EVERYONE is feeling the pinch with the cost of petrol, groceries, energy bills and interest rates all soaring.
But help is at hand with The Sun’s Squeeze Team – our panel of experts who know how to bust down your bills.The Sun’s Squeeze team saves these readers £3,242 – here’s how you can benefit too[/caption]
We have brought together the nation’s top financial minds to share insider tricks to help you stay afloat in the deepening cost-of-living crisis.
Today they tackle real-life problems for two families.
The Garcia-Lopez family
Part-time childminder Michelle, 37, and her recording engineer husband John, 34, spend £1,400 a month on rent for the two-bedroom flat they live in with their six year-old son Thomas and Michelle’s daughter Izzy, 15, in South West London.
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After tax, National Insurance and housing costs, they are left with just £533 a month, or £122 a week, for all their other bills and food.
They have used £4,300 of savings just trying to stay afloat and have £500 remaining.
Michelle says: “Our kitchen cupboards used to be packed but our £80 weekly grocery budget is buying less and less.
“During lockdown, John had hardly any work, my childminding was cut and we used up our savings just to keep our tiny flat and eat. We no longer have a car, so we’re restricted to shopping at our local Tesco.”
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Mobile bills for Michelle, John and Izzy come to £100 a month as they have unlimited data to video call Michelle’s family in the Philippines and John’s relatives in Colombia.
Energy comes to £80 a month. They spend £40 a month on a Virgin broadband and TV package and £80 a month on home contents and gadget insurance.
They spend around £120 a month eating out and their loan and credit card payments are around £180 a month.
Sun Savers Editor Leah Milner says: “John and Michelle’s debt is likely to get worse unless they take drastic action. They should use the eligibility checker on MoneySavingExpert to see if they might qualify for a better loan rate.
“They can use the same tool to find out if they could get a zero per cent balance transfer credit card. This could shave around £240 a year from their interest payments.
“They currently bank with Nationwide and Barclays, but they could earn a £170 welcome bonus each if they both switch to HSBC. That’s an easy way to pocket £340.”
The Sun’s Head of Consumer, Tara Evans, adds: “Not having a car doesn’t mean they can only shop at Tesco, as Iceland has free delivery.”
Leah says: “They could use a clever trick to get two-for-one meals and cinema tickets for a whole year through Meerkat Movies and Meerkat Meals.
“They would need to each buy a cheap insurance policy at CompareTheMarket, such as a one-day UK travel insurance for a couple of quid.
“This could halve the family’s annual bill for eating out from £1,440 to £720 and they could enjoy lots of half-price cinema trips.
“When their mobile deals with Three end, they can switch to another deal with much less data and make their video calls from home wifi.
“They could cut their total bill to £12 a month with Virgin Mobile for unlimited calls and 5GB of data.”
Richard Neudegg, Uswitch head of regulation, said: “Ditching one of their subscription services would save them around £96 a year.”
Jo Thornhill, money expert at comparison site MoneySuperMarket, said the family would save £96 a year when their Virgin deal ends by switching to an 18-month Sky contract, which includes Sky TV, broadband and Netflix for £39 a month.
Holly Mead, The Sun’s Deputy Head of Consumer, added: “It could be cheaper to add their gadgets to their main home insurance policy.
“They can also get £30 back if they sign up for TopCashback and click through to Confused.com before comparing costs and buying a new policy.”
- £340 bank bonuses
- £720 meals out
- £192 TV and broadband
- £30 insurance cashback
- £987 mobile contracts
- £240 credit card and loan interest
TOTAL SAVINGS: £2,509
SINGLE mum-of-three Cassie Bishop, 35, from Cardiff, works six days a week in two different jobs but can’t sleep at night for worrying about her bills.
She lives with sons Kiel, 15, Kyron, 13 and Ryan, ten, in a two-bed flat.Single-mum Cassie Bishop works six days a week in two different jobs but can’t sleep at night for worrying about her bills[/caption]
Cassie says: “I’m feeling really anxious. I just don’t know how I’ll make it to the next pay day.”
She usually takes home around £1,100 a month as a teaching assistant and another £120 a month by doing three hours each week as a respite carer.
After rent is taken out of her Universal Credit, she is left with around £250. Her precarious finances have been hit even harder this month as her pay packet came up £300 short and she is trying to find out why.
Cassie now fears she won’t be able to afford the second-hand bike Kyron would like for his birthday in July.
She adds: “The boys eat so much. Then they get holes in their trainers or tell me about a school trip and I think, ‘Oh my God’.”
She pays for a £25-a-month, sim-only phone with Three that has unlimited data.
MAKE ENDS MEET
Cassie has had to rely on a food bank in the past and may have to again.
She says: “Whenever I ask for help I keep hitting brick walls.”
Cassie is far from alone. Nearly half of workers quizzed by the GMB union say they have had to borrow money to make ends meet in the past six months.
But The Sun’s Squeeze Team can help.
Jonathan Chesterman, of the debt charity StepChange, says: “A debt adviser will be able to apply for the Breathing Space scheme which will give her 60 days, when her creditors can’t take enforcement action, to work out what she is able to pay.”
He urged her to contact the StepChange helpline on 0800 138 1111 or via online chat. When it comes to the shortfall in her wages, Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said that a recent change in employer may have led to Cassie being put on an emergency tax code.
She told her: “Check with your employer if that’s the case, then contact HMRC and request a change in tax code.”
Consumer expert Martyn James urged Cassie to contact her energy supplier, British Gas.
He said: “She should explain that she is finding it hard to pay her bills and ask what help is available.”
He also advised Cassie to ask for help with her rent through the Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) scheme.
She should run a check on the Turn2us website to make sure she is not missing out on benefits or grants.
Leah Milner adds: “Cassie could save a lot on her mobile bill. If she can manage on 15GB, she could get a Plusnet deal for £8 a month plus £25 cashback on a prepaid card, saving £229 a year.”
The Sun also put Cassie in touch with big-hearted Mike Jones, who runs a bike recycling scheme, Free Bikes 4 Kids, in Newport, South Wales. He hopes to find a birthday bike for Kyron.
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Cassie could also save £11.99 on her TV and broadband bill by switching to the same Sky contract that Jo Thornhill recommended to the Garcia-Lopez family.
And she could switch her £40-a-month pet insurance for French bulldog Hercules to a policy with Frank, costing less than £18 a month and saving Cassie £264 a year.
- £229 mobile contracts
- £240 TV and broadband
- £264 pet insurance
TOTAL SAVINGS: £733
Win your bills
WE know how tough it is for millions of people to make ends meet right now.
This year we have seen energy bills dramatically rise and now inflation is rumoured to be heading for 11 per cent.
That’s why we are giving TEN lucky readers £2,000 each to put towards their bills.
To be in with a chance of winning £2k to help pay your way, just follow these steps:
- Download the Sun Savers app or sign up at sunsavers.co.uk.
- Go to the Offers section and click ‘Start Collecting’ on the Win Your Bills page.
- Collect SEVEN 13 Sun Savers codes. We will print one daily until Saturday, July 2. You can find today’s on Page 22.
- Enter or scan your seven Sun Savers codes on the app or website by midnight on Friday, July 8 to be automatically entered into the competition.