If you’re struggling and living without essential household items like a cooker, washing machine or fridge and freezer, there are grants and support available to get free white goods.
Over two million households are living without an essential household appliance – like a cooker, fridge or washing machine – according to Turn2us.
Whether it’s not owning a kitchen appliance at all, or the machine is broken or faulty, it’s not right that so many are living in appliance poverty.
This is affecting more people than you may think. Your first thought may turn to people who are on very low incomes or benefits, but 1 in 7 people with incomes on or below £35,000 live without at least one essential kitchen appliance.
We’ve been in private rental for years, having moved 8 times in the last 10 years, being served notice to move on at pretty much every place we’ve lived.
Every rental was different in terms of what unfurnished meant.
One place had no white goods at all, so we had to get a washing machine, cooker and fridge.
That was fine until we needed to move, but the next place came with all the white goods. Not having room to store them, or the ongoing funds to put them into storage (for an unknown amount of time), we sold them on.
However, just 7 months later, we moved again. This time, the flat had a cooker and washing machine, but no fridge.
We managed to salvage a sorry looking fridge freezer for free; otherwise, we would have used a credit card to get a new one as we had no savings.
However, there are grants for cookers and other appliances, as well as free ways to get white goods for your kitchen.
Cost of living without white goods
White goods like a cooker, fridge or washing machine are costly to buy upfront, and even a repair can set you back a fair bit.
For instance, Turn2us have highlighted in their Living Without Campaign that if you have to eat microwave ready meals as you don’t have a cooker, it means you spend an extra £42 a week on your food shop (as a family of 4).
Without a fridge or freezer, you have nowhere to store food, so need to buy things daily, and you can’t bulk buy to get discounts or look for cheaper food to save for another time.
This means an average weekly family shop would cost an extra £26.26 a week.
If you’ve not got a washing machine, this will usually mean washing by hand (a launderette will get too expensive over time, and you’d pay an extra £1,000 over a year).
It costs around £4 to run a medium cycle in the launderette, but costs just 15p to wash your clothes in your own washing machine at home.
But, on top of actual money, there is also a physical impact of not being able to eat fresher food, or having to wash clothes by hand, particularly if someone has a disability or is ill.
Then, there’s an emotional impact where people feel unhappy, have low life satisfaction, feel low self-worth and feel anxious. Just imagine how you’d feel having to go to work in clothes that you couldn’t wash properly.
Realising it’s hard to live without essential appliances, and the increased weekly cost of living without, people try anything to get a new appliance – but again, this comes at an extra cost.
Turn2us surveyed their users and found that many are having to use high-interest credit or expensive rent-to-own companies to get new appliances. (This is not the only option…see below).
If you had savings and could buy a fridge from a normal shop it’d cost you £250-£400. However, with a rent-to-own retailer, you’ll be paying around £1,000!
It’s not the only way people are getting new appliances with:
- 33% of people using a credit card
- 7% using a store card
- 5% of people have used their overdraft, and
- 1% of people have used a pay day loan.
While it won’t help you out of a hole immediately, it’s one reason to save an emergency fund, even if it’s just a few quid at a time.
What help is there?
Thankfully, there are several different options available, so you don’t need to turn to high-interest credit to get a cooker, fridge freezer or washing machine.
Here are some ways to get free white goods, find grants or get appliances for far cheaper.
Grants for cookers and other appliances
Many charities give grants to families or individuals, and the grant does not need to be paid back.
You can search in a minute to find charities either locally or nationally who may be able to offer you a grant for a cooker, washing machine or fridge freezer. Plus, you can filter specific to your job (or previous career), your religion, or whether you have any health issues.
Each charity comes with its own set of qualifying rules, so it may be worth searching for you (as well as your partner, if you have one).
The charity may be able to help if you’re experiencing financial hardship, are in debt, if you’re on a low income or have no savings, or if you’ve had a change in circumstances such as a bereavement or job loss.
On top buying new white goods, any of the charities can also offer grants to help with rent, utility bills, clothing, costs of studying/exam fees, respite care, travel costs to get back into work, and more.
Have a look at the Turn2us grant search to see what support is available for you.
Greggs Hardship fund
Greggs (yes, the people with the sausage rolls) offer a hardship fund to help people when they are struggling in life.
So far, they have given away over £3 million to families in poverty.
They offer grants to help with equipment for new babies, when a child starts school, as well as supplying cookers, fridge/freezers and washing machines.
However, the grants are only available to people in in the North East of England (the Counties of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Durham and Teesside).
Families with disabled children
If you have a disabled child living with you who receives certain benefits, you can apply for a grant with the Family Fund.
They have arrangements directly with suppliers (like AO and Argos), who will give you credit to buy a new kitchen appliance like a washing machine or fridge freezer.
