Reduce your living costs
Last updated: 06/11/2023
Many families are feeling the pinch just now. Reducing costs is a priority for many. This doesn’t have to be as painful as it sounds! Sometimes there are small changes you can make that can help you reduce your living costs.
Your frequently asked questions about the cost of living
Our advice and information team receive questions from single parents around Scotland every day.
Take a look at the Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about the rising cost-of-living.
Here are some tips and links to websites to help you reduce your cost of living:
Reduce your fuel bills
Energy and fuel advice
Energy price cap calculator
The energy price cap is misnamed – there’s no cap on how much you pay. The cap is actually on the standing charges and the unit rates for gas and electricity, and this means if you use more energy, you’ll pay more.
From 1st October 2023, the maximum amount energy suppliers can charge people on default tariffs between 1 October to 31 December 2023 is £1,834 per year for a typical household who pay by Direct Debit. The amount you pay will depend on actual household usage and where you live as well as meter and payment type.
Energy costs are rising at the highest rates for years and other contracts are also going to cost more going forward. You can go onto comparison sites to check to see if you are on the best deal. Now n9ot be the best time to consider switching energy suppliers therefore you would be best to check first with an energy adviser. Most housing associations have their own energy advisers, or you could contact Energy Action Scotland.
If you decide to compare energy providers or want to compare other contracts like Mobile contacts here are a couple of Tips to help you do so.
- Don’t just use one website, try to have a look on different comparison sights. There can be different offers on different sites so have a good look around before you move your account.
- Make a list of what you want to know before you go onto the site as this will help you focus on what you need to decide.
- Ask yourself questions for example: Can I afford the instalments? How long will the contact last and what will happen if I can’t afford to go on making payments.
Other useful links:
- Energy & money savings tips – One Parent Families Scotland.
- Cold weather payment – One Parent Families Scotland.
- Help with energy costs – Money Advice Scotland.
- Warm Home Discount – applications closed on 28 February 2022 – look out for this reopening for winter 2022-23.
- Home Energy Scotland – have tips about keeping your home cosy, fund finder tool for grants and loans available in your area, and you can also contact their helpline for advice.
- Check with council for help to insulate your home. Find your local council’s website.
- Ofgem have created a useful video explaining your energy bills.
- Money Matters – have template letters you can use if you need to complain to your supplied about overcharging, inaccurate meter readings, or slow switch over of suppliers.
Getting help if you can’t afford your energy bills
Reduce your household spend
Help to access food
Food banks can provide you with food and other essentials. Most food banks will require a referral, you can find out more about how to be referred and to find your local Trussell Trust foodbank on their website.
Independent food banks – interactive map of some independent food banks. Some food banks are small and do not have a website, check with local churches, community groups and listings on local Facebook pages for other services in your area.
Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB) – Can give you information about support available and other food initiatives local to you.
Food initiatives and food pantries
There are many services to give people access to healthy food on a budget. You can find these online, advertised in local churches, Facebook community groups etc. You can also contact your local council and housing association to help find and access services in your area. Some food banks have been replaced by food pantries, which you have to pay a small amount and you will receive groceries including fresh produce. Glasgow food pantries.
Too Good To Go – App that lets you buy food from local supermarkets and restaurants that would otherwise be binned as expiry date is that day. Food available varies depending on where you live. Good opportunity for you to do your bit for the environment as well as saving money, you could even freeze some of the food to eat another day.
Love food, hate waste – Tips on how to make food last longer, reduce your waste, tackle climate change, and save your pennies.
Community garden projects have appeared in many areas across Scotland. If there’s one in your area you could find out about volunteering some time helping out in return for free vegetables.
Many supermarkets reduce items that are due to expire near the close of business. Look out for some bargains, you can find out routine at your local shops to learn the best time to visit for reductions.
Cooking on a budget can be tough. Particularly if you have children with a restrictive diet. However, with a bit of planning you can adapt these budget recipes and make them your own!
- Jack Monroe the food writer and anti-poverty campaigner specialises in budget recipes.
- 34 budget meals that can be made for £1 per person, blog by Vicky Smith.
- BBC Good Food budget recipes.
- Full Time meals with Marcus Rashford. ‘Try out these pocket-friendly, easy-peasy recipes for mega-tasty, super-filling, hearty home cooked grub.’
It can sometimes be overwhelming knowing where to start. If your family has a dish they really enjoy, why not challenge yourself to make it for less? You could swap the ingredients for cheaper alternatives? Or make use of the supermarket at closing time to bag reductions.
Meal planning can be daunting, but it will save you time and money in the long run. There are websites that will help you to build meals around the ingredients you have in your cupboards. You could also look at supermarket comparison sites to see what supermarket has the best value for your money, based on the ingredients you are using that week.
Tips for planning your family meals
- Involve the kids! Make a plan for meals everyone would like to eat, what would they like to help cook? Is there certain nights that your children have clubs or activities that mean you need a quick meal?
- Write a list of ingredients you will need for meal plans. Online meal planners can help you organise what ingredients you need and suggest recipes you can cook with what you have in your cupboards https://www.eatwell101.com/meal-planner
Planning makes perfect!
- Write a shopping list- Writing a list and sticking to it will help reduce costs and food wastage. Avoid food shopping when you or your children are hungry. If shopping after school try to bring a snack along to avoid impulse purchases.
- Reduce fuel costs – Bulk cooking so that you use less fuel the following night to reheat a meal. Experiment with recipes that can be cooked in one pot, or slow cooker. Using slow cookers, microwaves and air fryers , are all great options for low-maintenance, low-cost, low-carbon cooking.
- Reduce travel costs – shop online, cycle, share a lift or taxi with a friend, plan ahead to fit shopping into your day for less travel costs. Could you share a supermarket delivery with your neighbour?
