By Your Call Publishing | ,

Citizens Advice Column - April/May 24

Making Your Money Go Further – Tackling ‘Negative Budgets’

Though Spring has ‘sprung’, and we are no longer thinking about the costs of winter, April-May reflects the beginning of a new financial year.

With the March Budget behind us there is a feeling in some circles that the cost-of-living crisis is blowing over and that we need not concern ourselves anymore with how to ‘make ends meet’.

Our evidence across Warwickshire suggests otherwise, with a worrying rise in ‘negative budgets’, which is where weekly-monthly household income does not meet essential outgoings. So we wanted to take this opportunity to recognise that and provide some ‘top tips’ on how to cope with the ongoing crisis.

For some, these tips will be ‘old hat’ and for others ‘obvious’ but, hopefully, there is something there for everyone.

1. If you don’t already do this, download a ‘budget planner’ from or make your own, and write down in black and white what your income is and what you actually spend money on. You would be amazed how many people do not take this first step in managing their money.

2. If you are regularly struggling to make ends meet, whether you are in work or not, check your entitlement to means-tested and/or disability-carers benefits. Visit or ask for a benefit check at your nearest Citizens Advice (CA).

3. If you are in particular difficulty, notwithstanding debt issues, seek help in accessing charitable support. Try in the first instance or, again, consult your local CA office. Options go far beyond Food and Fuel Banks and help is available for people in all sorts of circumstances.

4. If you are concerned about debts, get free confidential but expert advice as soon as you can from your local CA office. If you would prefer an alternative try or or, for general advice, go to Debt advice saves lives.

5. When spending your limited income several tips may seem obvious but bear restating. Shop around for better deals, don’t auto-renew policies without looking at the competition first, and don’t expose yourself to scams by taking up opportunities which look “too good to be true”. Try websites like and see how much money you can save if you can devote some time to being a savvy shopper.

6. With utilities in particular, including TV-Internet-Broadband, ask your current providers about ‘social tariffs’ (ie. discounts for those on low incomes), metering and payment methods. Social tariffs can save you hundreds of pounds a year. If you have never heard of the ‘Big Difference Scheme’, for example, contact Severn Trent Water immediately or visit

7. On the biggest expenditures, like rent and mortgages, there are always measures that can be taken however difficult your circumstances may seem. The key is not to accept defeat and/or look for help from short term high-cost lenders such as Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) options or, worse, illegal lenders (‘loan sharks’).

8. …and finally, the standard of living crisis is not going away for most low-income families. Checking you are receiving your legal entitlements, being a savvy shopper, being honest about debt concerns and planning ahead as best you can do all make a difference. Expert, free and confidential support is out there. You just need to make the most of it. For self-help starter information, advice and guidance on all of the above, and more, go to

By Ed Hodson

Citizens Advice South Warwickshire - Citizens Advice working in partnership across Warwickshire