need to do to get registered.
7. Money and your mental wellbeing
It is very common for money problems to affect your mental wellbeing. There is a lot of help and guidance out there to help you:
- The Money and Mental Health website is very easy to use and find what you need
- You can download Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis’s free guide for anyone struggling with their finances and a mental health issue.
- Mental health charity Mind have a lot of help on their website.
- The NHS website has some advice on coping with the anxiety and worry that can come from financial problems.
- The NHS website also tells you how to access mental health services and where to get urgent help.
8. Childcare and family
Childcare can be a big expense but help with costs is available. The Government's Childcare Choices website explains the different types of help available and you can check which are relevant to your circumstances.
You can also use the Government's childcare support calculator to identify how much support you could get towards approved childcare.
Free school meals
In England, all children in reception, year one or year two will be able to get free school meals as long as they attend a state school (there are different rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). Some local councils offer free school meals for all primary school children.
If you are receiving particular benefits your child may be able to get free school meals throughout their time at school. The process of applying for free school meals varies from council to council. If you visit the Government's Apply for free school meals page and type in your postcode then it will direct you to the right local council.
School transport and uniform
You may also be able to apply for help with transport to school or get help with school uniform costs. You need to contact your local council to find out how to apply. School uniform costs can be a particular worry. This list of tips on the Money Saving Expert website may help.
School holiday help
If your child is eligible for benefits-related free school meals that means that they will also qualify for the Holiday Activity and Food Programme, available in every local authority in England. This scheme runs until at least the end of 2023 during all school holidays.
Many retailers are also offering free or discounted meals for children during the holidays.
The Trussell Trust search tool to locate food banks close to you, with advice on how to access the help.
If you are a lone parent you may find a lot of useful information on the Gingerbread website. You can also call a free, confidential helpline number on 0808 802 0925.