Some expenses are immediately apparent, like parking charges at hospital. But some can creep up on you – extra phone costs to keep friends and family in the loop, and buying food at hospital. Here are our tips for reducing everyday spending.
- Spend less on communication
- Spend less on food
- Spend less on travel
- Spend less on entertainment and lifestyle
Spend less on communication
It’s important you’re able to keep in touch with friends and family and have access to things to keep you occupied, without worrying too much about the cost.
Get the best deal for your mobile!
Shop around to see if you could be paying less. Use comparison websites to work out the best deals for you. If your contract’s up for renewal and you’re happy with your handset, save money by switching to a sim only contract. If you’re on pay as you go, work out your usage each month and consider whether a contract might be cheaper.
If you are in the middle of a contract then speak to your provider to see if you can change to a cheaper package, especially if you aren’t using all your free minutes, texts or data. If you explain your situation, they may well be willing to help.
Keep an eye on your data
If you rely on your phone or tablet to do most of your online communicating or social media, be careful not to go over your data allowance as this can be very costly. If you’re staying in hospital, check if they have free wifi access to save you spending unnecessary money by going over your monthly plan.
Spend less on food
You may find your eating habits and tastes change when you are having treatment. You may also have different nutritional needs. Some cancer treatments can make people hungrier than usual and this could push up food bills, especially if you need to spend money on food when you're at hospital.
Be savvy with your food shop
Many people assume that if they spend smaller amounts on groceries and shop more frequently, they will save money. In actual fact, you may end up spending much more in the long-run.
Doing one large shop every one to two weeks can help to save money. If you’re able to, you could also top this up with fruit and vegetables from local markets, as they tend to be cheaper here than in supermarkets.
Online food shopping
Ordering your food online can be much easier when you can't get to the shops or need it to arrive at a certain time. You can do it in your own time, can browse deals, and be less likely to buy things you don’t really need.
You may need to pay a delivery fee but booking far in advance and on certain days can bring these charges down. Some retailers offer annual ‘delivery passes’ which could save you money if you shop online regularly. Impartial comparison sites such as mySupermarket are also great tools for saving on your shop.
Preparation is key!
You could try adding items to your shopping list for packed lunches – this will help save you money in the long-run. You could also make up your own snack bags by buying nuts, seeds and dried fruits to keep you going through the day.
Bottles of water can be really expensive, so fill up a bottle at home. Another way to cut down on spending is to fill up a thermos flask with a hot drink instead of buying your usual morning coffee.
Accept help from others
If people around you are keen to do something to help, one thing you might want to suggest is that they make you a home cooked meal or a few items you can put in the freezer. This could come in handy for the days you really need something quick and easy.
It's important that any meals have been prepared following good hygiene standards and recommendations for cooling and freezing, especially if you are neutropenic.
Spend less on travel
We know that travel expenses can take a big chunk of your costs. In the first instance, it’s important to find out if you could be eligible for extra support. There are some more ideas below on ways to save money.
Travelling by car
Car insurance: Compare quotes before you accept your renewal policy. If you haven't made any claims, don't forget to tell your insurer, or take steps to protect it if you haven't already - this will help keep your premium down. If you can, pay your insurance annually rather than monthly - you will be charged less if you pay it as one lump sum.
Petrol: Look out for offers and use loyalty schemes to get money back on fuel. Be mindful of the price of petrol in your area – avoid the more expensive stations if you can.
Parking fines: If you've received a fine, make sure it's valid before you pay for it by checking that the firm that issued the fine is a member of the British Parking Association’s Approved Operator Scheme. It's a good idea to make the payment as quickly as you can, as it will usually be half the cost if you pay within a certain amount of time
Buying a new vehicle: Choose one with a low tax band and find out how tax efficient it is. Band A cars are not subject to any car tax and could also save you money through lower fuel costs. Also, make sure you check out the Motability Scheme if you receive the higher or enhanced rate mobility components of DLA or PIP.
If you're visiting a hospital for more than seven days in a row, or are there for continuous treatment, you may be able to get a car park discount voucher. In some cases parking will be free of charge for cancer patients, patients who are receiving certain benefits (for example, holders of HC2 or HC3 forms) or families of inpatients who have been in hospital for a number of weeks
If you own a Blue Badge you will generally be able to park for free. When parking in hospital, speak to someone at reception to find out what the rules are as discounts are often at the discretion of the treatment centre
If you qualify for a disabled person's railcard, (for example, you are receiving Disability Living Allowance) then it could save you a third off most rail fares in Great Britain. If you travel with an adult companion, then they can also get a third off their rail fare.
