Tips to cut your spending

Living costs can increase as result of your cancer. If you’re spending more than your income, there are things you can do to reduce your outgoings.

Divide your spending into essential items and non-essential items. Essential items are basic living needs such as food, utility bills, mortgage and rent. Non-essential costs should be easier to reduce:

  • Check if your phone package is the best value.
  • Transfer your credit card balance to another card with lower interest.
  • Switch to a cheaper energy supplier.
  • Look for help with healthcare costs. Remember, people with cancer can get free prescriptions. Your hospital may also have free parking policies.
  • Ask your employer about support with childcare fees.

Don’t try to reduce essential costs if you can’t afford to. If you’re worried about keeping up mortgage repayments, your lender may be able to extend the terms of your mortgage or reduce the interest. If you are renting, check if you are eligible for housing benefit.

Call our welfare rights team on 0808 808 00 00 to find out more.

Essential and non-essential spending

After working out your budget, you should know how your income and your spending compare. If you are spending more than you earn, you should think about reducing your outgoings.

You should divide your spending into essential items and non-essential items. Essential items are likely to be things such as food costs, your utility bills and your rent or mortgage.

Non-essential spending should be the easiest to reduce. But you may be able to cut spending on essential items. For example, you could switch to cheaper energy suppliers and lenders.

If you’re making regular credit repayments, or have unsecured loans, these can often be reduced or stopped while your income is reduced. Contact the lender to explain your circumstances.

Don’t try to reduce essential costs to allow you to continue with these repayments if you can’t afford to.

Rent or mortgage payments

If you are renting and have a low income, you may be eligible for Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. To find out more, call our welfare rights team on 0808 808 00 00 or go to our section on Benefits and Financial Support.

If you have a mortgage, you may have taken out insurance when you first bought your home. The insurance might pay the monthly mortgage if you’re off work, or pay off the loan if you’re diagnosed with a life-threatening condition. We have more detailed information about insurance.

If you’re worried you won’t be able to keep up your mortgage payments, your lender should be able to help. Read more about keeping up with mortgage repayments. empty


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. This includes any medication, not just cancer related medication. You can apply for an exemption certificate by collecting the form FP92A from your GP surgery or cancer clinic.

If your household income is low or if you’re getting certain state benefits, you and your partner may qualify for free prescriptions anyway.

If you live in England and are not sure whether you qualify for free prescriptions, call the NHS Help with Health Costs scheme on 0845 850 0030 or visit the NHS Business Services Authority.

If you don’t qualify for free prescriptions, you may want to buy a Prescription Prepayment Certificate for three months or a year.

It will save you money if you need more than four prescriptions every three months, or more than 14 a year. A pre-payment certificate costs £29.10 for three months, or £104 for 12 months.

You can buy a certificate over the phone using a recognised credit or debit card (call 0300 330 1341). If you buy the 12-month certificate, you can spread the cost over 10 monthly direct debit payments.

We have more detailed information about prescriptions that you may find helpful.

Travel and parking costs

Travelling to and from the hospital can become expensive, especially if you are going regularly for treatment. You may be eligible for help with travel and parking costs, such as:

  • refunds on some of your travel costs
  • concessionary bus pass
  • discounted parking at the hospital
  • a parking permit under the blue badge scheme.

We have lots of information on help with transport and parking.

Childcare costs

You might need help paying for childcare while you attend appointments, have treatment or deal with any side effects. We have more information about the different ways to get help with childcare costs, including:

  • childcare vouchers
  • family and friends
  • social services or health and social care board
  • charities such as Home-Start.

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 of them offer 0% interest deals for a limited period. There may be a charge for doing this, so you’ll need to weigh up the savings against any possible charges.

To find the best credit card deals, you could use an online price comparison website such as or Many newspapers also include comparison tables in their personal finance pages, in print or online.

Energy bills

It may be worth switching fuel suppliers if you can get a better deal with a different company. In general, it’s good to check fairly regularly (about once a year). You can check by using an energy price comparison website.

In England, Scotland and Wales, some of these websites are approved by a scheme called the Confidence Code. You can find these recommended websites by visiting Ofgem. In Northern Ireland, you can visit the Consumer Council to compare energy suppliers.

There are also schemes where you can get free or reduced-cost insulation or draught protection. For energy-saving tips, contact the Energy Saving Trust. Some suppliers have a trust fund that may be able to help pay your fuel bill.

We have more information about keeping warm, including lots of suggestions to help you save on energy costs. You can also speak to one of our energy advisers – call 0808 808 00 00 or read more about help with energy bills.

Phone calls

Check that you have the best call package for your home phone and mobile phone, if you have them. Many phone companies offer cheaper or free calls at certain times of day, so the deal that works best for you will depend on when you use your phone most.

If you have a contract mobile phone, you may save money by switching to a pay-as-you-go deal. This will only work if you set yourself a strict limit on the amount you’ll spend on top-ups each week or month. Before deciding whether to switch from a contract phone deal, check whether there is a minimum contract period and any penalty charge for cancelling it. You could also ask your mobile phone provider to switch you to a cheaper tariff if you call and explain your situation to them.

You may be able to save money by making phone calls online.

For example, SkypeTM is a free software program that lets you make free calls to other Skype users anywhere in the world.

You’ll need to get a headset if you don’t already have a microphone and speakers for your computer. Skype also allows you to call landlines and mobile phones very cheaply.

The website Say no to 0870 can also help you save money on phone calls. It can help you find cheaper alternatives to some non-geographical telephone numbers, which can be more expensive to call – these often begin with 0870 or 0845.

Next steps for managing your spending

  • See whether you could reduce or cut out any non-essential spending. Don’t reduce essential costs, such as food and heating, as this could affect your health.
  • Make sure you’re getting any help with health costs that you’re entitled to, including prescriptions, travel costs and childcare costs.

Back to Maximising your income

Your rights at work

Everyone at work has certain rights. Legislation protects you from being treated unfairly because of cancer.