14/01/2011

By Max Clarke

As the January bills start to arrive and with VAT hiked to 20%, Gingerbread and The Royal Bank of Scotland Group are launching a single parents' guide which will help save money online. Gingerbread is expecting calls to its helpline to peak this January as single parents - already disproportionately hard-hit by cuts - start to face post-Christmas bills. After a year of rising food and fuel prices many are down to the bone and want ways to protect their families from the recession's worst effects.

Getting connected - the single parent's guide to getting the most out of the internet has tips on everything - from where to find the best bargains, to using online banking to pay the bills. It's the product of a partnership between RBS and Gingerbread which started in 2009 as part of the bank's MoneySense financial education programme.

Launching the guide today, Gingerbread Chief Executive Fiona Weir said:

"Calls to our helpline will surge this New Year as worried single parents struggle to cope with January's bills. This month's VAT rise will make it tougher still, with families estimated to lose hundreds of pounds a year as result of the hike. We have developed the Getting Connected guide so that more single parents can use the internet to try to stay on top of their finances and save wherever they can. The full guide is packed with enough advice to turn even a complete novice into a savvy surfer."

Money worries account for around half of all the problems raised in calls to Gingerbread's free Single Parent Helpline (0808 802 0925). By making the most of what's available online, single parents can save vital pounds. Here are Gingerbread's top five tips for getting connected:

* If you don't have a computer at home, head down to your library, where it's often available for free
* Do your weekly shop online from most supermarkets - you'll find all the special offers (and avoid impulse buys)
* Fancy a good read without splashing out? Sites like readitswapit.co.uk are a great way to treat yourself for free
* If you want to expand your mind without the tuition fees, bbc.co.uk/learning is packed with short online courses
* Create a simple budget planner to stick to on sites like rbsmoneysense.co.uk

RBS Community Investment Manager, Jennifer Coleman said:

"We are delighted to continue our partnership with Gingerbread, with new evidence showing that those who live in the poorest homes are two-and-a-half times more likely not to have home internet than those who live in the wealthiest homes. We hope this guide will help encourage single parents to gain more access and confidence to use the internet. Our own RBS MoneySense website is a perfect example of a website parents can start to access online to help them budget, track, save and manage their money in the New Year. The Gingerbread website now also features video top tips from single parents which are great for other single parents to gain inspiration."

Find the guide, and a great new online film, at gingerbread.org.uk.

For help managing your money, go to rbsmoneysense.co.uk.