It can be hard to make ends meet even when your life is going to plan, but becoming an unpaid carer – either suddenly or gradually – can have a big impact on your finances at a time when you have less time to keep on top of things.

Whether you’ve had to reduce your your working hours or you’re suddenly doing more driving this can lead to more outgoings at a time when you have less free time or energy to concentrate on budgeting. Teresa Goldson is from Moneywise HomeSafe:

The reality is very few of us actually run a budget – we hold the information in our heads; it’s a wing and a prayer approach to money management. Most of the time we can get away with it, but what happens when we haven’t got any wiggle room?

We often pick people up at critical points in their life; lifestyle changes. Very often we don’t plan for these. Unless we are very fortunate or very wealthy, it’s going to have an impact.

Recently we had a case where a woman had taken her mother to hospital and just the travel and the parking over 10 days came to £150. She hadn’t budgeted for that.”

Teresa says her advice to everyone, but particuarly carers, is to keep a really close eye on where your money is going:

It sounds terribly hard-nosed and business like, but people have got to manage and survive. There are lots of things people can do. We recommend everybody takes an hour a week to look at where their money is going and categorise it.

Online banking is also great as you’re not tied to time – you can look at your account at 3am if you need to.

We also recommend The Money Advice Service which is a great online service with some really useful free budgeting tools. If you’re not online and perhaps you’re renting, it’s worth going to speak to your local council or housing association. Often they will have staff available who can help you with your budget.”

Teresa Goldson says it may just be a case of moving money around:

“We had a case a few years ago where a man was at the point of going to a food bank and we were able to sit down with him for an hour, look at his budget, and free up £150. This wasn’t new money, just a case of moving money around – changing energy supplier, looking at when his payments went out etc.

The Norfolk Carers Advice Line  on 0808 808 9876 offers advice and support to unpaid carers in Norfolk and can signpost carers to local services which can help with budgeting. The Advice Line can also help advise unpaid carers on benefits such as Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Credit.

Many carers don’t realise they’re entitled to Carer’s Credit, which fills gaps in a carer’s national insurance record so their pension isn’t negatively affected by the time they’ve taken out of work to care for someone else.

The Norfolk Carers Advice Line is open from 9-5pm Mon to Fri and 10-2pm on Sat.