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Talk Money Week: We answer some of your money questions

Talk Money Week is a great opportunity for us to share some of the common questions we hear in our Moneywise team.

Hopefully these will help you with the money issues you’re facing but if you’d like further support from our Moneywise team call us on 0300 123 3399 or raise an enquiry through your MyRaven online account. We’re here to help with our free and confidential money support.

“It has got really cold over the past few weeks and I am worried about being able to heat my home so haven’t used the heating much yet. What can I do?”

It’s really important that you reach out to get some help. You can speak to our Moneywise team who may be able to help you apply for a grant or put you in touch with LEAP, a charity to look at energy efficiency in your home. They can offer suggestions about how to reduce the energy you are using and also provide some devices such as low energy lightbulbs, that might help reduce the amount of energy you are using.

Utility companies have different schemes to assist their customers who are struggling financially, including some who have charitable funds to help make payments towards your bill. Your utility company may also be able to reschedule your payments to make them more affordable.

If you’re registered with your utility company as a vulnerable customer, they shouldn’t disconnect you between October and March, although they could choose to install a prepayment meter in your property rather than allowing you to pay by other methods.

There’s lots of information about energy efficiency here.

“The cost of my shopping at the supermarket has shot up over the past 2 years and I’m struggling to buy nutritional food for my family. What can I do?”

Food prices have been soaring, with increases sometimes double the inflation rate. There are still things you can try to make savings on your shopping bills:

  • Make a plan – create a shopping list before heading out and don’t go on an empty stomach. Shopping whilst hungry can make you more likely to make impulse buys.
  • Ditch the brands – consider switching from branded items to own brand ones. There are some things you won’t even be able to tell the difference between – you could turn it into a game with children to see if they can tell the difference.
  • Toiletries on a budget – if you’re not ready to give up your favourite branded cereal or tinned items then you could save by switching to own brand toiletries. Try them out before you buy in bulk!
  • Beware of multi-buy offers – like buy one get one free or three for the price of two. If you won’t use everything before it expires, you’ll end up throwing it away. Sometimes, smaller quantities at standard prices might be the best option.
  • Batch cook – cook up a meal and put leftovers in the fridge or freezer to be eaten another day rather than throwing them away.

“My fridge freezer has stopped working and I’m diabetic so need to store my insulin in the fridge. Although I’m working full time there is no way I can afford a new one, and I don’t get benefits so can’t ask for a loan. What can I do?”

One option is to see if you can find someone who is able to fix your appliance. If your fridge freezer is under warranty or guarantee you should contact the retailer or manufacturer to ask about a repair or replacement. You may also be able to find a second-hand fridge freezer online on sites like freecycle or Facebook. One problem here can be knowing that the item you’re buying is in good working condition. A fridge freezer is also a large item and may be difficult to get home if you haven’t got access to a large car or van. Our Moneywise team may also be able to help you apply to local charities or our own Customer Support Fund to help you buy a new one.

You’ll have to go through a means test to access these funds, this will look at your income, expenditure and savings to check if you’re unable to afford the item. In the past year our Customer Support Fund has helped a number of customers to buy white goods, and other items like school uniforms that they weren’t able to afford. The fund is available to ALL customers including if you’re employed, not on benefits, in sheltered accommodation or who are leaseholders.

In the meantime, you should ask a friend or neighbour if you can store your insulin in their fridge as it’s important that you store your medication correctly and take it as prescribed by your doctor.

“I’ve just started a new job and would like to start saving for my future. What options are available to me?”

If you’re aged between 22 and state pension age and earn over £10,000 per year, your employer should have enrolled you into their pension scheme. The minimum that your employer needs to contribute to your pension is 3% of your wages. 5% of your wages will be deducted to pay into the scheme. The amount your employer has to contribute to the scheme is free money on top of your wages. Although you can opt out of auto enrolment, by doing so you are missing out on the money paid into your pension by your employer.

Dreaming of owning your own home? If you’re aged over 18 and under 40 you can open a Lifetime ISA (LISA). You can pay up to £4000 per year into a LISA and in addition to any interest or investment returns you make on your account the government will add a 25% bonus up to a maximum of £1000 per year. Although you can withdraw your money at any time (subject to the terms of your individual LISA) if you do so before the age of 60, unless it is because you are terminally ill with less than 12 months to live, or to buy your first home, you will need to pay back the 25% bonus.

If you also receive Working Tax Credit or Universal Credit you maybe able to open a help to save account. You can pay in between £1 and £50 per month. After two years you’ll receive a bonus of 50% of the highest balance you’ve had in either year one or two. After four years you’ll receive a further bonus of 50% of the highest balance you have had in either year three or four. There’s more information about the help to save scheme on the government website – https://www.gov.uk/get-help-savings-low-income

I’ve run up quite a bit of debt over the past few years and when interest rates were low I was able to just about manage. Now I’m really struggling and have missed some payments on credit cards, my council tax and my rent. What can I do?

The first thing to know is that there is help available and the most important thing to do is to speak to someone who can let you know your options. As a Raven customer you can ask for help from Reigate and Banstead Citizens Advice, even if you don’t live within Reigate and Banstead.

As you may already know some debts are more important to deal with than others. This is because of the consequences for not paying them. Your rent, mortgage, and service charges should all take priority because if you don’t pay these you could lose your home. Your council tax should also take priority because you could be imprisoned for not paying it. Your gas and electricity should also be considered a priority because if you don’t pay those you could have your supply disconnected. Most other debts are usually a lower priority because the legal consequences for not paying them in the first instance is for the creditor to obtain a county court judgment against you.

If you’re struggling with debt there are options for you. The first option is to do nothing, the second option is to look at having the debts written off through insolvency such as bankruptcy or a debt relief order, or as a goodwill gesture, the third option is to negotiate reduced payments with your creditors usually in exchange for them not charging you further interest or other costs. There are lots more options available to you and having an appointment with a specialist debt adviser, who can look at your whole situation, will give you a clearer idea about your personal options.

If you owe money to a loan shark you can call the Illegal Money Lending team in confidence on 0300 555 2222. They have a huge amount of experience of helping people in the same situation as you and will be able to offer you specialist support and guidance.

 

For more advice and tips on money and budgeting from our Moneywise team click here.

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