Personal finances

Coping with financial challenges: Ways to save money in 2022

by Madaline Dunn

These days, almost everyone is feeling the pinch. According to recent research from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), more and more people view affording food as a concern and over three-quarters of UK consumers (76%) have voiced their unease.

Likewise, BritainThinks also found that the cost of living is now the dominant concern for UK households, with rising prices being a major concern for 90% of people. Shawbrook Bank even found that around 18% are already losing sleep over their concerns around money, and a quarter of those surveyed cited managing their finances as the primary cause of their stress.

At The Salary Calculator we understand how difficult it can be to cope with the cost of living crisis, and have compiled a list of ways to save money when faced with financial challenges:

  • Access to food banks 
  • Free sanitary products and contraceptives
  • Baby food & formula
  • Toys & Books

Access to food banks

Recent research has shown that over 22% of people surveyed by the FSA, as a result of financial struggles, have been forced to either miss a meal or reduce the size of their meals. It will come as little surprise then that people’s use of food banks has risen dramatically, with the number of those turning to food banks increasing from around one in 10 in March 2021, to almost one in six this March. 

Speaking about this, Prof Susan Jebb, chair of the agency, said: “In the face of the immediate pressures on people struggling to buy food, food banks are playing a vital role in our communities.” That said, you may be in the dark about how to go about accessing a food bank, but don’t worry, we’ll explain. To begin with, you’ll need a referral – you can start the ball rolling through accessing your local Citizens Advice. Once there, you’ll be asked about your personal circumstances and they will determine whether you’re eligible. That said, if you’re unable to get a referral this way, you can ask an organisation/body that you’re receiving support from, this could be a social worker, school staff, or GP.

Once you’ve received a referral, you’ll be given food vouchers for a food parcel containing three days’ worth of non-perishable food. Alongside the food parcel, you’ll also be offered advice on finance, debt, and government support. 

Sanitary products & contraceptives

Period poverty in the UK is alarmingly widespread. A recent survey in the UK uncovered that one in four girls and women aged 14-21 (28%) are struggling to afford sanitary products and almost one in five (19%) have been unable to afford these at all since the beginning of 2022.

With a lack of access to sanitary products, these women and girls have been forced to use substitutes such as ​​toilet paper (80%), socks (12%), newspaper/paper (10%), or another kind of fabric (7%). 

Commenting about the horrific situation many women and girls are facing, Rose Caldwell, CEO of Plan International UK, called the findings “devastating.” She said: “As we look to an uncertain future, many more families will face tough financial choices, and more young women than ever are likely to face issues affording the products they need,” she said. “Period products are a necessity, not a luxury, and they need to be treated as such.”

However, while we wait to catch up with Scotland, which is now the first in the world to have made period products free, there is assistance for those facing period poverty. Food banks now stock sanitary products, and you can find your local food bank through the Trussell Trust website which contains a directory of nationwide food banks. In some cases, you won’t need a referral. The supermarket Morrisons has a scheme where those in need can get free sanitary products by asking for a package for Sandy. Bloody Good Period, Period Poverty, Freedom4Girls and Hey Girls can also provide help.

When it comes to contraceptives, you can access them for free from the following: 

  • Contraception clinics
  • Sexual health or GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinics
  • Some GP surgeries
  • Some young people’s services
  • Pharmacies

It’s also important to note that contraception services are free and confidential, even for those who are under the age of 16.

Baby food & formula

If you’re facing financial hardship and you are pregnant or have a child under four years of age, you may be eligible for assistance buying food and milk. This can be accessed through the NHS’s Healthy Start program,  where and if eligible, you will be sent a Healthy Start card with money on it, which is updated with funds every four weeks, so you can use it to buy:

  • Plain cow’s milk
  • Infant formula milk (based on cow’s milk)
  • Healthy Start vitamins
  • Vitamin drops 
  • Fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables
  • Fresh, dried, and tinned pulses

There are also specialist “baby banks” which are run by local organisations and charities dotted across the UK. Through baby banks, you can access nappies, wipes, baby food, clothes, toiletries, toys, cots, sterilisers, baby baths, and medication. Some active baby banks include London-based organisation Little Village, Baby Basics, and The Nappy Project. 

