Cost of living advice

Free SIM Cards in all Manchester Libraries:

Any Manchester resident (over 18 years) who is struggling to pay for data on their device can now get a free SIM that comes loaded with free data! SIMs come with free internet access for a total of 6 months, no monthly top up required. All you have to do is call into your local library. Find out more and how to claim your SIM at the Lets get digital Manchester site


Free warm spaces in libraries across Manchester:

Every library in Manchester is a ‘warm space’, a free, safe place where residents can come in and stay warm all day in a welcoming, inclusive environment. Our libraries are packed full of resources and support for all ages:

Free, self-service hot drinks
Comfortable seating and welcoming spaces 
Free Internet
Free Wifi

Information and advice
Staff who can signpost to other support agencies
Digital drop-ins one day a week
Under 5s story times once a week at 11am (ask your local library for more details).

Find your local library and read about their library services 


Free Manchester City Council Cost of Living Advice Line/Web page and Helping Hands ZCard:

Free phone number 0800 023 2692, open 9:00-4:30 Monday to Friday providing advice around money management, debt, bills, food, travel and getting online. Agents on the phone line will have access to language line for those residents whose first language is not English. Sign Video will also be available for residents who may require this facility.


An online form for the advice line and web page links about how to access a wide range of support are available at The A5 version of the Helping Hands ZCard Pocket guide attached can be distributed and displayed in your setting as required. The hard copy guides are about the size of a bank card and really useful to carry around.


9 tips for coping with rising family living costs


We’re all feeling the squeeze due to the cost of living crisis. So finding ways to make your money go further - especially when you’re buying essentials for your kids like nappies, food and school uniforms - is a must. Luckily there are some practical things you can do to help your family finances.

Here are 9 tips for coping with the rising cost of living and a young family from the BBC's Tiny Happy People Page.


1. Work out your budget

The first step could be looking at your family finances and checking you have the money to pay all your bills and cover all your essentials. This can feel quite scary, especially if you’re going into debt each month, but there is help out there. Sue Anderson from StepChange says: “If you’re struggling to see where savings might be possible, making a budget can be a great place to start. It’ll allow you to see where your money is going each month, identify which bills are the most important and see where you could potentially cut back.”

If you’ve not done a budget before, StepChange has a free step-by-step guide and budget template you can download.


2. Check which benefits you can claim

From universal credit to maternity and paternity pay, there are lots of benefits and entitlements available for families. And you may be eligible for benefits that you’re not currently claiming. Dennis Hussey from the Money Advice Service says: “It's worth checking that you’re receiving everything you may be entitled to. Turn2Us have a helpful benefits checker tool.” You can also look for help with essential bills or search for charities who offer grants to cover the cost of white goods like washing machines.

And don’t miss out on child benefit, which will see you receive £21.80 a week for your child, and an extra £14.45 a week for any additional children. “You can claim if you’re responsible for bringing up a child who is under 16 or under 20 if they stay in approved education or training”, explains Sue. “Only one person can claim child benefit for a child but there is no limit to how many children you can claim for.”

The UK government website has a full list of the benefits you may be able to claim if you have children.


3. Save money on nappies

Babies get through as many as 12 nappies a day, so the cost can quickly add up. It could be worth shopping around to get the best deal on your preferred brand. Or if you and your baby have less of a preference, then switching from branded nappies to supermarket-own could be a way to save.

Reusable nappies are also an option that could help you to cut costs in the long run if you can afford the initial spend, as well as having an environmental impact. Some local councils will give you either nappy vouchers or free nappies as part of a campaign encouraging parents to switch to reusables, so it’s worth asking your health visitor to see if your local council are running one of these schemes.


4. Find new ways of cutting food costs and food waste

Looking for ways to cut the cost of your family’s weekly shop? Olio is a free food sharing app used by over a million people in the UK. Users take photos of any leftover food - from loaves of bread to fresh fruit and veggies - and post a photo, along with where they’re based. You can then search for anyone giving away free food near you.

Another popular app is Too Good to Go, which is trying to reduce food waste by allowing shops and restaurants who sell off their leftover food rather than binning it. You can search in your local area for restaurants and stores taking part then order a bag of food at a reduced price. These could contain anything from tinned foods to sandwiches and pastries.

First suggested by Martin Lewis, you could try the 'downshift' challenge, switching from brands to supermarket own-brands, or down a level from standard to value ranges. If you find cheaper alternatives, you could save plenty on your weekly shop.


5. Identify your priority debts and seek advice

Dennis says: “If you’re struggling with bills, identify your priority debts. These should be those that can cause more serious problems if you don’t do anything about them, such as rent, council tax and energy. Creditors, including landlords, councils and energy suppliers may offer extra support if you make them aware you are struggling. Communication is key to this. You could speak to a free debt advice service like National Debtline, where advisers can take you through your situation and work out the next steps.”


6. Look at your free childcare entitlements

Childcare costs parents up to 65% of their weekly take-home pay, according to research by Business in the Community. So make sure you’re getting all the childcare help that is on offer.

If your child is aged between 3 and 4, they can get 570 hours of free childcare a year in England, which works out as 15 hours a week. Some families are eligible for more – 30 hours of free childcare a week - so make sure you’re claiming what you can. Some 2-year-olds are also entitled to free childcare.

Sue says: “You can get help paying for childcare if you’re using a registered childcare provider, which is known as ‘approved childcare’”. Visit the website to check whether your child’s nursery, preschool or childminder is covered.

If you live in Wales, you could get up to 30 hours a week of childcare or early education if your child is aged 3 or 4.

In Scotland, all 3 and 4-year-olds are entitled to up to 1,140 hours of funded childcare a year (this works out at around 30 hours a week of funded childcare in term time.) Some 2-year-olds are eligible too.

In in Northern Ireland, parents of 3 and 4-year-olds are entitled to at least 12.5 hours a week of funded preschool education and there are proposals to raise this to 22.5 hours per week in future. The Government’s childcare calculator is helpful to see what you might be eligible for.


7. Consider changing how you cook family meals

With energy bills so high, we’re all looking for cheaper ways to make family meals. According to USwitch, using a slow cooker or microwave uses less energy than your oven.

Check out our BBC Food slow cooker recipes for low-energy cooking inspiration.

Batch cooking is another great way to make your money go further. Bulk buying ingredients generally works out cheaper and also means less impulse buys at the supermarket.


8. Buy (and sell) second hand

From toys to winter coats, you can buy lots of things you need second hand and at a fraction of the price. Search local charity shops or look on community selling apps and auction sites. You can also sell things your child has grown out of or no longer plays with.

You could put the money you make from this into a Christmas fund to help with the extra costs of presents and food in December.


9. Check if your child is eligible for free school meals and school uniform grants

If your child is reaching school age, then looking into free school meals and uniform grants could be a huge financial help, especially with food costs soaring and parents of primary school children spending an average of £315 a year on school uniform..

Sue says: “The process for applying for free school meals will vary depending on where you live. Enter your postcode on the website where you will be redirected to your local council to find out how to apply. Some local councils also offer school uniform grants to those on low incomes.”

Check if your local council offers this and whether you’re eligible.


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