Expert advice

Christmas on a budget: money-saving tips for nurses

The apps and discount cards that can help nurses budget for the festive season and save money on everything from food shopping to makeup and fuel bills

The apps and discount cards that can help nurses budget for the festive season and save money on everything from food shopping to makeup and fuel bills

Save money on goods and goodies by accessing the best tips and discounts Picture: iStock

As thousands of nurses across the UK prepare to join the picket line over pay, many are concerned about how they will make ends meet this Christmas.

According to Health Service Discounts, around 40% of health and care workers plan to do overtime to boost their seasonal budget, and one in ten are planning to work on Christmas day to save money. With rising rents, mortgages, energy bills and food costs, finding some festive cheer could be a struggle. Here are some of the best budgeting changes you can make to save your pennies and help cover extra costs such as food and presents.

What discounts are available to nurses over Christmas?

Big brands such as Uber, Asda, Pizza Hut and Starbucks are giving discounts to nurses this December, so make sure you take full advantage of their offers.

Mobile phone company EE is also offering 20% off for emergency workers, including nurses and their friends and family.

When it comes to ticking presents off the Christmas list, members of Health Service Discounts are offered 20% off Charlotte Tilbury makeup and the jewellery chain H Samuel, and 22% off at beauty retailer LookFantastic. Pandora and Early Learning Centre are both offering 10% savings.

Discount services, such as Blue Light Card, are well worth signing up for Picture: iStock

If you don’t already have one, it’s also worth signing up for a Blue Light Card. Costing £4.99, it offers many discounts and can be handy when buying presents.

The discount service is offering nurses a number of Christmas deals, including 20% off at The Body Shop, 10% off at shopDisney, 20% off of Virgin Experience Days, 15% off at Cath Kidston, 10% off at schuh, and much more.

Am I getting all the benefits that I should?

Check that you are getting all the benefits you are entitled to. If you are a parent, have dependants or you have a disability, you could be entitled to Universal Credit, including if you are a nursing student.

RCN senior welfare rights adviser Claire Cannings said that as Christmas approaches, online views of the RCN’s financial advice and benefits checkers have soared.

‘Often, benefit forms can look complicated, or people just don’t have time for them. It’s on the to-do list, but after a 12-hour shift, they can’t get round to it, or life gets in the way,’ she told Nursing Standard.

‘We have information on our website and social media, but word of mouth is still one of the best ways to get to know about what you are entitled to. Talk to other members and your colleagues, and share information.’

Have you had your energy reimbursement?

The government is currently providing help with energy bills, with households entitled to £66 per month from October 2002, rising to £67 through to March 2023.

If you pay by direct debit, then this should be refunded automatically into your bank account or credited into your energy supplier account, but those on pre-payment meters are often missing out.

‘Often those who are on these meters are living in older rented accommodation or are already struggling,’ said Ms Cannings. ‘They may have been put on these meters as they have previously been in arrears or have debts.

‘I’d advise nurses who pay for their energy on these cards and who haven’t got their refund to contact their supplier. It’s not too late to claim.’

Check whether you received an energy reimbursement Picture: iStock

You should have already received at least one voucher by post, email or SMS. If you haven’t, call your supplier straight away. Even if you lost the first one, they should send you a replacement so you can then redeem it at a PayPoint provider and it can be added to your card.

Top tips from other nurses

We asked our readers for their money saving tips – here is what they had to say:

  • Pick up extra bank shifts on bank holidays and Sundays, you often get paid more for unsociable hours shifts
  • Invest in some thick thermals and use a hot water bottle to avoid turning on the heating
  • If you see clothes, toys or other presents in high-street shops, check before buying to see if they are cheaper on Vinted, Depop or Ebay

What are the best money saving apps?

The Olio app helps you share food and other items with your neighbours so they don’t go to waste. You can also borrow and lend household items in your community, saving you money and reducing waste. People might list food that they have in their fridge if they are going away for Christmas, or food that would otherwise go to waste.

Too Good to Go

The Too Good to Go app lets cafés, bars and restaurants offload their unused and surplus food at bargain prices to save them being thrown away. Whether that is a local café offering cakes and cookies, or big chains selling sandwiches, sushi, pizza or pies, it is a great way to pick up a bargain lunch, dinner or treats for fellow nurses for your next shift.


The Plum money app lets you round up your purchases to the nearest pound and will automatically move the extra pence into your savings account. It is an easy way to save a lump of cash with small purchases. At the end of the month you are likely to be surprised how much you have squirreled away.

Picture: iStock

Help from your union

The RCN and Unison both offer support with bills, home repairs, funeral costs and food vouchers for nurses in need.

West Midlands Unison welfare branch officer Julie Lawton said the demand for help has risen significantly in the past 12 months.

‘Last year, I’d issue three food vouchers a month, now it’s up to three a day,’ she said. ‘NHS staff work all the hours they can to try and earn enough to live. But despite their efforts, some still need referrals to social supermarkets, charities and food banks. It’s heart-breaking to see.’

Alison Stacey is RCNi senior news reporter