COVID-19: Keeping your finances healthy

Eileen Blackburn


COVID-19: Keeping your finances healthy

 

Preparing for Life after COVID-19: Keeping your finances healthy

I think we can all agree that what we are dealing with at the moment is unprecedented. I write this as we enter the third week of being confined to our homes and it can be difficult to believe there will be life after the lock down. The population at large is having to come to terms with social isolation and it is only natural that we feel uncertain about the future and what lies ahead. However both the UK government and the Scottish Parliament have put measures in place to help individuals cope financially in these very challenging times. Remember to keep checking our French Duncan blog to see the latest updates:

www.frenchduncan.co.uk/covid-19/

Many of you will be subject to furlough arrangements while others are working at home. The restriction of movement in itself can add to a sense of helplessness and a general feeling of not knowing what to expect. Holidays have been cancelled, weddings and other celebrations postponed and the lack of social interaction can lead to dissatisfaction followed by a desire to compensate in some way. We feel we deserve a treat and can be overcome by a sense of entitlement when day to day life can seem so hard.

Every morning as I have a cup of tea before sitting down at my laptop to start work form my improvised home office I see images of communities and families all over the country making an effort to maintain wellbeing by coming together on various social media channels. Volunteers leaving shopping on doorsteps for the vulnerable. Children doing keep fit with their parents in the living room, virtual choirs online and many other examples of what we are doing as a nation to improvise so as we can lead a life that seems normal.
As well as being resilient as far as our health and mental wellbeing is concerned we can also be thinking about financial resilience and here are my top tips for emerging financially secure at the end of this crisis.

Keep up to date with the help available

If you have a mortgage you should be entitled to a three-month break to help tide you over. Consider whether this is an option you would benefit from to ease cash flow pressure, then take advantage of this government assistance.

The Scottish Parliament has now passed the Coronavirus Scotland Bill and this bill includes additional protection for tenants both in regard to notice periods to vacate premises and threatened evictions. For more information see: https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/114929.aspx

It is important to assess your own particular situation and that of your family. Plan ahead and try to future proof any decisions you make.

The Financial Conduct Authority has also called for loans and credit card payments to be suspended for customers. For now see the link below, but we will also update this blog with further updates when available. See: https://www.fca.org.uk/firms/information-firms-coronavirus-covid-19-response

Reassess your Requirements

You may be receiving a reduced income, but there will also be reductions in your normal expenditure. Clearly discretionary spending on nights out and entertainment are not an option currently, and what we can spend on in very much reduced in any event. There will be many tempting promotions as retailers are understandably trying to sell excess stock which has resulted from the effects of the pandemic, think twice about what you can afford before splashing out.

Set a Budget

Some items of expenditure will be reduced – travelling for example, but make sure you obtain any credits available on prepaid public transport, and are not paying for a service you are not using. In other areas the cost of staying at home will increase as we use more fuel to heat our houses.

Food and cleaning products are readily available in the shops. Do not be tempted to stock up on perishable good which you will not be able to use, and which will ultimately end up in the bin (especially as this just makes the jobs or our supermarkets and food supply chains even more difficult).

Keeping the Children Entertained

This can be a difficult one, but do not be lured into overspending on expensive games for the X-box. Shop around on social media and popular websites for pre-loved items, and other bargains. Before buying brand new, consider looking to eBay or Gumtree for cheaper alternatives.

Keep fit classes in the living room are a good option for primary and pre-school school children. And a lot of organisations have started to provide free resources for children as well, one such example being J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter at Home initiative

Pay your bills and keep some money back for emergencies

Try to keep on top of household bills. There may be help for your mortgage payments, but there have been no announcements regarding help with council tax or utilities. The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill makes provision for tenants to have additional time before a landlord can move to eviction, but rent should always be paid as a priority expense. If you don’t keep on top of these payments, they will only mount-up and you may then struggle to pay when all this is over.

Also remember your snowy day fund, you need to hold some money back if at all possible for unforeseen circumstances such as a broken boiler or a frozen pipe.

Don’t be tempted to access instant borrowing

Unless you can afford to pay it back, accessing instant credit and maxing out your credit card is not a good idea, especially at this time, and can leave you struggling to make ends meet. Ensure if you do decide to do so, that you check carefully the lender’s terms and conditions to make sure the repayments will be manageable in the future. Remember to always read the small print.

Beware of Scams

The nation is pulling together in a way probably not seen since World War Two. Sadly though, there will always be unscrupulous fraudsters out there, always ready to take advantage of the situation and happy to prey on the vulnerable. Stay vigilant and stay aware of the risks involved with digital banking. Never give out your bank details to an unknown caller especially one claiming to be your bank. Do not allow remote access to your computer. Scammers are trying to get control of your data so as they can steal your cash.

Get debt advice as soon as possible

Also included in the Coronavirus (Scotland) bill is an extension of the breathing space allowed to those in debt from 6 weeks to 6 months. This moratorium prevents creditors from exercising legal recovery rights while a process can be put in place to provide debt relief, whether it be by way of the Debt Arrangement Scheme, a Protected Trust Deed or sequestration.

Such steps may not be necessary – you may simply need some advice on making the most of your money, or assistance with budgeting. Now more than ever it is essential to take early advice to protect yourself and your family and to make the right decisions based on sound professional advice.

Contact us

If you would like to discuss any financial issues you are having on a purely confidential no cost basis, contact us for an initial chat call Caroline Reynolds on 0800 652 0002. You can also find lots more details on our bespoke website: www.fddebtsolutions.co.uk

You also find this separate blog useful as well; it discusses support for the Self Employed, issues of Self-Assessment and also links to Working Tax Credits / Universal Credit support options.

 

Other Top Tips on saving money during this time: 

  • Gym subscriptions: You may officially be tied into a contract, but as Gyms are closed some providers are negotiating a sensible arrangement during lockdown - so contact yours to see what can be done to reduce your payments.
  • Travel refunds: Refunds or credit from airline and travel agents will be possible.  They are inundated at the moment but make sure you don’t overlook it moving forward.
  • Hotel bookings / booking sites: Some which are normally non-refundable are providing flexibility, and moving bookings if required.  Look at their websites for more information, or make contact ahead of your arrival date.
  • Payments to pensions and ISAs: Consider the timing and discuss with your financial adviser.
  • Payments to various insurance policies: Make sure you don’t cancel altogether without seeking advice from your adviser first, but payments may be able to be negotiated.
  • Online shopping: Limit this to essentials and to items you can definitely afford
  • Keep an eye on credit card spending: This may also be a good time to look at balance transfer deals, but be aware the interest rates can be much higher after the interest-free period, so make sure you can make a dent in the balance even if you can’t pay it all off during the interest-free period.

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There are initiatives to support businesses, so to help you navigate the times ahead our teams have summarised these for you in a few different blog posts:

We’ll keep these updated as things change, so remember to check back regularly.  And we’ll be getting more written on other topics as soon as we can.

It’s just our way of trying to help.

French Duncan. #thepeopleforyou

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