- Keep a stock of ingredients in the house for quick meals. Tins of tomatoes, dry pasta, rice, garlic powder, seasonings. These can all be quickly made into quick meals and they don’t cost a lot.
- Keep a note of the dates. When unpacking your shopping, write down the dates of things to be used first. This can help you plan your meals. Keep a calendar on your fridge which shows the meals for the week and the use by dates.
- Use what you food you have – if you have a few key ingredients in your house especially if it is food that is about to go out of date, can you find a way to make that into a meal by adding to pasta or an omelette?
- Shop around for best buys – Check deals online especially for expensive products and make use of discounts and vouchers that you can get from having loyalty cards.
Everyone wants to look and feel their best but with prices increasing it can be difficult to justify updating your wardrobe. Here are some tips for for low-budget clothes shopping.
- Buy second hand – second hand or ‘pre-loved’ clothing has become huge over the last decade. It is no longer thought of as a negative. From influencers to celebrities, there are many people rocking pre-loved clothing. Children’s clothing is especially popular as they grow so quickly. Places like vinted , eBay have loads of buyers and sellers. You could also become a seller and sell any outgrown clothes and make some extra money. There is also another bonus of shopping second hand, the impact on the environment. Preworn is the largest second-hand clothing seller in the UK, and lists many items that would otherwise ended up in landfill.
- Schools uniforms can be expensive. Many schools are now running uniform banks that offer good quality second hand uniforms. If you live in Edinburgh, there are a few organisations who could help with uniform/clothing items: The Leith Collective – currently have “sharing rails” for warm jackets at the front of their stores. They sometimes also have school uniform available; Fresh Start -Their uniform rail can be accessed via the pantry, so please check their opening hours before popping in to 26-28 Ferry Road Drive, Edinburgh EH4 4BR.
- Swap shop – Swapping clothes is great way of updating your wardrobe. You may be lucky enough to have famliy and friends with children the same age as yours. But there are often posts of Facebook and community centres for organised swaps.
- Supermarkets – Supermarket clothing is often really reasonable. Many supermarkets will run sales offering a significant discount on full price clothing. Sainsburys runs 25% off at various points throughout the year online and in store. It is worth looking out for sale offers on clothing even for the future seasons. Winter coats are often heavily reduced in the summer!
Cutting back on spending is difficult but it can help you see where you can make savings and it can also be a fun and rewarding process. It can also be good for the environment.
- Children aged 5 to 21 in Scotland are entitled to free bus travel. You can apply online and link this to their Young Scot card, which gives them discount in many shops. You can apply online here. Alternatively, you can apply offline via your local council.
- If you’re disabled, you can get a free bus pass if you are aged 5 or over, live in Scotland, and you:
- get a qualifying benefit
- have a Blue Badge
- are deaf
- are visually impaired
- cannot drive due to a medical condition
- have a mental health condition or learning disability and need to travel to appointments
- have a terminal illness
- have a progressive degenerative condition
- have lost one of more limbs
- are an injured veteran
- get war pensioner mobility supplement
- If you need to travel with a companion, you need to have a card with the C+1 logo on it. If your card has this logo, your companion can travel with you for free. Your companion cannot use the card without you.
You can compare prices of petrol in your area by inputting your postcode for information on cheapest place to get petrol near where you are. Petrol Prices app is available on android and iPhone.
Some supermarkets, such as Morrisons, offer coupons for money off per litre of petrol, so keep an eye out when you are doing your weekly shop.
Deal with Debt
Useful debt advice services
- National Debtline – factsheet about dealing with gas & electricity bills, they also have free helpline and webchat for impartial advice.
- Step Change – Charity that provides impartial, free advice. Input your information and they will send you a personalised action plan and solution tailored to your debt and personal situation.
- Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB) – advice about debt or contact your local centre.
Overhaul your spending on non-essentials
Look at ways to reduce non-essential spending, gym memberships you don’t use, TV packages you don’t watch, subscriptions to services you can do without etc. You can check your subscriptions in Apple’s App store and Google Play, and also regular payments in your online banking.
- Track when your contract ends –Many packages come with incentives for new customers. Set reminders when trial periods and offers expire to avoid paying increased price. If you are organised with cancelling subscriptions on time, you could rotate between different services to keep payments reduced.
- Broadband deals for low income families. If you receive Universal Credit or some other benefits you could take advantage of basic broadband deals with some suppliers. Jobseekers can also apply for 6 months free broadband deal via the Jobcentre with O2.
- Save money, save the planet – Tips from Parents Club on ways you can save money while also considering the environment, split into sections depending on the age of your children.
- Teach your kids about budgeting – Reduce the pressure on yourself, instead of feeling you have to say no all the time when your children are asking for something if you are able to give them small amount of pocket money they will have to learn to make choices about how they choose to spend their allowance. We have more advice about talking about money with your kids.
Useful websites and tools
Money Map will help you find sources of online support to: increase your income, reduce your bills and ease the costs of daily living.
Martin Lewis Family Cost of Living Survival Kit
Use comparison websites to find the best deals on broadband, insurance, phone contracts etc.
- List of best comparison websites for energy.
- Remember not all suppliers are on comparison websites so you might want to check rates with some suppliers directly. Speak to friends and family about deals they have as many suppliers have deals for recommending a friend.
Launched during the pandemic, Lightning Reach aim to help people facing financial hardship to receive support, recover from shocks and build financial resilience. Their secure portal enables charities and the public sector get financial support to the people who need it most, quickly and securely.
Talking about money
Reducing your living costs can help you to look in more detail about your money and how you spend it. Money is a difficult subject for many families to talk about. We have more information about Talking about money on our website.