Changes to Universal Credit and how to access alternative financial assistance

by Madaline Dunn

As part of the government’s Covid-19 support plan, back in 2020, it introduced a £20 boost to those receiving Universal Credit. However, this financial intervention was only temporary and officially ended on 6 October 2021, despite a considerable amount of backlash from across the board.

Of course, the announcement of the scheme’s end is not good news for many, and it’s understandable to be concerned about how this will affect you and your family financially. After all, the cut means that around six million unemployed and low-paid workers will face a £1,040 cut to their yearly incomes.

Speaking about what the cuts will mean for many families, Morgan Wild, Head of Policy at Citizens Advice, said: “More than half a million people have come to Citizens Advice for support with Universal Credit since the pandemic. We know the extra £20 a week has often meant the difference between empty cupboards and food on the table.”

That said, there are a number of different forms of alternative financial assistance that can help support you in this difficult and turbulent time.

At The Salary Calculator, we’ll guide you through some of the different types of financial assistance available, including:

  • Help with essential costs
  • A reduction in council tax
  • Assistance with paying rent
  • Free prescriptions
  • How to check what financial aid you’re eligible for

Essential costs

If you and your family are finding it hard to keep up with the cost of essentials, whether that’s food or clothes, you can reach out to your local council and ask if you’re eligible for a hardship fund. To find out what your local council is and reach out for more information, head over here.

Equally, for those struggling to pay for food costs, you can try food bank vouchers. To access these vouchers, you can ask an organisation that’s supporting you, whether that’s a charity, school or Citizen’s advice, for a referral.

If you have children who are attending school and you receive governmental financial support, they might be eligible for free school meals.

Those who receive the following are eligible:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on
  • Universal Credit

For more information, visit the government website.

Reducing council tax

If you’re finding it hard to make ends meet following the Universal Credit cut, you can apply to have your council tax bill reduced. In some cases, applicants can get their bill reduced by 100%, but this will be determined by a number of different factors, including where you live, your circumstances and income and whether you have other adults or children living with you.

Help with paying rent

Rent is getting more and more expensive all the time, and with the added financial strain caused by the Universal Credit cut, it can be really difficult to find enough money to pay for life’s expenses. To help with this, you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) through your local council.

To be eligible for this, you must already claim housing benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit.


Little costs add up, and prescriptions for medication can sometimes end up costing you a bomb. Luckily, if you are a receiver of any of the following, you may be entitled to free prescriptions:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • Universal Credit

If you’re not too sure whether you’re eligible, you can double-check with the NHS’s eligibility checker.

How to check what you’re entitled to

It’s not always clear what financial assistance you are entitled to, but a great way to keep up-to-date and ensure that you don’t miss out is to carry out a benefit check. You can do this by using an online benefits calculator or by reaching out to your local Citizen’s Advice Office.

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Wednesday, October 20th, 2021 Economy No Comments

None of the content on this website, including blog posts, comments, or responses to user comments, is offered as financial advice. Figures used are for illustrative purposes only.

UK expenses: From grocery shopping and travel to days out

by Madaline Dunn

When it comes to day-to-day expenses, prices can vary widely depending on where you’re located in the UK. The North-South price divide is indeed true, too, and the further you go up North, typically, the cheaper things get.

At The Salary Calculator, we’ll walk you through the sort of prices you can expect to pay across the country at supermarkets, restaurants and pubs and where you can go for a cheap day out. We’ll cover:

  • A comparison of UK supermarket prices
  • Dining out across the UK
  • Price differences for activities
  • Travel costs contrasts

The UK Supermarket comparison

Across the UK, the price of your groceries will change depending on which supermarket you decide to shop at. There’s a pretty wide range to choose from, too.

Nimblefins analysis of ONS data also reveals that, on average, a UK household spends £3,312 on groceries a year, but where can you find the cheapest trolley?

