Over the last few months the world has been turned upside down, leading to stress and worry amongst families, businesses and loved ones.
Having a personal financial wellbeing strategy has never been more important as it is at the moment. Clearly it’s not just about the economy and the financial markets; the new reality we are faced with affects all of us in terms of everyday decisions around how we spend, how we save, and how we protect ourselves.
We all need to think about reprioritising and being sensible with our money. We encourage everyone to refocus on the things that are needed rather than wanted. To be able to manage during this time, we need to get creative, to make the most out of what we have available; we all need to learn how to live with less.
When it comes to money, it’s important to make sure that you think about all options available to help keep you as stable as possible. Unless you are financially secure it’s sensible to stop buying non-essential items right now; as much as it’s great to use the extra time we all have to scour the likes of Amazon and ebay, having less money to make purchases may lead to financial hardship sooner rather than later.
Whether you're trying to save money, adapt to a decrease in salary, or need some extra financial help, you can rest assured that you have options.
If your income hasn’t been affected
Budgeting will enable you to make the most out of your disposable income. As all restaurants, pubs and clothing stores are closed, as well as no sporting events or concerts to attend, at least for the time being, you've probably been spending less without even realising it. If that is the case this will allow you the opportunity to reprioritise what you will spend your money on when we do eventually come out of this unprecedented situation. That will, hopefully, be a positive thing to do – we all need any positive thoughts we can to cling on to at the moment.
I’m sure there’s never been a more pertinent time to realise how important saving is and how important it is not to waste money. If this has been a tendency in the past this time will help you realise this and change spending habits moving forward – having some savings at this moment in time will enable people to come through this relatively unscathed and certainly less stressed than if this was not the case.
If your income has dropped
Of course a reduction in income will effect people as we all, generally, live to our means. Due to COVID19 many employee’s across the UK have taken a reduction in hours or been furloughed to support employers. But, just because your salary has changed, that doesn’t mean your outgoings have. So what can you do?
Well, it’s a matter of budgeting, getting rid of spend that’s non-essential and finding ways to lower your normal monthly expenditure. Here are some tangible ways to do that:
Understand your total monthly outgoings and calculate how much a month you need to reduce that by inline with your new salary.
You can, for example, take a look at your utility bills and contact the suppliers to find out which tariff is best for you and ask about any other low cost options there may be.
Insurance is a big cost for many people. House, pet, car and life insurance can take a large chunk of your salary each month. Contact your providers to see if you can lower the rates in any way, even for a couple of months. Shop around to see if you can take advantage of multi-policy discounts or find a cheaper supplier – then ask your provider if they can match it to save any further administration.
There’s never been a better time to spend your food vouchers or coupons. Nectar cards, Tesco club cards and any other loyalty schemes will come in handy during these times. If you have any saved coupons hidden away, then make sure you use them. Down load money saving apps that give you daily deals or apps that auto generate discount codes when shopping online.
Look at your mobile, TV and broadband providers to see if you are paying for any “add ons” like additional data, more minutes, a land line etc.
If you have any credit cards or bank loans talk to your bank and see if you could re finance, reduce interest rates or lower the monthly payments.
If possible, try to get an understanding from your employer around how long the reduction in hours or pay may be for, so that you can factor it into your conversations with suppliers (we realise no one has a crystal ball though).
Re-evaluating your fixed monthly costs and looking for ways to save is a smart move at any time. You may find that the changes you make will have long-term benefits and will, of course, give you a more realistic understanding of your outgoings, something you may not have given a thought to.
If you’re struggling to make ends meet
So many people are struggling right now. Part time employee’s, people who have been made redundant, the self employed and freelance workers are all trying to figure out how they are going to make ends meet. So, what can we suggest?
Firstly, how much are your fixed outgoings per month and how much you need to live (food, supplies etc) .
As above, it’s important that you speak to suppliers to see if there is anyway you could get some short term help. Whether that’s minimising card repayments, taking a mortgage holiday or minimising missed payment fees.
Once you’ve done this you will have a better understanding of your finances and allow you to prioritise your bills/spend.
Take advantage of help
If cutting your budget isn't enough to make ends meet in the current environment, don’t panic. There could be something to help that you haven’t heard or read about just yet.
If you're having trouble paying your rent, talk to your landlord about your situation and your options. Some agencies and landlords are granting 3 month payment holidays or considering a temporary lowering of rental payments.
If you own your property and your income has been affected, as previously mentioned, jump on the phone to your lender and talk about your options. Some banks and lenders are offering 3 month or more payment holidays on mortgages.
In response to COVID-19, the UK government has put into place the job retention scheme which has been a HUGE help for UK employers and employees. If you have been furloughed, use this time to truly understand your financial situation!
Some loan and credit card lenders are allowing you to freeze interest, to lower payments or to take repayment holidays for up to 3 months.
If you know you’re incomings aren’t going to cover your outgoings please don’t just let the bills pile up! Reach out to providers, ask for help, you may be pleasantly surprised at the support and guidance you receive.
I know there are millions of people across the UK worried about their financial situation, but you need to know there is help and support out there. Having these conversations are not easy but you will feel a lot better from having made them!