To find out where your local baby bank is, reach out to Citizens Advice and Trussell Trust, or use Little Village’s interactive baby bank tool.

Toys & Books

While there are a fair few options available for food, drink and sanitary products, you may be wondering if there are organisations, charities, or schemes that can help you access toys and books for your youngsters. After all, a Gingerbread survey found that when looking to make cuts to spending, toys, books and games are often cut out first to make ends meet (52%).

When it comes to accessing books, BookTrust is the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, and entitles every child in England and Wales to a free Bookstart pack before they are 12 months old and again aged 3-4 years ( or 27 months old in Wales).

Likewise, for access to toys, you may find it helpful to look into toy libraries, which are exactly what you’d expect them to be, libraries where instead of borrowing books, children can borrow toys. There are more than 1,000 toy libraries around the UK, and yearly membership is low, costing as little as £3 per family for a year pass. Typically, toys can be borrowed for up to two to three weeks.

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Tuesday, June 14th, 2022 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.

Energy prices on the rise

by Madaline Dunn

News of rising energy prices will come as another financial knock to many people across the UK after what has been a turbulent two years. The cost of living is set to increase once again following a worldwide squeeze on gas and energy supplies.

In October, around 15 million homes saw their bills up 12%. Unfortunately, the situation is only likely to worsen, with industry leaders calling for government intervention to help tackle the “national crisis”.

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

  • How much you can expect costs to rise by
  • The causes of the price hike
  • Whether there’s anything you can do to navigate this

How much will costs rise?

In the UK, the trade body Energy UK has released some bleak forecasts regarding energy bills, outlining that they could rise by 50% by springtime, which will ultimately hit low-income households and small businesses the hardest.

As a result, reports say that the energy bill for the average household could increase by £600 by April – and looking forward, next year, bills could reach £2,200-a-year on average.

Of course, with other rising living costs, this is concerning news for many. Alex Belsham-Harris, of Citizens Advice, says that already people are feeling the pinch. He added: “With major hikes to energy bills from April and other costs of living rising, the quickest and easiest way for the government to provide direct support for those hardest hit will be through the benefits system.”

What’s causing the hike?

Energy costs are on the rise for a number of reasons. Wholesale energy prices have surged as economies emerge from the pandemic, with demand increasing and fewer exports. Last year’s cold winter in Europe also played a part. So, there has been a range of technical and geopolitical issues at play. Since 2020, energy prices have risen by 250%, and in August, they rose further by a staggering 70%. This has led to more than 20 domestic suppliers going bust as the price cap prevented companies from charging consumers more to deal with this.

Although Ofgem’s price cap has limited energy suppliers in regards to how much they charge, this is to move in April and could reach £1,995-a-year per household.

What can you do?

It can be stressful thinking about the prospect of rising energy prices, and it’s understandable to have concerns and questions.

Some important information to remember is that if you’re struggling to keep up with payments, don’t put your head in the sand. Reach out to your supplier as soon as possible. Suppliers can help set up an affordable payment plan if you feel things are spiralling – they may even pass on the details of charities that can help you with your financial burden.

That said, if you feel as though the situation has advanced beyond that, it may be time to reach out to a debt adviser to help you navigate missed payments and the like.

Likewise, it’s worth noting that if your provider is one of the unlucky ones caught up in the crisis and goes bust, and you have credit on your account, it won’t be lost. Instead, your balance will be transferred to your new energy supplier – the same goes for any debt on your account; it will be passed on.

Of course, there are ways you can use energy more efficiently, too, to keep your bills lower. Simple things like not leaving appliances on standby and switching off lights when they’re not needed can have a big impact. Switching to low energy light bulbs can keep costs lower, too, as can using draft excluders and investing in better insulation and double glazing – although the latter may not be financially viable options for everyone.

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Wednesday, January 26th, 2022 Economy No Comments

The best credit card deals out there in 2021

by Madaline Dunn

When it comes to the world of credit cards, there are lots of benefits. A credit card helps boost your credit rating, offers you protection and freebies, and gives you some financial wriggle room.

That said, it can be hard to know where to start, and often people have lots of burning questions that need answering. It’s also important to stay informed about charges and fees.

At The Salary Calculator, we’ll make sure that you’re up-to-date with all the latest credit card deals out there in 2021. Keep reading to find out more.