Which? found Lidl is the cheapest supermarket in the UK. For 23 essential items, a Lidl shopping trolley comes in at £24.11, while not far behind, an Aldi trolley comes in at £24.54. The location with the most Lidls is London, which has a whopping 72 supermarkets. Elsewhere, Sheffield, London, Cardiff and Liverpool are the cities with the most Aldi stores.

Meanwhile, Asda sits at third place, with a trolley of 23 essential items costing £25.22. Fourth is Morrisons, where 23 essential items cost £27.14.

That said, a new supermarket chain, Mere, is set to launch in the UK, and founders claim that it could be up to 30% cheaper than competitors Lidl and Aldi.

Contrastingly, the most expensive supermarket in the UK is Waitrose, where a trolley with 23 items is priced at £32.20, over £8 more expensive than Lidl. Ocado, the online supermarket, is the second most costly at £30.33.

London is also home to the most Waitrose stores in the UK, with a total of 54 stores.

Dining out and drinks across the UK

In the UK, the average household spends £1,716 on restaurants and takeaways each year. That said, UK inflation recently saw its biggest increase on record in August 2021, meaning food and drink are getting even pricier. So, where can you find the cheapest places to eat out and buy drinks?

Sheffield is the most affordable city to buy a pint, according to research from Numbeo, costing £3.36. Liverpool and Leicester offer similar prices, with a pint costing £3.47 and £3.66 respectively.

Unsurprisingly, some of the most expensive pints can be found in London, where a pint will see you part with nearly £6 (£5.60). Meanwhile, Bristol pints cost £4.76 on average, and you’ll pay around £4.72 a pint in Norwich.

If you’re looking for a cheap bite to eat, on average, the most affordable place to buy a 12’’ Margherita pizza is Belfast, costing just £5.99. London, again, is the most expensive place comparatively, costing £10.99.

Meanwhile, for those looking to taste the finer things in life on a budget, the Michelin Cornerstone in Hackney, London, will set you back just £21.50 pp, and outside of London, the Coach in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, which cost you £23 pp.

Dundee offers the cheapest night out for those hitting the town, costing around just £25.35 on average. Cardiff and Swansea are also cheap options at just £27.33 and £27.35 per night, respectively. London and Oxford are much more expensive, ​​at £49.66 and £42.30 on average a night.

The cost of activities

It may be confusing to understand why there’s such a difference in price for activities like going to the cinema or joining a gym depending on where you live, but typically these price differences are due to rent and running costs varying regionally.

If you’re a fitness enthusiast trying to review where the cheapest places to workout are, up north in Newcastle, you can find a gym membership for just £16. This jumps up considerably the further you move down south.

Cinema prices vary widely, too. In Bradford, an adult ticket costs just £6.74, but this doubles if you move further south. In Wandsworth, for example, an adult ticket soars to £13.74.

Travel expenses

Travelling across the UK can be pretty expensive, especially if you choose to travel by train. These days, choosing the train costs 50% more than flying by plane!

According to Nimblefins, on average, a UK household spends around £1,100 a year (£94 a month) on public transport.

Here, London again tops the list of the most expensive places regarding public transport. Deutsche Bank’s 2019 survey found that transportation costs £150 a month for a travel card for zones 1-3. However, London prices are lower for buses, and a single hopper ticket will cost just £1.55. Elsewhere in the UK, a single ticket for a 20-minute journey from Middleton to Manchester city centre will set you back £4.50.

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Wednesday, October 13th, 2021 Consumer Goods, Economy No Comments

The UK bills comparison

by Madaline Dunn

When analysing how expensive it might be to live somewhere, people often overlook factoring in council tax and bills, which can be pretty big extra expenses after rent.

Some locations will even see you forking out as much as £2,078 a year when it comes to council tax. Meanwhile, across the UK, annual utility bills can reach as high as £2,416. So, the cost of running a home can really add up!

