YOU might be feeling the pinch after Christmas, but you can apply for free cash worth up to £2,547 to get you through the New Year.
Households overspend by an average of £740 during Christmas, according to the Bank of England.
With bills from energy, food and fuel spiralling due to a cost of living crisis, you might be strapped for cash heading into 2023.
But help is available for hard-up households – and there are ways you can get cash quickly in time for the New Year.
Help schemes available
Firstly, there are plenty of schemes out there to help you pay for bills, food and more.
Household Support Fund – up to £300
Hard-up families can get free cash from their local authority under the Household Support Fund.
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The scheme will see £421million of funding dished out by councils across the country in total.
What you can get depends on your personal situation and also who your local council is.
But you can get cash payouts, vouchers for food and energy bills, and help to pay for fuel.
In some cases, you have to apply for the help, which means it might take a while for the support to reach you.
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But in some cases, councils are automatically giving out support – with some households in line for payouts in January.
Exeter City Council is giving out up to £150 in cash vouchers in January next year to households receiving council tax support.
By Thursday, January 5, 3,000 eligible families living in the City of York Council catchment area will receive a one-off cash payment of between £200 and £300.
Those eligible include pensioners, carers, and people with disabilities.
You can find who your local council is by using the gov.uk council checker tool.
Winter Fuel Payment – up to £300
The Winter Fuel Payment is worth between £100 and £300 and is paid to all those over the state pension age.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said most payments are made automatically in November or December, and should be received by January 13, 2023.
You receive the Winter Fuel Payment if:
- you were born on or before 25 September 1956
- you lived in the UK for at least one day during the week of 19 to 25 September 2022 in what is known as the "qualifying week"
You may still be eligible if you lived in Switzerland or another EEA country in that period.
The same goes for if you can prove you have a sufficient link with the UK, like having lived and worked here, or have family here, but were not living here in the qualifying week.
You won't get the payment if you live in the following countries though because of the warm weather there: Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Malta, Portugal or Spain.
Nor will you get the payment if you are in hospital for more than a year getting free treatment and in some other circumstances.
You can find out more about who is eligible on gov.uk.
Council emergency support schemes – £100s
In severe cases, you could get paid within 48 hours of making an application.
It depends on your circumstances, though.
Some councils, like the Royal Borough of Greenwich, will only help households if they are on certain benefits like Pension Credit or Universal Credit.
You'll have to provide evidence that you are in hardship, and don't have considerable savings.
What you will get will vary case by case, but you could get help to pay for furniture and bills which can cost hundreds of pounds.
Apply through your local council.
Energy cost of living payments – £67
All households in England, Scotland and Wales will get a £400 energy bill discount.
The help will be paid in six monthly instalments from October until March 2023.
Customers saw a discount of £66 applied to their bills in October and November, and will get £67 in December, January, February and March.
We've listed how the leading energy suppliers plan to pay households.
The way you'll be paid will depend on how you pay for your energy.
If you're on a credit meter or smart prepayment meter, the discount will come off your bills or be credited to your account automatically.
Those on traditional prepayment meters will receive the discount through a voucher.
Make sure you're not missing out on the help, as 41% of prepayment meter vouchers have not yet been redeemed.
Check with your supplier to confirm how you'll receive the cash.
Healthy Start – up to £34 a month
The Healthy Start scheme offers prepaid food cards to women who are more than 10 weeks pregnant or women or men who have children under four.
They must typically also be on certain benefits, including:
- 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.
However, if you are under 18 and pregnant you can get the money, even if you don't receive any of the above benefits.
Families that qualify get £4.25 a week per child or double that depending on how old the child is.
For example, if your child is younger than 12 months old, you get £8.50 each week.
Women who are more than 10 weeks pregnant get £4.25 a week, and it's the same amount for each child between one and four.
It means by the end of January, you'll have received up to £34 in help.
And per year, the scheme could be worth as much as £442.
The food cards can be spent at any location that accepts Mastercard.
Some supermarkets which are part of the scheme include Tesco, Iceland and Aldi.
You can apply via email or phone on [email protected] or 0300 330 7010.
Put your application in as soon as possible to avoid delays in getting the help.
Cash you can make
There are ways to make money quickly if you're struggling – here's how.
Bank switch bonuses – up to £200
Swap your current account and get a cash bonus.
A number of banks are offering money to tempt new customers onto their books.
HSBC is offering £200 if you switch to its Advance account – but to get the bonus, you'll need to pay at least £1,500 into your account within 60 days.
You'll need to set up at least two direct debits as well. You won't qualify if you've had an HSBC or First Direct current account since January 1, 2019.
You'll get £175 swapping to First Direct.
You must pay in at least £1,000 within three months of opening the account to be eligible for the £175.
The offer is only available to people who haven't previously held an account with First Direct.
Plus, you can't have opened an HSBC current account on or after January 1, 2019.
Apply as soon as you can, meet the conditions, and you could have the cash in your account by the end of January.
Sell your old stuff – over £1,000
Selling unwanted items from around the house could make you more than £1,000, according to eBay expert Clare Seal.
Anything from laptops, pushchairs, musical instruments and gardening tools can be snapped up quickly.
A 64GB iPhone 8 Plus in good condition could be worth £200 — and newer models even more.
Facebook Marketplace and the Nextdoor app are also good for selling to people who live locally — and you don’t have to pay to list items.
You can earn up to £1,000 a year from selling items without having to pay tax.
Fill out surveys – £56
You can earn up to £4 per online survey you fill out.
Try i-say, run by Ispos, Ylive, Prolific, Crowdology, Curious Cat and Qmee.
If you do one a day for two weeks, you'll have cashed in £56.
Use cashback websites – £40
Savvy saver Holly Smith said she gets up to £40 a month from using cashback websites.
By the end of January, that means you'll have racked up a nice saving already.
TopCashback and Quidco are popular sites.
You’ll need to sign up for an account to use these sites – then log in and check whether the retailer you are planning to buy from is offering cashback.
Click through from the link on the cashback website rather than going directly to the retailer's site – then fill your basket as normal.
Shops pay a percentage that can be anything between one and 40% of what you spend, or a fixed amount.
Track down a lost bank account – £450
Financial firm Gretel estimates up to 10million people could have a lost bank account with an average of £450 stashed away in it.
If you can't remember your old account details, or the bank or building society says it can't help, you can use the free My Lost Account tracing service.
Once you've contacted a provider, you should get a response within three months, although some online tools can help you get there quicker.
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If a bank or building society can't agree on the validity of your claim, you have the right to appeal its decision.
If your claim is still unsuccessful, you can refer your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
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