If your finances have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, our guide offers simple and accessible ways to manage your money during this difficult time. We consider ways to save as well as the financial support available to you.
Across the country, millions of people are seeing their finances affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
If you or your loved ones’ situations have changed and it’s affecting your incomings or outgoings, rest assured that you are not alone.
The good news is, the government has announced unprecedented levels of support for people affected by the current situation.
Plus, they really want people to make the most of it. The more we stay on our feet, the sooner the country will get back to normal when the crisis is over.
The important thing is not to stick your head in the sand. Being proactive is the only way to take control of your financial wellbeing.
That doesn’t have to mean making huge changes. We’ve put together 12 simple things you can do to look after your finances during this difficult time.
1. Track your spending and set a budget
Budgeting is one of the best ways to take control of your finances and it could help you to identify unnecessary outgoings as well as showing where you spend most of your money.
Money Saving Expert has a brilliant free guide to creating and keeping a budget.
2. Make the most of the support available for both renters and homeowners
For many, the biggest financial outgoing will be your monthly rent or mortgage payments. If you are struggling to meet your mortgage or rental payments because of COVID-19, support is available.
Most major providers have announced mortgage payment holidays for those affected financially by the coronavirus. Currently phone lines are swamped so the best way to get in touch with your provider is online. Do this as soon as possible to receive the support you need.
The government has announced emergency legislation to protect private renters and landlords during this difficult time. There is a ban on private evictions, while landlords will be allowed to request mortgage payment holidays if you can’t pay your rent on time.
If you are worried about paying rent, speak to your landlord as soon as possible to maintain good relations and allow them to get help if needed.
The same ban on tenant evictions applies to people in social and council housing.
Useful guides detailing eligibility, how to apply, and the pros and cons of the new legislation are available on the Money Advice Service website.
3. Check if you’re eligible for the Job Retention Scheme
If employers aren’t able to pay their staff because of the pandemic, the government will pay 80% of their wages during this time. Speak to your employer about how to access this. You may also have heard it referred to as 'furlough'.
There are also provisions for the self-employed. Keep an eye on the government guidelines to see what help you could get.
4. Speak to your bank or building society
It’s not just the government that’s offering help for people affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Most banks and building societies have put special measures in place to ease the pressure on their customers.
Some, for example, are stopping late payment fees as well as temporarily increasing credit card borrowing limits and cash withdrawal limits.
Some are even offering refunds on credit card cash advance fees. You should check with your bank or building society to see what help is available.
Check your emails in case they’ve been in touch, or head straight to their website to find out what your providers are doing to help their customers.
5. Consider Universal Credit
If you are already claiming Universal Credit, and are staying at home on government advice, you should report this in the usual way via your online journal.
If this means you are working fewer hours, the amount of Universal Credit you will receive will adjust as your earnings change.
If you have not previously used Universal Credit, you may now be eligible.
More information can be found on the Universal Credit webpage.
6. Check your bank and credit card statements
Check bank statements on a regular basis, you never know if you have been overcharged or are paying for something you never use, such as forgotten subscriptions.
If you notice anything suspicious, contact your bank.
7. Take a break from spending and avoid impulse purchases
Reducing your spending at this time can help you feel more in control of your financial wellbeing.
Many people are taking this opportunity to change their spending habits; limiting unplanned purchases and making cutbacks where possible.
Doing this can make you more mindful of those little bits and pieces here and there that can add up to a lot.
Non-essential purchases can lift your mood; however, online shopping is an easy way to spend money.
If you see something you like, instead of being tempted into an impulse purchase, create an online shopping list or favourites list and add the item to it.
Wait a few days before you make a decision. Reflecting before you buy to see whether it is worth purchasing might help you to see a reduction in spending.
8. Make savings wherever you can
In the coming months, most of us will be able to avoid some of our regular costs. For example, some people will save the cost of a monthly travelcard, while others will save on their weekly visit to the pub.
Start from these savings and see what others you could make.
Could you use your commute time to cook more from scratch? Do you have a gym, cinema or other subscription that you could cancel or even just pause? Small things really add up.
9. Check if you could get a better deal on your household bills
Looking at ways to cut the cost of your household bills such as switching providers for your gas, electricity or mobile phone contracts can help you save on regular costs.
Money Supermarket has a handy list of all the things you could consider switching.
10. Be aware of scams and theft
Now more than ever we are seeing scams increase, taking some simple steps can keep you better protected to prevent yourself becoming a victim of fraud.
- Keep your cards and PIN safe and secure – don’t write it down or share it with anyone
- Shield your PIN whenever you enter it, both at cashpoints and when using your card for a purchase
- Keep your computer protected and use it wisely. Do not share online passwords, if you are contacted to share your password, don’t (even if this is a bank)
- Be aware of emails with links to other websites
- Make sure websites are secure when shopping online - only provide card details if the web address starts with https or has a padlock in the browser
If you receive an email you suspect to be from a scammer, don’t open or reply to it – just delete it.
If the email is pretending to be from an organisation such as your bank, it is worth calling your bank before you do anything. You can report scams here.
11. Remember you are not alone
Whatever you are going through, it’s important not to feel embarrassed or ashamed about your financial issues; not least because millions of other people across the UK are in the same situation.
This is a national crisis, and everyone is aware of the far-reaching impact it will have. No one will judge you or think less of you if you admit to having a problem.
12. If you are in serious debt, ask for help
Charity Step Change is one place you can turn to if you are worried your debts are getting out of hand. They offer a confidential service and practical advice on how to turn your situation around.
The most important thing is to reach out as soon as possible – don’t wait until it’s too late.
More information and support is available from these organisations:
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