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With the country in lockdown and the majority of industries hit hard by COVID-19, strained finances have hit many households. More than nine million people are expected to be furloughed, while others are suffering redundancies, have reduced hours, or no sign of work at all on zero-hours contracts.
Compulsory isolating and the lack of social contact with anyone not living in your household has forced couples and families into unfamiliar situations. It’s hard to know how best to cope with the change. When children are added to the mix it becomes even more of a challenging situation. Parents are suddenly having to juggle full-time childcare, home schooling, and working from home, or suffering from a loss of work and income.
However you’ve been affected, we’re hoping to offer up some advice on how to stay sane and reduce some of the financial stress, what you can do for free, and earn a little on the side.
Dedicate some of your free time to taking stock of your strained finances together. This can be an overwhelming thought when you are under financial strain, but it’s much better to understand the reality of your finances so together you can begin to budget and plan.
Review all of your current monthly expenses and split them into either essential or non-essential categories. Include everything from your rent or mortgage repayments, to utility bills, groceries, and any TV and entertainment packages. Once you know everything that your money goes on, you’ll be able to think where you can afford to cut back.
Tensions are already high, and it’s made so much worse when finances are suddenly restricted. If one of you is still working, and the other is redundant, furloughed, or suddenly unemployed – try not to place blame. It’s not anyone’s fault if they’ve lost their job right now, or have a reduced income.
Instead, work on finding ways you can make money together, or help your partner get a new job wherever possible. Working as a team will keep your relationship strong and make sure you don’t end up in petty arguments about money.
Consider how your income has been affected by the coronavirus crisis. If you have been furloughed, payments aren’t expected to be processed until at least the end of April. Your work should pay you monthly anyway – but smaller businesses might not be able to do this. They may come to an agreement with you about delaying your payment until they get the Government grant. Bear in mind, though, that a larger lump sum payment could be taxed at a higher rate (which you’d need to claim back later).
If you have been made redundant make sure you are receiving the correct redundancy pay. Citizens Advice makes it easy to understand what you are entitled to if you have been made redundant here.
If you have lost all source of income, don’t panic. Apply for Universal Credit straight away – it can take a while to come through but it will get backdated to when you applied. Strained finances may be relieved by local authority hardship funds, too – so check with your local council if help is available.
Also, many industries are still hiring and are looking to employ a larger workforce so they can continue to meet demands. Have a look at some of the main job search sites such as:
Check out whether you may be eligible to receive any additional benefits. Check out the Gov.uk benefit entitlement calculators as a starting point.
For more details about all things finances and coronavirus, check out our goliath COVID-19 guide.
Strained finances feel overwhelming. Break your approach down into small steps to create a manageable action plan.
First: go through everything you’ve listed as non-essential expenditures and decide as a household what you can cut back on.
Cutting back on small things can help stop you spending unnecessary cash without it feeling like you’re sacrificing a lot.
If you need to take bigger steps with cutting back your finances, there are steps you can take like freezing credit cards and loan repayments. You’ll need to contact your bank and request to put a freeze on payments. Give our article about payment freezes and mortgage holidays here first, then decide if it’s the right thing for you to do.
Budgeting allows you to create a spending plan that you can stick to and help keep on top of your finances. Discuss with your partner or family what you need in your budget – be realistic! For example, it’s a good idea to budget in some entertainment costs to keep yourselves getting bored during isolation.
If you’re not working, try and keep a routine to maintain a sense of normality and break up your day with suitable breaks. If you’re unemployed and looking for work, use the working day to update your CV and apply for jobs. We’re constantly updating our coronavirus job bank so have a look here.
There are a great number of activities you can do together as a couple like:
But also make an effort to have some alone time. It can be pretty intense being around the same person all the time, so find some new reading or podcasts to give yourself a break. Audible gives you a free 30-day trial and BookBub offers a load of free ebooks! Strained finances don’t have to suffer if you use your local library, too. Lots have created online resources – including home schooling video lessons, too.
It can be hard entertaining kids anyway, let alone when you’re limited to your house and garden (if you’re lucky enough to have one!). Strained finances make the situation even more tense – but there are lots of things you can do that won’t cost a penny (or very much). Read this article on keeping your kids entertained for free!
If isolation has left you with a bit more free time on your hands, we’re giving you a few ideas to earn a bit of extra cash together from sitting at home.
Do you already spend a lot of time on a computer or in front of the TV? Paid opinion polls and surveys may be something to look into. They can be an easy way to earn some extra cash (or vouchers) online and can be done easily from sitting at home. Read our full guide on paid surveys here.
Have a clear out and try and sell any clothes, books, children’s toys, and tech items you don’t need that are in good condition. Ebay and Facebook Marketplace are both great places for this and very easy to use. We have a whole guide on how to make money from recycling old gadgets to get you started!
With Royal Mail you can now buy and print postage online as a safety measure during COVID-19.
Do you and your partner have particularly desirable skills? You can consider creating paid for online courses to share these skills. Read our guide to online teaching to see if it’s right for you.
Blogging or vlogging together can be a fun way to get creative and kill some isolation time, but it can also earn you some money. It can take some time to build your blog up enough to start earning but if you have the time now and would like a project on your hands then give this a go. View our full guide on how to make money from your blog here.
Don’t get stuck in a rut while you’re bored indoors! There are lots of ways you can entertain yourself, build on your relationship, and get through this crisis together.
Try these articles for more ideas: