Spending less

Some costs after your child's diagnosis are immediately obvious, like travel and parking charges. But some can creep up on you – bigger phone bills from keeping people in the loop, and buying food at hospital. Here are our tips for reducing everyday spending.

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

It’s worth shopping 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 (you top up your phone credit when you need), 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. 

Keep an eye on your data usage

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. Check if the hospital or a nearby café has free wifi access to save you spending unnecessary money by going over your monthly plan.

Spend less on food  

Some cancer treatments can make children hungry so they may want to eat more than usual or it may be that their tastes change. They may have different nutritional needs and you may also need to spend money on food when you're at the 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 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. Make up your own snack bags by buying nuts, seeds and dried fruits to keep you going throughout 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.

Eating out

You may need to eat out more than usual if your child is staying in hospital. Ahead of booking a restaurant table, check online to see if there are any deals available. There are a number of apps you can download that will list thousands of great deals all across the UK. 

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.

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 for leasing a new car if your child receives 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, 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 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

Using public transport

Your child may have a lowered immune system so check with your child’s consultant or nurse to confirm whether it’s okay for your child to travel on public transport.

If you are on a low income and receiving benefits, the hospital may reimburse part or all of your travel costs, so remember to keep your receipts. 

Free hospital transport may be available if your child has clinical needs that make using public transport impossible. 

Discounts for train and bus travel

If your child is able to travel on public transport and you live in England, Scotland or Wales, you could save a third off most rail fares in Great Britain with a Disabled Persons Railcard. You’ll need to meet certain criteria to apply which is clearly laid out on the Disabled Persons Railcard website. 

Residents of Northern Ireland who are eligible to receive UK benefits can still apply for the railcard to use when they travel within Great Britain. Visit the Translink website for find out what concessionary travel schemes are available in Ireland.

If you or your child is between the age of 16 and 25 you can save a third off your rail fares with the 16-25 Railcard.

Concessionary bus travel

There are different schemes available for each part of the United Kingdom. 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.

Travel insurance 

Travel insurance for a child with cancer can be expensive, however reasonably priced insurance is available if you know where to look. Our travel insurance guide will help you find an insurer who will provide the cover you need, without breaking the bank. 

Spend less on entertainment and lifestyle

It's not easy keeping children and siblings entertained during long hospital stays. Being stuck at home can be tough too, so it's a good idea to think about some things that will keep them busy and amused.  

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. If your child is in a children's ward, television will usually be free up until 7pm. If they are under 16 and not in a children’s ward, they can still access free television as long as a health professional can confirm they are 16 or under. If your child is over the age of 16 and not in a children's ward, you may be able to arrange for your telephone system to be billed at the children's rate, so do speak to a nurse about this.

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 an expensive business.

BBC's iPlayer app allows you to download recently-broadcast programmes or films free of charge to your phone or tablet, 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 your child can use to watch DVDs. Just make sure you bring the charger!

Laptops, games and gadgets can be expensive, but there may be some grants available to help with the cost of laptops and other electronic devices. Check with your CLIC Sargent care professional, or by calling us on 0300 330 0803.

Other entertainment in hospital

There is a huge selection of free games that you can download on your phone or tablet to play offline. Just search the app store. You might already in possession of a portable games console.

Children’s wards are likely to have a selection of games and entertainment but you might still want to bring your child’s favourites – it can be handy to have a selection of activity books, puzzles, board games, magazines, storybooks or even homework (!) to pass the time.

Activities outside of hospital

It's also important to spend time with your other children or to arrange for other family members to take them out if you aren't able to.

Many museums and art galleries offer free entry or look out for discounts on family days out. Many libraries offer free story time sessions as well as books, DVDs, and music to borrow. You could take your own food or bottles of if you want to keep costs down. 

Get in touch with your local council and find out what free activities are on offer in your area. 

At home – think about any switches you could make. Do you really need that streaming service, or would Freeview be ok for now?

Fitness, health and beauty

It's important to look after yourself too, 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 research some quick home 'hacks' like homemade face masks or slices of cucumber to help reduce puffy eyes. 

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.

Where next? 

Updated July 2017, next review due 2018.