HOUSEHOLDS are suffering under a cost of living crisis, but there are some little-known ways you can cut your bills and get free cash help.
Families are feeling the pinch on their finances as the cost of food, fuel, travel and energy bills is soaring.
The surge in prices is due to a number of reasons, including rising inflation, rocketing wholesale gas prices and supply chain issues hitting retailers and supermarkets.
But the cut to the £20 Universal Credit uplift last year means that low income families are being hit the hardest by the crisis.
It's led charities including Citizens Advice to call for urgent action to be taken to stop households tipping over the brink.
If you're worried about making your money stretch to cover all your costs, you might not know about these little-known ways to slash your bills.
You could even get free cash to pay for them.
We explain how much you can save on these common household bills by THOUSANDS of pounds using these tricks.
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Council tax – save £1,000s
You could completely wipe council tax from your list of bills to pay if you're eligible.
You don't have to pay ANY council tax in some cases – including if you are retired and receive the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, or if you live in an all-student house.
If you're single and living alone, you can get a 25% discount on the tax, and 50% off your bill if you live with someone classed as "disregarded".
Someone who is "disregarded" does not have to pay any council tax – a live-in carer and someone who is severely mentally impaired fall under this category, but you can check out Citizens Advice for a full list on who qualifies.
If you're behind on your council tax and you owe money, there is also a little-known way you can wipe your debt clear if you qualify.
You can apply to get outstanding cash owed cleared by filling out a Section 13A application.
Although the amount you can get knocked off depends on your individual circumstances, you could apply to get your entire debt cleared.
The Sun revealed that councils have been wiping record levels of council tax debt over the Covid pandemic, with authorities clearing a total of £87.2million arrears.
Rent – get £4,500 free cash
If you're struggling to keep a roof over your head, then you can make the most of a handy scheme to get free cash to put towards your rent.
Anyone getting benefits for housing in England and Wales can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment from their local council.
It's free cash that hard-up Brits can get from their local authority, but what you could get will vary.
New figures show that the average amount given out to families across the country was £527 – but as much as £4,496 was given out in some cases last year.
Energy bills – save £100s
You could get money knocked off your energy bills as well as free money using a number of different schemes.
Cold weather payments
You'll get a cold weather payment of £25 automatically if temperatures plummet below zero for seven consecutive days.
You must be getting certain benefits to qualify, including pension credit, income support, jobseeker's allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, and Universal Credit.
The scheme runs between November 1 and March 31 – you don't need to do anything to apply, you'll see the cash land in your account automatically as long as you are eligible.
Winter fuel payments
If you are a pensioner, you could get a winter fuel payment from the government of between £100 and £300.
To qualify, you'll must have been born on or before September 26, 1955 and the date for this changes every year.
Plus, you must also have lived in the UK for at least one day during the "qualifying week" which is September 20 to 26, 2021.
Grants from energy companies
If you've already fallen behind on your energy bills because you're struggling to afford them, you could get a grant to help clear your arrears.
British Gas Energy Trust offers free cash to struggling households – and you don't even need to be a customer to apply.
You can find out more and apply here.
Several companies also offer a grant scheme for their customers including:
- Scottish Power Hardship Fund
- Ovo Debt and energy assistance
- E.on Energy Fund
- EDF Energy Customer Support Fund
Grocery bill – get up to £600
Food prices are on the up, with families paying more for essentials including meat, crisps, eggs and milk.
But there are a number of ways to get hundreds of pounds worth of food so your family won't go hungry.
Healthy Start vouchers
You can get £442 worth of free food over the year by applying for Healthy Start vouchers, which are state-backed coupons.
The vouchers are worth £4.25 each, and families who qualify will get one or two of them a week depending on how old your child – or children – are.
If you have a child that's younger than 12-months-old, you get two vouchers each week.
That means in the first year of your child's life you could get £442.
To qualify, you need to have at least one child under four, be more than 10 weeks pregnant, and receive one of the following benefits:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Child Tax Credit with a family income of £16,190 or less per year
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit with no earned income or total earned income of £408 or less per month for the family.
To apply, you just need to download an application form from the Healthy Start website.
Household Support Fund
Under the government's £500million Household Support Fund, you can apply for free cash from your council for a number of essential bills, including your groceries.
What you can get varies depending on where you live, as each council runs its own scheme and offers different help.
But The Sun has spotted that you can get as much as £600 in supermarket vouchers if you live in Richmond.
Broadband and phone bill – save £100s
Tens of thousands of families could see their broadband bill rise by as much as £354 a year, according to Uswitch.
It comes as millions of Virgin Media customers are set to pay £56 a year more from March.
But you could knock hundreds of pounds off your bill in a number of different ways.
Special tariffs for low income families
Low income households are eligible for special tariffs, which are lower than the going market rate – but around 10million people are missing out on this help worth up to £234 a year in savings.
The eligibility criteria for the tariffs may vary, but you could be eligible if you claim:
- Universal Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Care Leavers support
- Personal Independence Payment
You can also try haggling to drive your bill down.
If you're unhappy with the amount you're paying for your broadband, it's worth negotiating a better deal.
This Martin Lewis fan saved a whopping £740 on her Virgin Media bill by haggling for a cheaper rate.
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