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What to do when you don't have the cash for essential household items

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Washing machines, fridges, freezers, cookers, vacuums.  Many of us simply use these items on a daily basis without even thinking.  They are parts of our home and a normal part of our lives.  They are essential household items that we see as a necessity.

But imagine if you didn’t have these items.  How would you cope?  Unfortunately that’s the reality for many people in Britain as some Brits are too poor to afford a fridge, let alone a washing machine.

Renting a home that provides these items is a blessing in some respects.  When I rented I never had to worry about affording these items or them breaking down.  I’d simply ring the landlord or letting agent if there was a problem and they would fix the item.  I was at the mercy of their timescales, but I usually had a friend’s I could borrow if I needed and back then it was just me to worry about.  I was single and child-free.  It was only temporary so I could deal with it.

Imagine if you were without these items because you have to provide them and you can’t afford them.  It isn’t temporary and there is no one to provide one for you or to fix a broken one.

Imagine if you have children and no washing machine.  Ours is nonstop running in our busy household of four, so I couldn’t imagine life without it.  Imagine not having a fridge to preserve food and save leftovers, or an oven to heat meals.  Imagine not having a vacuum to clean the carpets.

So what do you do when you don’t have the cash for essential household items?

Luckily there are some solutions to help you afford white goods and appliances when cash is tight. 

Read on to discover how you can fund essential household items when funds are low.

If it’s broken, fix it

Firstly, if you have the item already, but it’s broken, then see if it can be fixed before trying to buy a new one.  It helps if you know someone who is handy with these sorts of things, especially when it comes to appliances, enlist their help.  There are numerous tutorials online nowadays so you may be able to find the cause of the issue. 

Our washing machine flooded the kitchen recently and refused to work, but with some research online and taking unscrewing a few things on the back, my husband was able to source the issue and now it’s fixed. 

When someone jumped on my daughter’s bed it snapped and caved in.  We were able to temporarily fix it by drilling an additional piece of wood to the underside to support the frame.

Of course sometimes these fixes are only temporary, but if it makes it last longer whilst you source the funds for a replacement then it’s worth repairing what you can.

Use a pay weekly site

If it’s beyond repair and you need to replace an item, or fund an essential item for the first time, then you’ll want to buy something new.  This is great if you have the money saved up or can access mainstream credit, but what if you can’t?  If you are a low-income family and you are denied credit which you need for household essentials then what can you do?

One charity that is challenging the high-cost lines of credit that are usually the only option for low-income families struggling financially is a not-for-profit company called Fair for You.  Fair for You is a lender with a difference, and a social conscience. Fair for You provide non cash loans for essential household items for low-income families.  As a non-profit they are not interested in making huge profits, but in actually helping those in need.

Fair for You don’t give you a cash loan, but instead they fund your purchase of household goods via one of their retailers and you arrange a repayment plan that you can afford.  If you fall behind on payments they don’t charge late payment fees or use bailiffs.  They want to help you and will rearrange your payment plan to something you can afford if you are struggling after borrowing.

“We are a registered charity with the objective to alleviate poverty through better credit solutions for lower income family households and to influence how we lend as a society to lower-income families.” - Fair for You

Fair for You want to help low-income families to afford the essential items they need and to support them if the original repayment plan becomes unaffordable.  This is in stark contrast to many other lenders who target low-income families and charge ridiculous interest rates and turn nasty when they can’t afford to repay. 

It’s a flexible loan so you are also allowed to make over payments.  Paying extra will reduce your overall amount of interest and can help you pay what you owe quicker.

Apply for a grant

Some charities give grants for white goods and other essential household items for those struggling on a low income and particularly to families with children who are in financial hardship.  A grant might fund the entire cost of an appliance or it might pay towards it. 

Grants do not need to be paid back so they are for those who are desperately in need.  You will need to meet specific eligibility criteria to be accepted for a grant.  You can contact a charity called Turn2Us to learn more about the available grants and to see if you qualify.

Buy preloved

It’s easier than ever to shop for second hand goods nowadays with the likes of eBay, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace to name just a few preloved websites.  Facebook Marketplace is great for finding goods local to you and there are often local selling groups with thousands of local residents selling their goods.  It’s usually pretty easy to find a man with a van for a reasonable price if you need to transport a bulky or heavy item to your home. 

The only downside to buying second-hand is you have no way of knowing how long the item will last.  You have nowhere to return it to should it breakdown straight away.  It’s a gamble you should only be willing to take for the right price.  Luckily most people are honest and they won’t be trying to sell you faulty goods.  See it working if you can, if it’s electrical, and follow your instincts on whether a person seems trustworthy or not.

We have sold and purchased several large household items using Facebook Marketplace and we have luckily always had good experiences, aside from the timewasters that don’t turn up to collect something.   Just recently we purchased my daughter a preloved bed frame for £40 whilst it was still selling for new in Argos for well over £100! 

Check out local furniture recycling projects

There are numerous furniture recycling projects up and down the country that save household goods and appliances from ending up in landfill when they can be reused.  You can find out your nearest locations at the Reuse website and find much more affordable goods than buying new.  Buying preloved from a recycling project gives the benefits of the electrics being safety tested and you having somewhere to return an item to if it doesn’t work or stops working rather quickly.  They should have a returns policy like a normal store to give you peace of mind.

Source free items

Freecycle and Freegle are websites full of items for free.  These are items that people in your local area do not want payment for, but no longer need and do not want to send it to landfill.  You’re probably going to need to collect these items as they are not making any money by giving them away, so if you find household goods you need then you’ll just need to arrange collection from the current owner and organise transport.

Talk to Citizen’s Advice

If you are struggling financially and can’t make ends meet, let alone have the funds to purchase household essentials (even if second-hand or on a payment plan), then you need to seek advice.  The Citizen’s Advice is a great place to start as they offer impartial advice for free.  They will be able to signpost you to the services you need or advise on any extra benefits, grants or benefits loans that you may be entitled to.

Final word

Thankfully there are lots of solutions if you are struggling financially and can’t afford household essentials.  The best thing is to make sure you buy only what you can afford.  This could be paying for second hand goods upfront or buying a new item with the help of a responsible payment plan from a company like Fair for You.  If you have no funds available at all for essential household goods then seek professional advice to see if you are entitled to extra benefits, grants or loans.