11 ways to prepare for Universal Credit (and build a handy emergency fund)
Universal Credit is being rolled out across the UK and it is taking up to six weeks for the first monthly payment to arrive in your account after making the claim.
This is very likely to leave you short of income, meaning you get behind with your rent and other bills. We’re encouraging all working-age customers to prepare for Universal Credit today by creating a financial safety buffer for the future. Check out the 11 ways you can be ready for when the changes start…
1. Are you receiving the money you should be?
You’d be amazed at the number of people who are not claiming the benefits they qualify for. Don’t be one of them! Something you can do to maximise your income is to check you’re not already losing out – these benefit calculators are free to use and will tell you what benefits you should be getting, how to claim and how your benefits will be affected if you start work. Well worth a look!
2. Look for employment
Universal Credit is about making work pay. So if you’re fit and able to work then finding employment will really benefit you in both the short and long-term. Our opportunities team can help you get back into work by providing a range of training, advice and support. Just ask your housing manager for further information and a referral. Why not start your search of the job market today on Universal Jobmatch?
3. Get your head around it (Post-It notes will do…)
Thinking about finances can be scary at the best of times! But it’s really crucial to sit down and work out what you spend each month and what is left over. This quick and easy budget planner is ideal. Alternatively buy yourself a cheap diary or grab yourself some Post-It notes and write it all down. Our money advisors can also help you look at your finances. Being prepared is half the battle so set yourself a realistic but useful savings target and go from there!
4. Take the stress away. Make it automatic!
So after budgeting you’ve discovered that you do actually have a small surplus left each month. Result! By paying a little extra into your rent account every month, you are building up an important safety buffer should you ever need to use it. Your housing manager can help you set this up, should you want to. Another option could be to open a savings account which is a place to earn interest on your money as you save for a rainy day. Learn more about them here.
5. Buy a Piggy Bank (yes, really…)
Okay, hear us out on this one! We understand Rome wasn’t built in a day so a piggy bank is actually a brilliant idea to start saving a little extra as the weeks trot by. You can track your progress without logging on to a computer, it’s a really neat visual reminder that will help you stick to your aims and, believe it or not, it’s also a great conversation starter (see point 6).
6. Moral support is key
You’ve set yourself a savings target so share that goal with your close friends and family. It’s a win-win situation because it gets you used to talking about your finances and will act as a reminder too, and at the same time, you’ll receive encouragement and motivation from those who matter most. You never know, you might even pass on some valuable new ideas to them!
7. Dump bad (and costly) habits
We all have bad habits. But are yours hitting you in the pocket? Things like smoking, drinking alcohol, eating lots of sweets or overloading on caffeine can all add up to eye-watering amounts! By removing just one of these things from your daily routine, you can not only boost your emergency fund but also improve your health. A double whammy of success! You can find a helping hand here.
8. Slice your grocery bill down to size
Increasing competition between supermarkets has meant many have put their prices up in certain areas, but not others. So shop around for the best deals or if you haven’t got time why not give online shopping a go? Sites like mySupermarket allow you to easily compare your shopping baskets across all major stores. Always make a shopping list and don’t get attracted to too many of the deals being offered – otherwise you could end up with a trolley full of goods which you didn’t intend to buy! These money saving tips could save you a small fortune.
9. Do you really need that takeaway?
Did you know the average person now orders three takeaways a month? This means people are spending a whopping £340 a year in the process! More research has revealed that despite earning the least, 16-24 year olds are spending £19.61 a week on takeaway food while the average adult spends £11.31. Even cutting these expenses by half will save you a shed load of cash. So next time you reach for the takeaway menu on your sofa, ask yourself: “Do I really need that?”
10. Have a declutter…
We’re pretty sure you’ve accumulated lots of stuff over the years and some of that you may never use again. Whether it’s an old radio, smartphone or some clothes which have seen better days, why not put them up for sale over the internet? Or how about taking them to your nearest car boot sale? You’ll boost your emergency fund and also free up some valuable space at home. Winner!
11. Become a one-person negotiator
Just by enquiring about the best deals or even threatening to switch from a company looking after your car and home insurance or mobile phone contract, you could end up making big savings. These multi-national companies like to tie you down to lengthy contracts so show them who’s boss and potentially reap the rewards. Read this to discover which firms are the easiest to haggle with.