Managing money when you have cancer

Planning and managing your finances can be more important when you have cancer. Find out more about staying in control of your finances.

Managing your income

Your income is the amount of money you have coming in. Cancer can affect your income. It is important to make sure you have enough income to pay for what you need.

This money could come from:

  • Work

    This is the main source of income for many people. If you have cancer, you may need to take time off work. Your income may be less, but this does not mean your earnings have to stop completely. We have more information about work and cancer.

  • Benefits

    You may be able to get benefit payments from the government. Our welfare rights advisers can help you find out which benefits you may be able to claim.

  • Savings and investments

    If you have savings, now may be a good time to use them. But check if you can get extra income from somewhere else first, such as benefits or insurance policies. Our financial guides can give you information about accessing your savings and investments to provide an income. You can call them on 0808 808 00 00.

  • Insurance

    If you have health or life insurance, you may be able to make a claim. Remember that insurance pay outs may affect what benefits you can get.

  • Pensions

    If you have a private pension, you may be able to retire and claim your pension early because of ill health. There are benefits and disadvantages to accessing your pension early. It may affect any benefits you can get.

  • Grants

    You may be able to apply for a grant from local or national organisations, including Macmillan. These can help with the extra costs of cancer.

Managing your spending

It is a good idea to understand how your income and spending compare. This can help you stay in control of your finances. If your spending is higher than your income, you may need to think about making some changes.

It may be helpful to divide your spending into:

  • essential items, such as rent or mortgage payments, utility bills and food costs
  • non-essential items, such as holidays and meals out.

Usually, non-essential spending can be easier to reduce. But you may also be able to reduce spending on some essential items, if this does not affect your health.

For example, you may be able to switch to cheaper energy suppliers. We have energy advisers who could help you do this.

Types of costs

Your costs may include:

  • Housing costs, such as rent, mortgage payments, council tax or rates
  • Household costs, such as energy bills, water rates, phone and broadband bills
  • Credit card payments
  • Childcare costs
  • Health costs, such as prescriptions
  • Travel costs, such as travel to hospital and parking.

Make sure you are getting any financial help that you are entitled to, such as help with prescriptions, travel and childcare. You can call 0808 808 00 00 to speak to our welfare rights advisers.

Credit cards

If you use credit cards and do not pay off your balance in full every month, you may be paying interest. You could transfer your balance to another card. Some cards offer 0% interest deals for a limited period. However, there may be a charge for doing this. So you will need to check if this option will save you any money.

To find the best credit card deals, you can use an online price comparison website such as or

It is also a good idea to check if you have any payment protection insurance (PPI) on your credit card. This can help cover your monthly credit card repayments if you are signed off from work.

If you are thinking about borrowing money

Before you consider borrowing money, it is important to think about any other options you may have. This could include:

  • making sure you are getting all the income you are entitled to, including any benefits
  • budgeting and making savings if possible
  • claiming on insurance and pensions if you have them
  • using money you have saved for an emergency.

It is also important to make sure you can afford to pay back the money you are planning to borrow. (and borrowing safely)..

We have more information about borrowing money.

If you already have debts

It is not usually a good idea to borrow more money to pay off an existing debt. You could talk to a trained debt adviser first about options for paying back your debts or credit commitments. Speak to one by calling StepChange Debt Charity.

Paying back your debts

Keeping up with debt repayments can become difficult if your income is less, or you have extra expenses. It is important to get advice as soon as you can.

Our Macmillan Support Line staff can refer you directly to StepChange Debt Charity – call 0808 808 00 00. You can also contact Citizens Advice for free debt advice.

We have more information about managing debt.

Planning a budget

A budget shows how much money you have coming in and how much you are spending. This can help to show where you might be able to cut costs.

Working out your weekly or monthly budget is important to help manage your finances. It can help you understand what you need to do next. You can download this budget table to help you work out your budget.

You can plan your budget using weekly or monthly amounts, depending on what suits your situation. The important thing is not to mix the two – use either weekly or monthly amounts throughout your statement.

This is how you can convert between weekly and monthly amounts:

Weekly amount x 52 ÷ 12 = monthly amount
Monthly amount x 12 ÷ 52 = weekly amount

Three steps to working out your budget

  1. Your income
    Write down any regular income you have (monthly or weekly) and add it all together. This is your total income. Regular income may include your wages, any money you get from a pension, or any money from investments or insurance claims.
  2. Your spending
    Write down everything you spend (monthly or weekly) and add it all together. For example, you might spend money on your rent or mortgage, bills, insurance payments or food and drink. This is your total spend.
  3. Your balance
    Take away your total spend from your total income. This gives you your balance. This is the amount you have left each month or week. Your total income – your total spend = your balance.

If the final amount is less than zero, you are spending more money than you have coming in. This is called having a shortfall. To avoid a shortfall, check whether you can increase your income and look at ways to spend less.

If you have a shortfall and you are worried about getting into debt, you can contact StepChange Debt Charity for advice. Our Macmillan Support Line staff can refer you directly to StepChange Debt Charity. Call our staff on 0808 808 00 00.

You might also find it helpful to read our booklets:

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