So, just how expensive can expenses get, and where can you move to avoid these prices? At The Salary Calculator, we’ll walk you through:

  • What council tax is and why it fluctuates
  • Which locations are the cheapest and most expensive for council tax
  • Where you can find the lowest utility bills
  • Where the most expensive utility bills are located

What is council tax, and why does it fluctuate?

Council tax is paid to your local council and is typically split into ten monthly payments. It goes towards everything from rubbish collection and transport to education services and leisure projects. How much you pay in council tax depends on where you live and the value of your home.

Interestingly, house prices don’t always correlate with council tax though. For example, although Westminster is home to some pretty pricey properties, it also has some of the lowest council tax rates in the UK. This is because these locations’ councils generate large amounts of revenue from alternative sources, such as through business rates and parking fees.

Of course, the locations with lower council tax rates also have fewer outgoings when it comes to expenses. This will largely be informed by the demographic of the area.

Raj Dosanjh, the founder of, commented: “There are multiple facets to how councils formulate how much Council Tax to charge residents, circling around other revenue incomes for the council. Westminster, for example, has an abundance of income from business rates.”

Adding: “Due to the busy high streets in the area, Westminster generated £2billion in business rates in 2019, 25 percent of London’s £8 billion total.”

There could be change on the horizon, though, with the Progressive Policy Think Tank making the case to scrap both council tax and stamp duty, replacing it with a “tax proportional to the value of the property itself.”

This reform, it says, would help to create a “fairer and more progressive” system and address “regional inequality, wealth inequality, and would ultimately build a stronger economy across the UK.”

Where are the cheapest and most expensive locations for council tax?

Council tax rates vary widely across the UK, and there’s a huge difference between living in Blaenau Gwent or Wandsworth.

The UK’s cheapest council tax can be found in:

  • Westminster: £828
  • Wandsworth: £845
  • Windsor & Maidenhead: £1,149
  • Na h-Eileanan Siar: £1,149
  • Hammersmith & Fulham: £1,196

In contrast, the most expensive council tax is located largely in Welsh boroughs. These include:

  • Blaenau Gwent: £2,078
  • Kingston-upon-Thames: £2,057
  • Merthyr Tydfil: £2,018
  • Neath Port Talbot: £1,996
  • Harrow: £1,962

Where can you find the cheapest utility bills?

By region, the lowest utility bills can be found:

  • Greater London: £775
  • South East England: £856
  • East of England: £873
  • North East: £904

The places with the cheapest average annual spend on utilities (including lighting, heating and hot water) per household include:

  • London: £775
  • Dartford: £782
  • Milton Keynes: £784
  • Manchester: £787
  • Rochester: £808

Where are the most expensive utility bills located?

Across the UK, the regions with the most expensive utility bills are:

  • Midlands East: £914
  • South West England: £919
  • North West: £948
  • West Midlands: £949
  • Yorkshire and the Humber: £978

The places with the most expensive average annual spend on utilities (including lighting, heating and hot water) per household include:

  • Dumfries and Galloway: £2416
  • Llandrindod Wells: £1311
  • Galashiels: £1181
  • Shrewsbury: £1157
  • Carlisle: £1140

Unfortunately, recent reports have revealed that energy bills are only on the up, too! By 1 October, the regulator, Ofgem’s price cap is set to increase by 12% to £1,277 a year for average use. If expert predictions are correct, this will surge to between £1,440 and £1,500 by spring 2022.

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Monday, September 27th, 2021 Economy No Comments

A guide to house prices across the UK

by Madaline Dunn

House hunting is exciting and often symbolises a new start, and adventure. That said, it can be somewhat overwhelming reviewing house prices, especially considering that global house prices are rising at the fastest pace since 2005.

According to Halifax, house prices shot up by 10.3% over the last year, with an increase to £287,440 on average!

But, don’t worry, at The Salary Calculator, we’ll walk you through:

  • Some of the housing market trends right now
  • Whether now is a good time to buy a house
  • Where the cheapest house prices are
  • Where the most expensive house prices are located

What are some of the housing market trends right now?

