You might not be receiving all the money you’re entitled to, or maybe you’re struggling to make the most of what you have.
If you’re trying to make savings on your utility bills, need help to organise your finances more efficiently, or are unsure whether you could be entitled to benefits, the following information might help.
If you're looking for better ways to save and borrow, contact your local credit union:
Credit unions are registered with the Financial Services Authority. Your savings are protected in the same way as money deposited with a building society, but you will not earn interest on them.
The unions are cooperatives that are typically run by volunteers, which means any profits are put back into the union to fund loans to members.
The main benefits of credit unions are that they:
- help members to save regularly;
- lend to members at a low rate of interest;
- provide advice and support to help members look after their money;
- are run by people from the local community.
Managing your money
Use our handy budget planner to help you keep track of how much money you have. It’s free and should only take a matter of minutes to use.
Before you start, gather information about your income and expenditure – including earnings, benefits or pension, household bills, debt or credit repayments, and leisure activities. You’ll also need your partner’s information, if relevant.
You can save and finish later if you do not have all the information ready now.
Maximise your money
There are a number of things you can do to maximise your money.
- check if you're entitled to tax credits
- make sure you're getting the benefits you're entitled to
- find out if your children are entitled to free school meals
- make sure you're not paying too much tax (more information on Income Tax)
- check whether you could be paying less for your heating, electric and water bills
- make sure that any family and friends living with you are paying enough towards household expenses
- think about renting out a spare room to a lodger
- check if your mortgage payments are covered by insurance
Further advice on managing your money:
- Disability Cambridgeshire gives confidential advice direct to disabled people and their carers.
- Citizens Advice Bureau provides information and advice on many matters including debt, employment problems, housing problems, family law and divorce and consumer problems. They also offer help with form filling, letter writing and representation at tribunals.
- Family Rights Group advice service. FRG work with families who need advice and support because of child welfare needs or concerns.
- StepChange Debt Charity offers free debt advice and can also help with arranging a debt management plan on your behalf.
- The Debt Support Trust is a charity offering telephone or internet-based debt advice.
- Shelter can offer you advice if you are struggling with unmanageable debt, rent or mortgage arrears.
- The Money Advice Service has a number of very useful tools and planners to help your organise your finances, including personal money health check, debt test and budget planner.
- Cambridge Money Advice Centre (MAC) offer free, confidential advice to help you get out and stay out of debt. They serve the people of the city of Cambridge, and their offices are at Barnwell Baptist Church.
Make sure you have the benefits you're entitled to
Follow these links for more information about:
- Benefits (including Council Tax Reduction)
- Tax credits
- Turn to Us – a charitable service that helps people access the money available to them, through welfare benefits, grants and other help
Dealing with debt
If you're already in debt and finding it hard to cope, it's important to deal with the problem straight away – the longer you ignore your debts, the worse the situation becomes.
The following organisations offer free and independent debt advice:
- Options for paying off your debts – advice from the UK Government
- Business Debtline – run by the Money Advice Trust, can help those who are self-employed or have small businesses. They also have an advice line: 0900 197 6026
- National Debtline – free confidential and independent advice and on how to deal with debt problems
The Breathing Space debt-respite scheme can provide advice and temporary help with your debts. If you are eligible, it can pause all interest, fees and enforcement action for up to 60 days. This can give you time to find a longer-term solution for dealing with your debts. Help is also available for people in mental health crisis treatment. You’ll need an accredited debt advisor to refer you – visit the Money Advice Service or follow the links above to find out where to get free debt advice.
Feeding yourself and your family
If you find yourself unable to provide food for you and your family, your local foodbank may be able to help you.
Support for residents
Contact us if you want more information about any of the support services detailed below.
Help offered by City Homes to tenants and leaseholders
This section is for residents living in one of our council properties.
Financial advice service
Confidential one-to-one financial and budgeting advice for any city council tenant.
Independent Living Service
Our Independent Living Service provide a one-stop shop for anyone living within Cambridge City who is disabled or over 60 years of age and needs advice or support.
Rent arrears support
Advice is offered at all stages of rent arrears, and those in arrears are offered a number of payment methods at a time and place to suit their circumstances, including Direct Debit, Paypoint and online. There is also a Housing Financial Inclusion Officer, and the possibility of referral to external agencies, such as Citizens Advice Bureau.
City Homes help new (and transferring) tenants to negotiate the Housing Benefit system.
Help for tenants in temporary housing
Housing officers offer assistance in ensuring tenants receive the right benefits and will help complete benefit claim forms.
Options offered by the Housing Advice Service
Find out more about the full range of services available from our Housing Advice team.
The Access Scheme could help people who are struggling to afford the up-front costs of getting into private rented accommodation.
In some circumstances, we may be able to offer small interest-free loans, to help to avoid people losing their home.
We can also refer people to an employment advisor, for help with CV writing, interviewing skills etc.
Utility bills and energy and fuel advice
- For information about current offers, cheapest suppliers and free home and energy grants, go to moneysavingexpert.com/utilities.
- The Anglian Water Assistance Fund has been set up to support customers in financial hardship.
- In some cases, we can offer grants to private homeowners for help with energy works.
- Cambridge Water can help if you have medical, learning or physical disabilities or financial difficulties. Find out about their priority services register.
Legitimate lenders have government agreed standards for money collection. Legally, all loans must have paperwork outlining charges, the amount you have borrowed and the amount you need to repay. People who lend money outside of these rules are called 'Loan sharks'.
To check if someone lending you money has a licence to do so, visit the Financial Conduct Authority's website.
If you've borrowed money from a loan shark they may:
- take your benefit or bankcard as security on the loan;
- won't tell you when you'll finish paying;
- increase the amount you owe even if you're making regular payments;
- threaten or use violence to get money from you.
To report them in confidence:
- Call 0300 555 2222
- Text loan (space) shark (space) your message to 60003
- Email email@example.com
- Visit direct.gov.uk/stoploansharks
Basic bank accounts
There are a number of basic bank account products that are specially designed for those people who find it difficult to open a full account, perhaps because of a poor credit history.
Cambridge Central Library provides much more than just books. There are services for young people, information and advice service on learning and work for adults, help with information, advice and guidance on work and employment and also their learning centre offers a complete package of information, advice and courses for anyone wishing to undertake learning at a pace that suits them.
Check out your local community centres as some provide free internet access and there are many free local events and groups.
Discounted swimming cards are available for people who claim benefit.