Although a 16-25 railcard costs £30, if you often use trains or an Oyster for the London Underground then you could save 1/3 on anytime or off-peak fares.
There are different schemes available for concessionary bus travel in different parts of the UK. In some cases a companion is able to travel with you for free, so check with your local authority.
- England - free bus travel for people with disabilities on gov.uk
- Northern Ireland - free bus travel and concessions on nidirect
- Scotland - older and disabled person's scheme on Transport Scotland
- Wales - concessionary bus fares for the elderly and disabled on the Welsh Government website.
Spend less on entertainment and lifestyle
Lots of young people say that the worst thing about spending time in hospital is boredom! Many hospitals have teenage and young adult cancer units where there’s likely to be plenty of activities to keep you occupied, including the opportunity to socialise with others. Adult and children’s wards might not be able to meet your needs in the same way. In any case, it’s important to enable yourself to do the things you enjoy. This goes for when you’re at home too.
Hospital TV and phone systems
Telephone and TV systems in hospital can be expensive. Hospedia is an entertainment service and phone system used in over 150 hospitals in the UK. Each hospital sets its own prices so make sure you check.
Alternative ways to watch TV and films
If you don’t have free wifi in hospital or unlimited data allowance on your phone or tablet contract, then streaming shows and films can be super expensive.
BBC's iPlayer app allows you to download recently-broadcast pogrammes or films to your phone or tablet for free, to enjoy offline. Some subscription services such as Amazon Prime, Netflix and Sky also do this. Alternatively, you might already have a portable device or laptop that you can use to watch DVDs. Just make sure you bring the charger!
Also, check out the facilities in your treatment centre – they may well have some sort of communal ‘chill out’ area where you can watch TV or films for free.
Other ways to stay entertained in hospital
If you have a smart device, there are loads of free games that you can download to play offline. Just search the app store. You could also subscribe to a podcast or search for free audiobooks – there are loads out there to suit whatever mood you’re in.
Or, go old-school and bring in some books, puzzles, arty activities or games to keep you occupied. A pack of playing cards could revolutionise your time! One person we spoke to even took up knitting.
Digital gadgets can be simply unaffordable but there may be grants available to help with the costs of laptops, tablets and other devices. Check with someone from the CLIC Sargent team or give us a call on 0300 330 0803.
Activities outside of hospital
If you’re at home – but aren’t quite able to get back to normal yet – it’s even more important to fill the days where you have enough energy with things you enjoy doing. It doesn’t have to cost!
Why not give the cinema a miss for a while and visit museums, art galleries or free gigs instead? Always look online first for discount deals on days out - you may be surprised what bargains you can find just by printing out a voucher. You could also take your own food – or check online for deals on eating out.
If you have children that need entertaining, and friends and family have offered to take them out while you go through treatment, search for your local council and find out what’s on offer in your area. This could also include libraries for story time, nursery rhymes or simply to borrow books, DVDs, music or magazines.
At home – think about any switches you could make. Do you really need that streaming service, or would Freeview be ok for now?
Beauty products and treatments
The side effects of cancer treatments can affect your appearance and how you feel about the way you look. So keeping up your routine can help you to keep a sense of normality and give you a lift when you need it the most.
You don't need to spend loads to give yourself a boost. Instead of paying premium prices, you may be able to find exactly the same products in bargain shops or online. Or why not research what natural beauty products could give you the same results – homemade face masks or slices of cucumber to help reduce puffy eyes.
Look for a local beauty college near you that may offer much cheaper prices on beauty treatments or massages. Check with your care team that it's okay to have them first.
If you have an existing gym membership but you can’t keep it up right now, most gyms will freeze your membership or offer you a way out of a contract due to special circumstances. Make sure you don't cancel your direct debit without letting them know first.
You could consider alternatives that better fit into your lifestyle, such as going for brisk walks or doing weights at home. There are also lots of free exercise videos available on YouTube, from aerobics to yoga.
- If you’re struggling to meet the costs of travelling you may be entitled to receive help from the government
- There may be times where you'll need to borrow money - so make sure you do it in the safest way possible
- Being in debt can be stressful - read our guide to dealing with it
Updated July 2017, next review due 2018.