For those looking to break into the housing market in the UK, there are a few things you should know. In August, house prices jumped 7.1%, a record high, with more demand for greater space and a trend towards more home-working pinned as the reasons behind increased buyer activity.

In relation to this, following the pandemic, more and more people are looking to move out of cities, and now there is reportedly greater demand for rural areas. A survey from Royal London revealed that when movers were asked about their ideal living locations, 46% of Londoners said rural areas, while this figure was 45% in Manchester and 42% in Liverpool.

Andrew Asaam of Halifax said: “It’s clear from speaking to our mortgage customers that many have prioritised space over location as a result of more time spent at home over the last year and a half. We’ve seen evidence of this in areas right across Britain, with house price growth in the vast majority of cities now being outstripped by increases in their surrounding areas.”

Is now a good time to buy?

According to the experts, house prices are pretty pricey right now, and there’s been a month-on-month increase in price. Nationwide House Price Index found that in August 2021, the average house price stood at £248,857, which was 2.1% higher than in July. Demand is also high, meaning there’s a bit more competition.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s Chief Economist, says demand is likely to remain solid: “Consumer confidence has rebounded in recent months while borrowing costs remain low. This, combined with the lack of supply on the market, suggests continued support for house prices.”

Meanwhile, speaking to Woman and Home, Chris Salmon, a property expert said that a large price drop is unlikely to happen in the next few months: “For the most part, they will remain largely the same as they are now. Although the Stamp Duty Holiday fully ends at the end of September, only a small amount of properties are affected by that, not enough to see a significant drop in house prices.”

Where are the cheapest house prices?

If you look at the UK by region, some of the cheapest places to buy a house are:

  • Scotland: Average house price: £206,359
  • Yorkshire and The Humber: Average house price: £207,106
  • North East: Average house price: £213,091
  • North West: Average house price: £228,307
  • East Midlands: Average house price: £250,946

Meanwhile, by city, some of the least cheapest spots to buy a house are:

  • Hull: Average house price: £156,424
  • Carlisle: Average house price: £163,232
  • Bradford: Average house price: £164,410,
  • Sunderland: Average house price: £179,567
  • Inverness: Average house price:£191,840
  • Glasgow: Average house price: £196,625

Where are the most expensive house prices?

In the UK, buying in some of the most expensive regions will cost you an arm and a leg. The South West is now the most expensive region, and experts have largely put this down to the second home market surging.

Across the UK, some of the most expensive regions include:

  • South West: Average house price: £430,488
  • East: Average house price: £385,420
  • South East: Average house price: £441,246
  • London: Average house price: £706,267
  • West Midlands: Average house price: £264,017

These days there are actually locations in the UK that outdo London when it comes to house prices. Winchester, in particular, was found to be one of the most expensive places to live. There, the average property costs 14 times the average salary. Oxford is not far behind, with a price-to-earnings ratio of 12.4.

The following locations are the most expensive in the UK:

  • Winchester: Average house price:£630,432
  • St Albans: Average house price: £604,423
  • London: Average house price: £564,695
  • Oxford: Average house price: £486,928
  • Cambridge: Average house price: £482,300

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Tuesday, September 21st, 2021 Economy, Savings No Comments

The cost of rent across the UK

by Madaline Dunn

Rent in the UK is on the rise. According to recent figures from HomeLet, the average cost of rent in August reached a record high of £1,053. That’s up 6.9% from last year and 2.3% from the previous month.

Wales saw the highest annual price rise, up 12.8% from last year; meanwhile, the North East saw an annual increase of 5.8%.

So, just how expensive is it to rent in the UK, and what’s causing rent prices to rise?

At The Salary Calculator, we’ll walk you through:

  • Why rent prices in the UK are rising
  • The lowest rent prices in the UK
  • The highest rent prices in the UK

Why are rent prices on the rise?

