We're living in uncertain times, and you can’t control what the future might throw at you – or your income. But one thing you can do is be prepared. Here are 10 ways to help you take control of your money today.
1. Calculate your ‘isolation’ spending
It may sound obvious, but unless you know the reality of your day-to-day spending it will be hard to get a grip on your monthly outgoings. You may already work to a well-planned monthly budget but, if you're working from home and no longer going out, it’s likely that your spending habits will have changed dramatically.
Take a fresh look at where you’re now saving money, for example by no longer commuting, going to the pub, gyming or eating out. Then consider where you're spending more, for example food shops, online shopping and takeaways. Run the numbers and look at your monthly outgoings in isolation compared to before.
If you're concerned that you may be furloughed or lose your job (or if you already have), work out now how much you will have coming in for all eventualities. Does it cover your essential spending? If not, you may need to reconsider what's essential, or find other ways to cover your costs.
Check out our guide to budgeting for more details. Or if you’re concerned about money, we have lots of support and guidance available.
2. Be smarter with your subscriptions
A lot of people have at least one unused membership or subscription hiding away. If that sounds like you, now’s the time to stop paying for things you don’t use. We aren’t just talking about car clubs and magazines; in a world of online fitness videos, do you still need your gym subscription?
Don’t get caught out by the subscriptions that automatically renew; check when renewal payments are due, put these in your diary and cancel in good time.
For those subscriptions you can’t bear to be parted from, check how many duplicates there are within your household. Does everybody need their own TV, music or audiobook subscription, for example, or are you able to pool costs and share the benefits?
3. Beat the bills
Utility bills can really add up too, especially when you’re spending more time at home, so it’s worth taking action to ensure you’re getting the best deal. Switching your provider, or moving off a standard tariff and onto a special deal, can save you hundreds of pounds a year. Use a comparison site to compare prices, but be aware there can be exit penalties for leaving your current contract.
If you find yourself struggling to meet the costs, contact your suppliers as soon as possible to discuss your options. Many utility providers are putting special assistance in place for customers that are facing difficulties due to coronavirus.
If you are one of the millions working from home because your work place is closed due to coronavirus, you may be eligible to claim £6/week tax back on extra costs such as heating and electricity. HMRC has said it will consider claims from employees not receiving an allowance to cover the increased costs from employers. This means you could benefit from tax relief worth £1.20/week at 20% tax, or £2.40/week at higher rate, by claiming either in a self-assessment form or through an online P87 form.
4. Talk to your landlord
Your biggest monthly outgoing is almost certainly your housing costs. If you're renting and finding the monthly payments too much of a stretch, speak to your landlord. You can’t be evicted while the coronavirus crisis continues, and they may be willing to give you more time to pay – especially as they may also be able to claim a three-month mortgage holiday.
5. Skip the sales
We’re all tempted by a bargain, but right now many businesses are working extra hard to entice you to buy. These offers are likely to feel even more compelling when you’re bored at home. But, if you’re serious about reducing your outgoings, then it's time to let some of those “unmissable” deals pass you by. Everytime you choose not to buy something, write it down. Over time, this can be a rewarding reminder of how much you're saving, but also what you actually need.
If you feel especially susceptible to the bright lights of a great offer, consider temporarily blocking retailer mailing lists and social channels to help avoid temptation. Check out our guide for other helpful ideas.
6. Get back to basics
If you're concerned about the future, then why not take action now and cut out some things you can do without? Think about which of your outgoings are essential, and which are luxuries – remove as many of the latter as you can, or decide which ones you need less of.
It can be easier to make decisions like this from a position of strength, and it may also help get you in a streamlining mindset should you need to have one in the future. You’ll also free-up some money to put to other uses.
7. Understand financial support options
Many financial institutions have put measures in place to support people facing financial difficulties as a result of coronavirus. If you think this may happen to you, or if it already has, look online to see what your bank can offer. At Barclays, we can offer a range of assistance – and it won’t damage your credit score.
You may be eligible for a three-month mortgage, Barclayloan or Barclaycard payment holiday, for example. Barclays product payment holidays are subject to specific eligibility criteria and T&Cs. Interest, in line with existing rates, will still be charged. We’ve also made it easier to access some of our fixed rate savings products, including removing penalty fees in some cases. Please take a look at how we can help with your savings products and find out what other help we can offer, and check out this case study of the support we were able to offer one customer facing difficulties.
8. Build up a cash reserve
If you're earning money, consider whether you can save more of it. This is easier said than done, of course, but the value of having a dedicated pot of money to help if you're facing a drop in income is obvious.
One strategy is to put the current circumstances we're all facing to your advantage. Could you work out how much money you would usually be spending on restaurant meals, cinema trips and other now-forbidden luxuries, and put some of that cash straight into a savings account?
You could also sell your stuff online. From old clothes to unwanted gifts, it’s all latent cash that could be helping to grow your stash.
Barclays offers a variety of ways to save, from savings accounts to ISAs and investments. Find out more about our savings accounts.
9. Pay off debts…if you can
If you have debts, such as outstanding credit card balances or loans, and you're currently in good financial health, can you take action to pay them off early? In some cases this could save you money on interest fees, but it will also help to reduce future outgoings, if there comes a time when you need to cut back.
10. Share tips and help
You may not be able to meet up with friends and family in person, but the chances are you still get together online. In between quizzes and TV watchalongs, this opens up the opportunity to get tips and help from friends and family. They can be an important part of your financial support network, so it’s important to keep talking candidly about the challenges you face, and share ways of tackling them. You may come away with a new perspective, renewed resolve, or simply get the chance to vent. Either way, social isolation doesn’t mean keeping problems and concerns to yourself.