Step 2: Reduce your spending

After increasing your income, reducing your spending can help you deal with debt. Firstly, divide your expenses into essential items and non-essential items. Non-essential items are usually easier to reduce, but there are ways you can reduce essential items too.

Essential items might be food costs, utility bills and rent or mortgage. To reduce these costs, you might be able to:

  • get benefits from the government such as Housing Benefit
  • cash in any insurance you have with your mortgage
  • get help with your travel and parking costs for any hospital visits
  • switch to a cheaper energy supplier
  • get free prescriptions
  • move to a different lender for your mortgage or credit card
  • get help from the government to pay for childcare if you have children
  • save money on your phone calls by using free software such as Skype™.

Our financial guides can discuss your options with you. Call them on 0808 808 00 00.

Think about your costs

You should divide your spending into essential items and non-essential items. Essential items can include the most important things like:

  • food costs
  • bills
  • your rent or mortgage.

Usually, non-essential spending can be the easiest to reduce. However you may also be able to reduce spending on some essential items. For example, you may be able to switch to cheaper energy suppliers and lenders. We have energy advisers who could help you do this. Call them on 0808 808 00 00.

Regular credit repayments and unsecured loans can often be reduced or stopped while your income is reduced. Unsecured loans are loans that are not backed up by property, such as your home or car. This means there is not the same risk of your property being repossessed if you miss payments. Contact the lender to explain your circumstances.

You can call our financial guides on 0808 808 00 00 to discuss your options.


Housing costs

Rent

If you are renting and have a low income, you may be eligible for Housing Benefit. Depending on the area you live in and your situation, you may need to claim a new benefit called Universal Credit instead.

Council tax, or rates (Northern Ireland)

Check with your local council to find out whether they can give any discounts or help with council tax, or rates (Northern Ireland).

Mortgage

If you have a mortgage, you may have taken out various types of insurance when you first bought your home. If you are diagnosed with cancer or are off work for treatment, this may mean you can now claim on this insurance.

Our section on insurance has more information on how to make a claim.

If you have a low income, you may qualify for help towards the interest payments and service charges. Call our welfare rights advisers on 0808 808 00 00 for more information about this.

If you are worried you won’t be able to keep up with your mortgage payments, contact your lender straight away. Lenders must look at ways to help you.

We have a section on housing costs that has more information about managing your rent, mortgage or other housing costs.


Household bills

Energy bills

It may be worth changing fuel suppliers if you can get a better deal with a different company. In general, it is good to check fairly regularly (about once a year). 

We have more information about managing your energy costs which has lots of suggestions to help you save on energy costs. You can also speak to one of our energy advisers on 0808 808 00 00.

Water rates

Water companies are not allowed to disconnect your water supply if you have not paid your bills. Some water companies have trust funds that may be able to help pay your water bill. Auriga have a  booklet called Help with water and energy bills that shows all the current schemes from utility suppliers. You can download this booklet at aurigaservices.co.uk

Phone calls

Phone calls should be classed as essential when you are unable to go out due to your illness or if you are in hospital. This is because they can be a great way to stay in touch with family or work.

Check that you have the best call package for your home phone and mobile phone, if you have them. We have more information about phone calls in our section on managing your money day-to-day.


Prescriptions

Prescription costs vary across the UK. They are free for everyone in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. People with cancer in England are eligible for free prescriptions. If you do not qualify for free prescriptions, you may want to buy a Prescription Prepayment Certificate for three months or a year. 

We have more information about help with prescription costs.


Travel and parking

If your income is low or you are getting some benefits, you may be able to get refunds on hospital travel costs. In some cases it may be possible to get discounted hospital parking. If you have a severe mobility problem, you may qualify for a Blue Badge. Our section on help with transport and parking has more information.

My husband got a Blue Badge as his breathing difficulties made walking very hard. It has been a lifesaver on many occasions.

Karen


Childcare costs

You may need to arrange childcare if you are:

  • going to appointments
  • having treatment
  • dealing with any side effects you are experiencing.

We have more information about the different ways to get help with childcare costs.


Credit cards

If you use credit cards and don’t pay off your balance in full every month, you may be paying interest. You could transfer your balance to another card. Some cards offer 0% interest deals for a limited period. However there may be a charge for doing this, so you will need to weigh up the savings against any possible charges.

To find the best credit card deals, you could use a price comparison website such as moneysavingexpert.com or uswitch.com

Many newspapers also include comparison tables in their personal finance pages, in print or online.

Next steps

  • See whether you could reduce any non-essential spending. Don’t reduce essential costs, such as food and heating, as this could affect your health.
  • Make sure you are getting any help with health costs that you are entitled to, including prescriptions, travel and childcare. Call 0808 808 00 00 to speak to our welfare rights advisers.

Back to Managing debt and borrowing

Debt and borrowing overview

Living with cancer can bring extra expenses. Learn how to manage your debts using a clear step-by-step process.

Step 1: increase your income

Increasing your income is the first step to managing your debts. Check your entitlement to benefits and insurance payouts.