Reducing your outgoings

List all your regular bills and spending, you need to make your budget plan realistic. Everyone will have a different budget, and you need to include any extra costs you have because of circumstances, for example a disability.  

Below are some ways you might be able to reduce your outgoings:

Number of instalments

For things like Council Tax, gas, electric, car insurance and water you can ask to pay over as many instalments as possible within the financial year. Increasing the number of instalments can reduce the amount you pay as you are paying over a longer period.

If you are billed annually, quarterly and struggle to make payment, you can ask your supplier if you can pay in weekly, fortnightly or monthly to make payments easier.

Council Tax discounts and exemptions

You may be able to get a discount or exemption from Council Tax if:

  • You live alone, or with someone who is not counted (like a full-time student)
  • You are a full-time student
  • You/another occupant are disabled and live in a larger property than you would need otherwise

More information on Council Tax discounts and exemptions.

Move to a smaller home

If you live in property that is larger than you need, you may want to consider moving to a smaller home with lower rent and running costs.

The amount you receive from Universal Credit or Housing Benefit towards your rent may be reduced if you have any spare bedrooms, this is known as the bedroom tax or under-occupation reduction.

Council or Housing Association tenants could be given a higher priority for rehousing, call Homechoice on 0118 937 2172 or visit our Homechoice page for more information.

Reading Borough Council tenants may get help with moving costs, contact our Under Occupation and Transfer Officer on 0118 937 2192 for more information on the Tenant Incentive Scheme.

TV, phone and internet

You may be able to reduce your costs by:

  • Renegotiating your contract to reduce the charge by cancelling services* you do not need such as voicemail or sport channels.
  • Switching suppliers to get a cheaper deal, you can get more information from Ofcom and searching for ‘price comparison’. If you need any help you can contact Ofcom on 0300 123 3333.
  • Getting a bundle package for TV, phone and internet to save on separate subscriptions.
  • Cancelling* your TV subscription and investing in a Freeview box (one off cost) to watch TV without monthly charges.
  • Cancelling* either your mobile or landline contracts if your household can manage without.

*check you won’t have to pay cancellation fees for leaving your contract early

You may be able to reduce your costs by changing to a social tariff for broadband and phone services if you claim universal Credit, Pension Credit and some other benefits.

Find out more information about the social tariffs available for broadband and phones.

Switch your energy provider

Energy tariffs normally last 12 months, after this you could be automatically put on a standard tariff that often costs you more.

You may be able to reduce your costs by:

  • Switching supplier, you can do this with a prepayment meter or debts of under £200. Compare deals online at Citizens Advice and search for ‘compare gas and electricity prices’ or contact Citizens Advice Reading on 0118 952 3022 and ask for energy advice. 
  • Buy both gas and electricity from the same supplier.
  • Pay for your gas and electric by Direct Debit.
  • Have a Smart Meter installed
  • If you have arrears, or are having difficulty paying your gas or electricity, contact your supplier and ask about their Support Schemes and trust funds

Reading Borough Council has a scheme called ‘Winter Watch’ that runs through the autumn and winter. This is available to Reading residents on low incomes, have young children, are over 60, have a disability/health condition or have not lived independently before. You can contact Winter Watch for advice and support on 0118 937 3747.

Find out more about Winter Watch.

Reduce your water bill

Requesting a water meter may help to reduce your bill, Thames Water can advise you if a water meter would reduce your bill or not. For more information or request a meter visit Thames Water’s website or call Thames Water on 0800 980 8800. If a meter cannot be installed, your tariff might be changed to save you money instead.

Thames Water has a number of ways to help some customers on low incomes with their water bill.

Customer Assistance Fund

You now need to pay toward your debts for support and pay consistently for two years to qualify for financial assistance to clear any remaining liability after this time.

To qualify, you’ll need to:

  • have at least £120 outstanding debt on previous bills (dated before 1 April 2020)
  • be responsible for your own water bills rather than them being paid by a landlord, housing association or someone else
  • have an active Thames Water account, receiving bills from them on an ongoing basis
  • be able to afford your current and future bills and pay Thames Water by Direct Debit
  • commit to making contributions towards your debt over the next two years
  • be willing to share your income and outgoings so we can assess your ability to pay
  • consent to your data being used for checks or to place you on other financial schemes that help reduce bills

You won’t qualify if you:

  • are a non-household customer, such as a landlord or housing association
  • receive your water bill from a different company
  • only have current water debt from bills dated after 1 April 2020, or debt less than £120
  • have received a Customer Assistance Fund lump sum grant in the year before your application
  • have successfully applied to this payment matching scheme in the past three years
  • have already agreed a litigation payment plan with us


Thames Water also has a scheme called WaterHelp that puts eligible customers on a reduced tariff that could reduce your bill by 50%. This was previously known as WaterSure Plus until March 2020. You should qualify if your gross yearly household income is less than £17,005 before any deductions.

