Health, relationships, work, education, entertainment. It feels like the coronavirus is changing every aspect of life for individuals and societies across the world. It's a horrible, tragic time to experience and deeply sad to think of so many suffering. Many of us feel helpless, unqualified and unable to help. On top of all of the well known health and lifestyle implications, it can also have a devastating impact on people's finances.
As we are forced to acclimatise into new patterns and rhythms of life, it is helpful to take stock of our money. The world's economies are being shaken to their core but how are you doing personally? What shape are your finances in this coronavirus world?
To help you work through the changes in your budget at this time- here are some thoughts, some things to consider in the various areas of your finances, as well as some pointers for steps you can take in each section.
It’s just an introduction- you’ll find plenty of links to other areas where you can explore the themes more thoroughly.
IncomeThis is the first major area that you will need to think through. It is the area that will likely see the biggest disparities across the country.
It might be that you are in the fortunate position of having an employer who is continuing to operate through the pandemic. If working from home is possible then perhaps you are able to keep going and maintain the same level of income.
Other people are being placed on furlough, a system where the government is providing 80% of your salary, with employers having the option to make up the difference. They don't have to do this, so you may be 20% worse off.
For others, self employed or if your company has ceased trading, you may have seen your income plummet to next to nothing.
Here are some of the support options available which you may be entitled to if your income has dropped:
- Universal Credit
- Child Benefit
- Support for businesses
- Grants for charities/carers/musicians amongst others
There are a lot of options for individuals or organisations to get help during this time. The above is a long way from an exhaustive list. Make sure you explore all of your options.
It's not just income that’s changed because of the virus. Virtually every area of your budget will need to be considered afresh.
DebtIf you have debts, of any kind, then a sudden drop in income could hit you hard.
There are however some stop gap solutions for debt, including the following:
- £500 interest free authorised overdraft. If you are struggling due to coronavirus, banks have to grant this. Make sure you ask in advance.
- 3 month payment holidays for mortgages. Remember this means that you'll still accumulate interest and the amount you have saved will be spread over the rest of the mortgage term.
- 3 month payment holidays on credit cards and loans. As above.
Banks are also often waiving missed payment charges (check with your bank though!) and whilst other options should be explored first, there are plenty of credit cards at 0% for a couple of years if you need it. Use an Eligibility Checker before applying.
Like I say, these are short term fixes. If you still have all/most of your income, then keep paying down debt. Interest will continue to accumulate over payment holidays, so you’ll have a bit more to pay overall. Only use the above if you have explored other options first.
As usual, Money Saving Expert has an excellent page giving a lot of detail on some of these lending options.
Food and HouseholdMore than likely you'll be spending a lot less on food overall than you were. No eating out in the evenings, shop bought sandwiches at lunchtime or coffee shop caffeine fixes. No more popping in for a quick dinner on the way home from work.
Having said that, those weekly supermarket shops are probably much larger than usual!
You might also have found it a challenge with adjusting your supermarket shop but even allowing for this, you're probably still better off. If not, now is the time to plan your meals, set a sensible budget and stick with it. Given the recent challenges to food supply chains it's important to avoid waste, so think about what you'll eat in advance and shop accordingly.
And stick a few extra bits in the Foodbank bucket on the way out!
UtilitiesSpending more time in your house may lead to increased electricity bills. Now is a good time to think about switching if you aren't on a good tariff (it's rare that someone would need to come to your house for you to switch suppliers). You might find considerable savings by doing this. Money Supermarket have a good comparison tool.
Heating costs may be a little higher, as you're spending more time at home, although the good weather means that you'll likely not be needing much of it.
If you have oil heating you'll find that oil prices are very low at the moment. So fill your tank!
Your employer can pay you up to £6 per week to cover your additional costs if you are working from home (From 6 April 2020, £4 per week before). You can get tax relief on this payment too and you don't need to keep any records. Have a look at the gov.uk page for more details.
TravelSurely you've saved money on travel?! Limited public transport and, even if you're driving your car a bit, petrol prices are low anyway so you're likely making a saving.
Holidays cancelled too? Whilst it’s frustrating it does mean savings- especially if you can get money back on anything booked in advance.
EntertainmentAll of our social lives have taken a hit, Zoom chats and Facebook calls just aren't the same as the real thing but at least generally they are free. So whilst we are distantly social, we are also frugally social. Aside from the odd extra Amazon package or streaming service (Disney+ anyone?) you are likely saving money here.
Sky and BT are also pausing subscriptions for their services, Playstation are doing discounts and some free games, Audible have a bunch of free books too. There's plenty to take advantage of to reduce your bills and keep you entertained.
Savings and InvestmentsMany people, particularly those approaching retirement, will have seen their investment savings drastically fall over the past few weeks before gradually starting to pick up again. Normal market fluctuations are one thing but huge economic shocks like this can be devastating. Companies, particularly in travel and hospitality, have struggled and many ceased trading. This uncertainty is likely to continue for months to come.
The key advice is to ride it out. Don't make any rash decisions. There's useful content from Meaningful Money and Which available for free, or speak to your financial advisor.
In the short term we will see these fluctuations but the basic principles of consistency and compounding remain sound. The markets will bounce back. Don't panic.
GivingIf you are one of those who has the same amount of income but has seen savings in some of the areas mentioned above, then you may have a little extra which could be given away. The NHS and Trussell Trust (Food Banks) are great places to start. Of course think of family and friends and local charities too.
A lot of small businesses may be able to survive for a while but will struggle as government support draws to a close and the lockdown is lifted. Be aware of your spending in the next few months. What would you have purchased in the past? When restrictions start to lift, why not shop locally to keep these places afloat?
Going through the above, you might find yourself better off, worse off or roughly the same. My main encouragement is to go through the process of looking at your own finances for yourself. Update your budget for the next few months.
If you're struggling, seek help. Be sensible about the short term solutions you take and don't expect to need the same about of income to get by in the next few weeks. Adjust your expenditure accordingly.
If you are making savings, how much is it? What are you going to do with the savings? Spend it? Pay down debt? Invest it? Give it away? Whatever you choose, make sure you're proactive in deciding how to utilise it effectively.
But overall, I hope you are all keeping well. Look after yourselves and those around you.
Have I missed anything? How is your coronavirus budget looking? Drop a comment below or visit the facebook page