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'I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul' - Bella*'s Story

63 year old Bella* is trying to pay down her rent arrears. She has found it hard to cover her bills while on benefits, and came to Money A+E for support. Here is her story.

‘I came to Money A+E as a direct result of my rent arrears. They’re close to £2,000 now, and I’ve just been having difficulty financially. So my housing association put me in touch with Money A+E, to have a session with Tanzila [Money Educator]. They thought it would be good for me, to help me manage my money better.

Back then I was feeling pretty desperate. It was the rent arrears mainly affecting me. I’ve been in a position where I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul – if I pay the rent, then the other bills will suffer. And I need heat, I need water. You’re really just juggling: it’s like throwing balls in the air and choosing which one has priority.

I’m not an extravagant person. I am on Universal Credit, and I also receive a carer’s allowance, but it isn’t enough to cover my rent and my bills.

I had my adult daughter living with me for a while. Of course that incurs extra costs, because you’re using extra water, extra fuel. There was a fire at her home, and everybody was vacated from the property. She’s moved into temporary accommodation now, but that has been part of the strain and the stress of it all.

When I had my first call with Tanzila, we went through basically what our aim was: so that I can manage better. Tanzila was very patient, very professional in her manner and very friendly. I’m desperately in need of friendliness.

We talked about ways that I could maybe increase my income, although that is sort of hard because I am at retirement age. Really, I just want to be retired now and have that freedom.

At the moment I’m not good with things like budget spreadsheets and online banking, so we explored those areas. And Tanzila told me to think of a goal, something that I’d like to do. I said to her: I haven’t had a holiday in the last five years, that’s something that I’d like to do!

She was thinking of ways that I could generate some funds, like the ‘Penny Saving Challenge’. That sounded really good and it’s something I’d like to pursue, most definitely.

Now I’m just trying to make do with what I have and to keep my costs down. And I always seek help where I can. If anybody offers information that’s useful, I always try to pursue it, and do what I can in the meantime.

For example, I applied to my council’s Hardship Fund, for help with my rent. But I applied in June and at the time, they were still dealing with March applications. They’re dealing with so many people having fallen into rent arrears, they’re swamped with applications.

I think it’s great that there are things out there to help, like the hardship funds and Money A+E. But I don’t think the word is always getting out about them. I wish it was, because it could save a lot of heartache and unnecessary stress on people.

I think it’s great that there are things out there to help, like the hardship funds and Money A+E. But I don’t think the word is always getting out about them. I wish it was, because it could save a lot of heartache and unnecessary stress on people.

I would recommend other people to go to Money A+E, because it’s always good to have somebody to talk to. When you’re carrying a lot of responsibilities and a lot of stress, you’re constantly worrying – it’s really nice to have somebody at the end of the line. Someone who says: ok, here’s a suggestion, this is what you can do. Or: this is not so bad, you know, there are solutions.’

*Name has been changed


Service funded by Notting Hill Genesis housing association


Name: Bella*

Location: London

Age: 63

Lives: Alone, formerly with adult daughter, in social rented housing

Occupation: Retired, former PA and Legal Secretary

Came to Money A+E: July/August 2022

Money A+E support included:

Working together with Bella* to create a picture of her financial situation and challenges.

Income maximization options

Budgeting and budget spreadsheets

Online banking: benefits of using it and how to get set up

Setting and achieving money goals

Ways to save, including on a low income

Figures are correct at time of writing and may be approximate

Stock image: Isaac Holmgren on Unsplash


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Money A+E is an award winning social enterprise that provides money advice & educational services to 

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