Step 2: Reduce your expenses

Once you have made sure you have as much money coming in as possible, it’s important to think about how you can reduce your expenses. 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 SkypeTM
  • reduce or stop your pension contributions.

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

Reducing your expenses

Once you have made sure you have as much money coming in as possible (step 1), look at your expenses and see where you can reduce your costs.

Assess your costs

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

Non-essential spending should be the easiest to reduce. But you may also 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. Unsecured loans are loans that are not backed by property such as your home or car, so these can’t be repossessed for non-payment. Contact the lender to explain your circumstances.

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

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

Council tax (rates in Northern Ireland)

Check with your local authority (council) to find out whether any discounts or help with council tax or rates payments are available to you.


In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, prescriptions are free for everyone. In England, people with cancer 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.

We have more information about prescription charges if you live in England.

Travel to and from hospital

If your household income is low or you are getting certain state benefits, you may be able to get refunds on some or all of your travel costs to hospital. The scheme doesn’t cover trips to a GP. If you need someone to travel with you to hospital for medical reasons, you may be able to get a refund of their travel costs too.

Speak to your hospital for more information.

Concessionary bus pass

If you have difficulty walking, you may qualify for a concessionary bus pass. The pass can be used on other local public transport. You may also be able to get help towards the cost of taxis. Contact your local council to find out what is available and how to apply.

Hospital parking

Hospital parking charges are different across the UK.

  • England – Many hospitals in England give people with cancer free or discounted hospital car parking. But these concessions aren’t always well-publicised. You should ask your hospital for more information.
  • Scotland – Hospital car parking in Scotland is free for everyone, except at three privately-run hospital car parks. These are in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
  • Wales – In Wales, hospital parking is free, except for a few hospitals.
  • Northern Ireland – In Northern Ireland, parking is free for people having chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment. 

We have more information about getting help with your travel and parking costs.

The Blue Badge scheme

If you have a severe mobility problem and can’t use public transport, you may qualify for a permit under the Blue Badge scheme. A Blue Badge lets you park without a time limit or charge in on-street restricted-parking zones, disabled public parking bays or areas restricted by yellow lines. You don’t have to be the driver to qualify for a Blue Badge.

We have more information about the Blue Badge scheme.

Childcare costs

You may need to arrange childcare while you attend appointments, receive treatment or deal with any side effects you’re experiencing. There are different ways to get help with these costs.

If you work, your employer may allow you to pay for childcare using childcare vouchers. These let you pay for childcare through your salary, but before tax and National Insurance has been deducted, which saves you money. Some employers may pay childcare costs directly or provide a workplace nursery. For more information about childcare vouchers, visit the GOV.UK website

If you’re off work temporarily and are getting sick pay, the vouchers or other help may continue either as part of your contract or if you have a sympathetic employer.

Talk to the HR department where you work about still getting help with childcare costs during periods of sick leave.

There may also be help you can get with looking after children, perhaps from family and friends, social services (contact your local council) or charities such as Home-Start. Flexible working may also help, if this is possible for you.

We have more information about getting help with childcare costs.

Water rates

Water companies aren’t allowed to disconnect your water supply if you haven’t paid your bills. Some water companies have trust funds that may be able to help pay your water bill. You can download a booklet that shows all current schemes available from utility suppliers from Auriga (PDF).

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.

Pension contributions

You may consider reducing or stopping your pension contributions while you sort out your finances. If you are in a workplace scheme, you may be able to opt out for a while. Take advice before you do this as you may lose other valuable benefits.

We have a section about pensions that you might find helpful.

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.