Family Fund also offer grants for holidays, computers, sensory toys and equipment, clothing and days out.
Let’s Talk Energy Fund
If you’ve got an inefficient kitchen appliance, or you don’t have one at all, you can apply for a new one. You will need to receive certain mean tested benefits.
You may also be able to get energy debt written off or get a boiler repair or replacement.
Currently, you can only apply to this fund if you’re a customer of:
- Green Star Energy: White Goods, Energy Debt Relief awards and Boilers repair & replacements
- SSE: White Goods awards only
- Scottish Power: White Goods awards only
npower Energy Fund
If you’re a customer of npower, they have a fund to pay for the replacement of broken and old cookers, fridges, fridge-freezers and washing machines.
They also have grants that can pay towards people who are struggling to pay their energy bills.
E.ON Energy Fund
Current E.ON customers can get help with replacing white goods like cookers, fridge, fridge freezers and washing machines.
They want to help as many people as possible, but their funds are limited, so people with the greatest need are prioritised.
Existing or previous customer of E.ON can apply to their fund for help to pay their current or final E.ON energy bill.
If you’re an E.ON customer as well as a homeowner, you can also apply to the fund for a replacement gas, calor and oil boiler.
Support from your local council
Local Welfare Assistance Schemes (LWAs) are a possible way for you to get help from your local council.
Trouble is, times are tough for everyone, and they are also cutting their services. Some areas may offer more than others.
I was shocked that I managed to find support is run by my local council in a minute using the tool, after I’d been searching via Google for a good five minutes and couldn’t find anything!
Each council runs their scheme differently with different qualifying criteria. Usually, these schemes are for people who are living on a low income or receive a means-tested benefit and have no access to savings.
The assistance scheme will usually give vouchers (not cash) to use for household items, like a cooker, fridge or washing machine, as well as for food, gas and electric costs, clothing and other household items.
If you live in a housing association property, you may well be able to get help directly from them.
Turn2us has found that 67% of housing associations offer assistance with purchasing essential household appliances and 88% of housing associations help tenants to apply for charitable grants.
On top of that, some housing associations run their own grant for cookers and white goods programmes that help people to but new white goods or get referrals to local furniture projects.
Jut contact your housing association and ask if they offer any support.
Cheap washing machine hire
Two housing associations, including London and Quadrant Housing Trust, have been running a low-cost rental scheme for tenants with AO.
The rental scheme enables you to get a Candy A+++ energy rating washing machine for £2 a week, and the price includes insurance, repairs and replacements, and can be cancelled at any time if you no longer want the machine.
After five years, customers can replace the washing machine with a new one and send the old one back to AO for refurbishment or to be recycled.
While you do have to pay, it’s far cheaper than high-cost lending, and there are no credit checks.
The retailer is still testing the scheme, but (when I spoke to them in September 2019) they had already rented out more than 700 washing machines, cookers and fridge freezers across England and Scotland.
John Roberts, AO CEO, said, “The difference [the rental service] makes to people’s lives is incredible.
“There are 5.4 million homes in social housing. Take L&Q, which has about 100,000 homes in London where the average household income is £14,000.
“When those people are spending £10 a week on ‘rent-to-own’ washing machines and fridge freezers, they can’t afford it. People can pay £2 per week instead of £10 per week – if it breaks, we will come and repair it or replace it at our cost, which is an AO guarantee.”
However, as it’s a pilot, I don’t know how long it will continue.
Get it free
Use Freecycle or local Facebook community groups to see if you can get an appliance for free.
You may think it’s a long shot, but with more of a focus on being good to the environment, people are setting up groups to pass on unwanted goods, so they don’t end up at the rubbish dump.
The only issue with this is you may need to have your own transport to get the appliance home, and you’ll need to have it installed yourself.
If you’re on certain benefits, you can apply for a budgeting loan to help pay for appliances.
The minimum loan amount you can get is £100, and you will need to repay the money via your benefits.
While it’s not a free option, it will mean you can shop around for the best price for an appliance, and you won’t need to pay any interest on the amount you borrow.
A budgeting loan could also be used to pay for furniture, moving costs, clothing, maternity expenses and funeral costs.
If you’re claiming Universal Credit, you would need to apply for a Budgeting Advance instead.
It’s not a free option, but it’s cheaper than buying an item brand new.
Re-use Network take donated furniture, restore it, then sell it on at discounted prices.
Use the search within the Re-use Network to find when your local service is based.
While it’s borrowing, it’s a cheaper kind of borrowing, which is why we’ve put it right at the end as an option.
Credit Unions are community-run and offer savings accounts and affordable loans.
:: This has hopefully given you a lot of options to get free white goods and grants for cookers, fridges and washing machines.
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Naomi knows the burden of living on very little and became debt free by learning from past mistakes and following her own money saving tips and tricks.