Money Advisor Stuart answers your questions
As part of the recent Talk Money Week, we invited customers to submit their financial questions for our Money Advisor, Stuart Dearden.
Our Money Advice Team is here to help you with all aspects of your finances, including debt management, benefit
advice and budgeting.
Here, Stuart answers a selection of these questions with some useful hints, tips and advice on all things finance.
What sort of things can the Money Advice Team help me with? – James in Birmingham
The Money Advice Service is a completely voluntary service that we offer to our customers. You’re not obliged to talk to us at any point, but we’re there to support people as best we can. Our role is to try and maximise people’s income to make sure they can sustain their tenancy and keep a roof over their head. Between us, the four advisors have about 60 years’ worth of experience in this sort of work.
We usually check that you’re receiving the right amount of benefits, if that’s appropriate to you, and we can also help with benefits applications. We try and tailor our support to people to the level of help they need. We can also look at discretionary housing payments, grants you might need, look to see if you can save money on utility bills and that sort of thing. We can do general budgeting work with you, to try and see where we can help you save a few pounds and make your life a little bit easier.
If I wanted to talk to a Money Advisor, how do I get in contact? Do I need a referral? – Sue in Peterborough
You don’t need to be referred to the Money Advice service directly. A lot of our work comes from talking to our
Income Team, our Housing Officers and other colleagues where they’ve been in touch with customers and suggesting we may be able to help. You can also self-refer to the service as well via our website. There’s a short self-referral form that you can fill in and we’ll be in touch in a couple of days. You can also call our main office number and if you say you want to talk to the Money Advice Team, we’ll help you as soon as we can.
If I’m given money for my birthday or Christmas, will this affect how much Universal Credit I’m entitled to? – John in Nottinghamshire
As we come up to the festive period, this is something we get asked now and then. The answer is – no it won’t. It’s not an income that’s taken into account against Universal Credit, so it won’t have a direct impact. The only thing you need to be aware of is if you put that money in your bank and it takes your capital above the threshold, it may have an impact, but normally if you’re receiving a small gift, it won’t.
Lockdown has meant I’m working from home for the first time. Can I claim any extra expenses? – Peter in Walsall
Yes. You can claim tax relief on any extra expenses you’ve incurred if you have to work from home – but I must emphasise the ‘have to’. You can claim tax relief on £6 per week from 6 April this year without having to show any extra expenses. That’s based on the rate of tax that you pay, so if you’re a basic rate taxpayer, you can claim tax relief on £6 per week which means you’ll get an extra £1.20 in your pocket. It doesn’t sound a lot, but over the course of the year, you’re looking at the best part of £60. If you’ve had to buy things like furniture to be able to work at home, you may be able to claim tax relief on that as well. You can find out more and apply by visiting gov.uk
What are some of the easiest ways to save money on my household bills? – Chris in Boston
Unfortunately, loyalty doesn’t pay in terms of the price you pay. If you can, shop around and try and get a cheaper deal. Use comparison sites to identify cheaper tariffs. All you need to know is what you’re using at the moment and the name of your current tariff. If you want to stay with your current supplier, speak to them and see if they have a cheaper deal – they may not automatically put you on it. The same’s true with water – speak to your water company and check you’re on the most affordable tariff they have.
Consider getting a smart meter – it won’t save you money in itself, it’ll help you realise how you’re using your electricity and give you an idea where your money is going.
Simple things like only boiling the amount of water you need in your kettle, turning the thermostat down on your
central heating boiler, these things can make a difference. If you’re feeling chilly, rather than turning it up a few degrees, is it worth putting a jumper on for a few hours while you get warm?
Make sure you bleed your radiators regularly too – this makes them more efficient.
There are other things you can do – if you’d like some help and advice, get in touch with us.
I find myself constantly living pay day to pay day, but I would love to be able to put some money away each month for a rainy day. How can I start doing this? – Laura in Grimsby
Another really good question. Saving for a rainy day is one of those things everyone would advocate. The best
place to start is looking at your income and expenditure. That gives you a better idea of how you’re spending your money. If you work through that, it’ll make sure you cover everything you need to pay.
Also, deal with your debts. Debts and repayments you’ve got are what eat up the spare money you have which you could be saving.
Once you’ve done all that, decide what you’re saving for, what your timescale is and how much you want to put away. It is much easier if you have a goal in mind.