Reasons you could benefit from a credit card

To some, credit cards can seem intimidating, and many believe it only leads to debt, but they can be helpful in some circumstances. Credit cards can help you with your finances and assist you with building a good credit report. If your credit is in the red, and you’re looking to make a big investment like a house or car, a credit card can push it into the green.

Some credit cards also enable free borrowing and purchase protection, as well as offering reward deals so that you can earn free money too.

That said, it’s important to be aware that you shouldn’t rely on credit cards to borrow money, especially if you don’t have the funds for repayments. Plus, when the interest-free period ends, you can be faced with some pretty significant charges. Credit cards also have varying levels of APR, which refers to the rate at which you’ll be charged for borrowing. So, make sure you don’t get caught out by the small print!

Santander All in One Credit Card

Arguably, the biggest plus of this credit card offer is that cardholders can benefit from 26 months interest-free on balance transfers. Other benefits include a 0.5% cashback on all purchases and no foreign transaction fees.

However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, and the card does have a £3 monthly charge, which works out to £36 a year. Another disadvantage of this card is that you will also be charged transaction fees if you withdraw money – interest applies here too. Moreover, it has an APR of 23.7%.

To be eligible for this card, you must have an income of at least £7,500 a year and be 18 or over.

Aqua Advance Credit Card

This card is excellent for people who are looking to build credit and requires no credit rating. It has an initial APR of 34.9%, but customers who stick with this card will be rewarded through staggered APR reduction. After 12 months, if you keep up with payments and stay within your limit, your rate could be reduced by 5% each year. This means that the APR can go as low as 19.9%.

This card also offers access to the Aqua Credit Checker, allowing you to view your credit rating and its improvement.

Other benefits include credit limits of between £250-£1,200 and no extra charges for purchasing abroad.

To be eligible for this card, you must fulfil a specific criterion. Applicants must be over 18 with a permanent address. Additionally, you must have a current UK bank or building society account and must not have been registered as bankrupt in the last 18 months. Equally, you cannot have any ongoing bankruptcy proceedings against you.

Finally, eligibility also depends on not receiving a County Court Judgement (CCJ) in the past 12 months. You also cannot already have an Aqua card or have an Aqua, marbles, opus, Fluid card taken out in the last 12 months.

American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday Credit Card 

This is a great card for those looking to get a little more bang for their buck with no annual fee. It offers a 5% cashback on all purchases up to £100 for the first three months. This does, however, decrease over time.

That said, it’s important to note that you need to spend £3000 or more to access cashback offers, and unfortunately, it’s not available for those with a bad credit history. It has an APR of 22.2%,

To be a successful applicant for this card, you must be aged 18 or over and have a clean slate regarding debt. Applicants must also have a permanent UK address and a current UK bank or building society account.

M&S Shopping Plus Credit Card

For those looking for a credit card to spread the cost of large purchases, this is the perfect one for you. With no annual fee, it also boasts a 20-month interest-free period of new purchases. That’s right, no interest at all for 20 months! Accompanying this, the card also offers cardholders an 18-month interest-free period for balance transfers. That said, this only applies within the first 90 days. Also, remember if you opt for this card, you must pay off your balance before the interest-free period ends.

As with everything, there are pros and cons to this card, and the reward points you earn through this card are only available in the form of M&S vouchers. So, this isn’t necessarily a great deal for everyone. It also has an APR of 21.9%.

Eligibility for this card requires that applicants are over the age of 18 and UK residents.

Barclaycard Rewards Credit Card

This is a great travel card for those who want to earn as they spend abroad. With a 0% foreign transaction fee and no annual fee, this is a pretty attractive deal. This card also offers 0.25% cashback on all spending and savings on live events with Barclaycard Entertainment.

However, compared with other credit cards, a 0.25% cashback rate isn’t the best deal and it does not offer a balance transfer option. It also has a 22.9% APR variable.

Applicants must be aged 21 or over, have a personal income of £20,000 or above, and have had a permanent UK address for at least two years. Those looking to get in on this deal must also have at least four years of managing credit, make payments on time and be able to afford repayments.

Lastly, applicants must not have had Individual Voluntary Agreements, CCJs, and must not have declared bankruptcy in the last six years.

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Monday, July 5th, 2021 Economy, Savings No Comments

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