UK rent prices are on the rise for a number of reasons, including a consistent rise in demand for rental properties. Research from BuyAssociation, in June revealed that a total of 88 prospective private renters were registered per estate agency branch in the UK.

The locations that have seen the biggest increase in demand include the West Midlands and Birmingham, and Yorkshire & the Humber.

The loosening of Covid-19 restrictions, improved job security, and young people moving back out of their parents’ homes have also been pinned as reasons for rent rises.

Commenting on what he thinks is the cause behind the hike, Andy Halstead, HomeLet & Let Alliance Chief Executive Officer, said: “Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, the Government rightly took measures to protect tenants but didn’t go far enough to balance the protection for landlords.”

He added: “It’s a continuation of the theme that we’ve seen for many years, with landlords being penalised by higher taxes and increased complexity in obtaining possession of their properties. Increased costs for landlords mean increased costs for tenants.”

Where are the cheapest places to rent in the UK?

When looking to rent a property in the UK, a whole host of factors go into decision making, but according to Statista, the most important one for 70% of UK residents is cost.

Saving on rent means that you have more cash in your pocket for the things you love. So what are some of the cheapest rental rates you can secure? By region, these include:

  • North East – Average rent: £547 per month
  • Yorkshire & Humberside – Average rent: £701 per month
  • Wales – Average rent: £702 per month
  • East Midlands- Average rent: £704 per month
  • Scotland – Average rent: £738

Specifically, the following cities offer the lowest rent prices across the UK:

  • Bradford – Average rent: £470.50 per month
  • Sunderland – Average rent: £486.50 per month
  • Kingston upon Hull – Average rent: £491.56 per month
  • Middlesbrough – Average rent: £507.71 per month
  • Blackpool -Average rent: £510.25 per month

Of course, London has some of the highest rent prices in the world. That said, there are some locations in London where you can secure slightly lower rent rates. This includes:

  • Croydon – Average rent: £1,200
  • Barking & Dagenham – Average rent: £1,210 per month
  • Bromley – Average rent: £1,250 per month
  • Redbridge – Average rent: £1,275 per month
  • Hillingdon – Average rent: £1,300 per month

For those looking to keep costs low, according to a report by SpareRoom, Bradford, Middlesbrough, and Sunderland offer some of the lowest rates to rent-a-room:

  • Middlesbrough – Average rent: £349 per month
  • Sunderland – Average rent: £350 per month
  • Bradford – Average rent: £364 per month
  • Huddersfield – Average rent: £365 per month
  • Liverpool – Average rent: £395 per month

Where are the most expensive places to rent in the UK?

Some of the prices of the most expensive places to rent in the UK will make your eyes water.

The most expensive regions to rent in the UK include:

  • Greater London – Average rent: £1607 per month
  • South East – Average rent: £1105 per month
  • East of England – Average rent: £1005 per month
  • South West – Average rent: £948 per month
  • North West – Average rent: £799 per month

Aside from London, which is the most expensive city to rent in the UK, some of the most expensive rental rates, according to Thomas Sanderson, can be found in the following cities:

  • Brighton & Hove – Average rent: £1,461.00 per month
  • Oxford – Average rent: £1,442.80 per month
  • Poole – Average rent: £1,251.25 per month
  • Bournemouth – Average rent: £1,125.89 per month
  • Cambridge – Average rent: £1,112.25 per month

Although renting a room in a house can be a way to avoid paying most of your wage packet to your landlord, there are some locations where renting a room is still pretty steep. For those weighing up their rent-a-room options, some of the most expensive places include:

  • Jersey – Average rent: £784 per month
  • Twickenham – Average rent: £684 per month
  • Barnet – Average rent: £666 per month
  • Guernsey – Average rent: £656 per month
  • Kingston upon Thames – Average rent: £644 per month

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Wednesday, September 15th, 2021 Economy No Comments

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