Snap up free money!
There's a raft of free grants, bursaries and cash to be claimed out there - it's just a case of knowing how.
A New Year heralds change and you've probably made a few New Year's resolutions to get financially organised, clear your debts and sort out any issues that you've been ignoring!
Indeed, one task a lot of my friends have been wishing they'd tackled last year was to ensure their homes were properly insulated - with the current cold snap they're really feeling the cold.
But while cost was the issue they were surprised to hear there are grants available to help that are available to pretty much everyone. In fact, there are a surprising number of grants and bursaries out there that aren't means tested. Here are just a few of the those available:
Boiler scrappage scheme
If, like mine your gas boiler is 15 years old and on its last legs the government's boiler scrappage scheme will probably have piqued your interest.
Mentioned in the Pre-Budget report, the scheme will offer up to 125,000 households a £400 grant towards the cost of upgrading an old boiler (G rated or worse) to an energy efficient A rated version.
Not only could replacing an inefficient boiler improve efficiency by 30%, energy efficient boilers use less fuel, produce less CO2 and could reduce your gas bill by a quarter - or around £235 a year - on average.
What's more, a number of companies (including British Gas) are offering to match the government's grant, meaning that we can potentially save £800 on a new boiler.
Now there are a couple of rules - the main one being that to qualify it must be the main boiler used to heat the home.
If you are under 60 you can only apply if your boiler is in working order. Over 60s, on the other hand can apply regardless of whether or not the boiler works.
Only one voucher can be applied for per household. Vouchers will be issued from 18 January 2010 and are valid for 12 weeks from date of issue (after this time they will need to be re-issued).
And be warned, installations made before the receipt of your voucher will invalidate your claim and you will no longer be able to claim the £400 rebate.
You can find out more about how to apply for the grant from the Energy Saving Trust.
Grant worth: £800
Cavity Wall and Loft Insulation grants
You may be surprised to learn that while windows get most of the blame for heat loss in a home, the walls themselves are the real culprits.
According to the Energy Saving Trust a third of all heat lost in an un-insulated home is through the walls. Couple this with an un-insulated loft and you're literally pouring heat (and pound coins) out of your home.
But suitable homes can be insulated pretty easily. Fitting cavity wall insulation (if applicable) costs about £500 but can save around £115 in energy bills each year (assuming a gas heated, semi-detached home with 3 bedrooms) as well as reducing CO2 emissions. And fitting 270mm of loft insulation can save around £150 per year.
Fortunately, the government has a number of grants to help subsidise the costs involved. In many cases this means you can get the work done for free - but if not it will cover at least half the costs - meaning cavity wall insulation can cost £250 (or less depending on where you live) and loft insulation the same.
Reductions in heating bills as a result of the work could therefore mean you've covered your costs within just a couple of years. Not bad!
Take a look at this grants database to see how much you could save.
Grant worth: £500+
Health in Pregnancy grant
According to the BBC, the cost of raising a baby to the age of 18 is estimated to be around £180,000. Yikes.
Luckily you can save a fortune by borrowing baby gear from friends and relatives, buying second hand through NCT sales and picking up the odd items for free from local parents via Freecycle and Freegle (check out our tips in our Having a Baby goal).
What's more, there is a grant available to help all expectant mums. Once you are 25 weeks pregnant ask your midwife for a Health in Pregnancy Grant claim form.
Created to help mums-to-be stay healthy during pregnancy the grant is worth £190 and payable to all new mums ordinarily resident in the UK and payable on top of any other benefits you may receive (note however that the grant is payable per pregnancy, not child so you will still only receive £190 if pregnant with twins etc.).
Just make sure you apply within 30 days of receiving the claim form from your midwife or you could miss out on the payment (you can receive a free text message reminder here).
Grant worth: £190
Free money for kids
And while we're talking about children, every new baby born in the UK is entitled to £250 from the government (lower income families will receive £500).
Now of course there is a catch - the money must be used to open a Child Trust Fund and cannot be touched until the child turns 18 (and then, only by the child).
However the fund will grow free of tax and up to £1,200 can be added to it each year by family and friends, which will hopefully produce a sizeable nest egg with which your son/daughter can use as a deposit, buy a car or put towards university fees.
What's more, the government has promised to top up the accounts by another £250 when your child turns 7.
And you shouldn't have to do anything in order to claim your child's voucher as it should be received automatically when you start to claim Child Benefit (which is also available to all children, regardless of parental income).
Total worth: £250 - £1,000
And finally, you can get your hands on some free cash just by choosing the right current account.
Head over to Alliance & Leicester and take out the Alliance & Leicester Premier Current Account, and you will qualify for £100 cashback, so long as you transfer all your direct debits across, and pay at least £500 (from a non-Alliance & Leicester account) into the account in the first 11 weeks.
Alternatively, First Direct will pay new customers £100 for signing up to its 1st Account. They'll even pay another £100 if you decide to switch accounts again within a year. To get the first £100, you'll need to deposit at least £1,500 - for at least three months - into the account.
And finally, there's the Halifax Reward Current Account. This clever account will pay you £5 for each month that you pay in £1000, irrespective of what your closing balance is each month!
Total worth: £60-£200
Get help from lovemoney.com
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