Thames Water information on WaterHelp.


Thames Water also has a scheme called WaterSure that can cap your bills, if you are on a water meter but find it hard to save water because you have a large family or water-dependent medical condition. They will use the average price based on what other customers pay to calculate your bill. For this year (2022/23), they will cap your bills at £423. If you already use less, you’ll keep paying less.

To qualify for WaterSure someone in your household:

  • Must be receiving either Child Tax Credit (receiving more than the family element), Housing Benefit, Income-based Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit, Working Tax Credit, Universal Credit, or be responsible for three or more children under 19 (and receiving Child Benefit for them) and,
  • Have a qualifying medical condition that requires extra water.

You can find out more information about WaterSure and WaterHelp schemes or call Thames Water on 0800 009 3652.

Thames Water’s advice if you’re struggling to pay your bill.

Reducing your food costs

You may be able to reduce your costs by:

  • Shopping weekly and making a meal plan using up ingredients you already have, then making a shopping list of any missing items. Going shopping daily will make you spend more.
  • Do not shop when hungry. This makes you likely to spend more, especially on less healthy foods, such as high-fat and sugary snacks.
  • Be strict about buying only what you’ll actually eat. The average family with children throws away almost £60 of good food every month.
  • Try cheaper brands, you could save money by buying cheaper brands than you usually do as well as cutting back on luxuries.
  • Look up cheap recipes. There are plenty of websites that give you recipes for cheap tasty meals including using leftover ingredients.
  • You could also reduce the cost of food by making packed lunches for work/school rather than buying food when you are out.
  • If you are receiving an ‘income based’ benefit (not including Working Tax Credit) you could receive free school meals. Contact your child’s school for more information and to apply

You could also consider online shopping as it will cut down on your travel costs. You will also be made aware of special offers relevant to you.

Reducing your health-related costs

You may be able to get help with your health-related costs if you are on a low income and claim some income-based benefits or tax credits. Find more information about NHS advice on help with health costs.

If you have a low income and have capital of under £16,000, you may be able to get help with NHS costs through the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS). You could also call 0300 330 1343.

You should qualify for help with your health costs if you:

  • receive Universal Credit and earn less than £435 per month as a single person, or
  • if you receive Universal Credit with either a child element of the Limited Capability for Work elements and earn less than £935 per month.

If you pay for your prescriptions you may save money by buying an NHS Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC). It costs £30.25 for three months or £108.10 for 12 months (or 10 Direct Debit instalments of £10.81), no matter how many you need. More information on prescription prepayment certificates.

Reducing your school-related costs

You may be able to get help with your child’s school related costs for uniforms, equipment and trips through the Pupil Premium scheme.

You should contact your child’s school to ask if you can receive any financial assistance with these costs.

Find out more about Pupil Premium.

Reducing your public transport costs

If you travel on Reading Buses regularly, you may be able to reduce your public transport costs. Find out more about buying advance fares that include weekly, monthly or saver 10s bus tickets. You can find out more about this online at

You may also be able to receive help with transport costs if you:

  • have a disability
  • have reached state pension age
  • are a young person in education
  • are on a low income.

Find more information about help for someone with a disability or that has reached state pension age online.

Find out more information about help with other transport costs online.

Reducing or stopping smoking

You can receive support to help you reduce or stop smoking from Smoke Free Life Berkshire or you can call them on 800 622 6360 or text ‘QUIT’ to 66777.

Find out more about the other services that are available to help you reduce or stop smoking through the NHS.

Reducing or stopping drinking alcohol

You can get support from national alcohol support services to help you reduce or stop drinking alcohol from Drink Aware.

You can get advice from your doctor on reducing or stopping drinking alcohol. If you think you have a drinking problem or are experiencing any of the related symptoms of alcohol dependence, please contact your doctor or call NHS 111 as soon as you can.

Last updated on 23/10/2023