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Personal and household finance

Budgeting tips for carers

When you become a carer your finances are likely to be affected by your situation. If you have had to give up work then your finances may become quite tight and you may rely on income from benefits. Making sure that you are organised with your finances is a great way to keep on top of your outgoings.

Read more about controlling your personal and household finances.

Budgeting can be difficult to face at times. However, once you’ve outlined a suitable budget you will have a better idea of your finances. It will help you to work out what needs to go where and when. Ultimately, budgeting can put you in control of your finances.

It’s a good idea to begin with your monthly outgoings. Start with an average of how much you spend on food shopping and priority payments such as household bills and repayments on loans or credit cards. It might be scary, but it’s important that you’re honest with yourself about what you spend.

You could use this to work out what you spend in an average week.

Once you’ve listed how much you spend, you can then work out your monthly or weekly income in your household. On this list you should include any wages or benefits you receive. Once you’ve made this list you can subtract what you need to spend from your incomings.

If you have money left over, you can decide whether to save it, or how you will use it. If you have no money left over or don’t have enough money coming in to cover your expenditure, you will need to have a look at what you spend in more detail, and take some tough decisions.

Caring for someone can put a financial strain on you. As a carer, you may have to reduce your working hours or give up work altogether, and as a result more than half of carers have been, or are, in debt.

The Money Advice Service's financial Health check tool is free, confidential, and can help you make the most of your money by answering a few simple questions.

If you have found yourself in debt you can get free, impartial and confidential advice from the National Debtline or the Citizens Advice Bureau, which also offers face-to-face appointments.

The official online source of government information on benefits is GOV.UK.

Click on the bars below for more information on budgeting.

Ways to get more money

Work

A paid job will be an opportunity to boost your income - any job should offer you at least £5.93 per hour if you’re aged 21 years or older.

If you have given up work for your caring responsibility, or haven’t had a job for a long time, you might need help getting back to work.

If you already work part time it might be worth considering whether you would be able to work any more hours, given your caring commitments. If this is so, you should tell your local authority that you want to spend more time working and ask to be reassessed. Carers UK suggests you check with the job centre before taking on extra work as they will do a 'better-off calculation' that lets you know how your benefits will be affected.

Benefits

As a carer, you may be entitled to benefits, particularly if your income is low. You should check our pages on carers' benefits to see if you are entitled to any extra money.

The person you are looking after may also be entitled to benefits. Check our pages on benefits for the person you care for to see if they are entitled to any extra money.

It’s also important that you keep benefit agencies and departments up to date with any changes of circumstance, for example, if the person you care for takes a turn for the worse or your caring duties increase or decrease.

If you haven’t had one already, it might be worth asking your local authority for a carer’s assessment and a community care assessment for the person you care for.

The carer’s assessment may allow you additional money for services that help you to continue caring. For example, you may be able to get your gym membership paid to allow you leisure time, or taxi fares/driving lessons to help you get to appointments for the person you care for.

Other entitlements and sources of funds

Budgeting Loans can be beneficial to you if you are on a low income and need help paying for:

  • clothing or footwear
  • furniture or household equipment
  • travelling expenses
  • improving, maintaining or securing your home
  • advance rent

You can only be eligible for a Budgeting Loan if you or your partner have been claiming or receiving payment of either Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Pension Credit for at least 26 weeks.

You can borrow between £100 and £1,500, depending on whether you are single or a couple, whether you have children, your ability to repay the loan and the amount of any savings you may have. To apply for a Budgeting Loan you need to contact Jobcentre Plus or your pension centre and ask for a SF500 claim form.

Ways to spend less

Cutting your utility bills

Your regular household bills or meter payments can be among your biggest expenditures. There are many ways to cut your household bills, such as through social tariffs from your energy supplier. For more information read our pages on utility bills.

Loans and credit cards

Getting loans and credit cards to help you through a time when you have little cash can be detrimental to your finances in the long term. This is because you will have to pay back the amount you borrowed plus interest, and you may find that the minimum payments required can be high.

If you pay a lot of interest on credit card repayments, you should try to transfer your balance to an interest-free card. This will enable you to pay off some of the balance, rather than just paying off the interest. Many credit card companies offer cards with initial interest-free periods, but be aware that the interest charged after that period may be higher than other credit cards.

If you are having problems with a loan payment, call the National Debt Line on 0808 808 4000. Their advisers can give free, confidential advice about debt. Alternatively, you could talk to your lender and see if they can offer a payment plan that may be more beneficial to you. It’s best to deal with this as soon as it becomes a problem. The sooner you speak to someone the sooner you can sort your finances and relieve some of the pressure on yourself.

Food shopping

Food shopping is another necessity that can prove expensive. The easiest way to rein in your spending on food is to be strict about what you need to buy. It might take you a little extra time, but making a shopping list can save you time and money in the long run.

The best way to make a shopping list is to plan your meals for the week. You can reduce your food bill dramatically if you work out exactly what ingredients you need. It’s a good idea to look through your fridge and store cupboard first to see what you can make out of what you already have.

If you find it difficult to plan meals then you may find help with our 5 A Day healthy eating shopping planner and our advice on how to eat well on a budget.

It’s a good idea to go shopping after you’ve recently eaten. Shopping when you’re hungry can lead to impulse buys and push up the price of your shopping.

If things are on a '2 for 1' offer, make sure that you actually need them before buying, especially if the food is perishable. Deals like this are appealing but the extra food may go to waste.

You could also try shopping online, which allows you to buy exactly what you need without having to browse around the store. Some online shopping sites will suggest cheaper brands to you, making your shopping even less expensive.

Finding the time to visit the supermarket can be difficult and online shopping can be delivered to your door at a time that suits you. However, most supermarkets will charge a fee for delivery of goods bought online, although some provide free delivery at less popular times of the day.

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Page last reviewed: 21/03/2013

Next review due: 21/03/2015

Call Carers Direct on 0300 123 1053

Confidential information and advice for carers.

Lines are open 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday (except bank holidays), 11am to 4pm at weekends. Request a free call back or an interpreted call back in one of more than 170 languages including ربي, বাংলা, 中文, Français, ગુજરાતી, Polski, Português, ਪੰਜਾਬੀ, Soomaali, Español, Türkçe and .اردو.

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