Budgeting isn’t the most fun at the best of times, but given the current Corona-crisis, making every penny count is something that could help us all. It can be hard to stop ourselves from feeling overwhelmed, but by looking at your spending, you may be able to take back a bit of control.
When it comes to saving money, there are always the usual things like changing your utility bill providers or broadband, which could give you a one-off cost saving, but are there things you can start doing now that could help you get more for your money for the long-run?
- We may have tried it before and then said ‘I don’t have time to do this’. Great news - with most of us staying at home, we should all have a bit more time for planning! Especially when we’re all practising social distancing, we need to make fewer trips to the supermarket and also want to make sure we’re not wasting food.If you’re just starting out with meal planning, do a stock-take of your cupboards and freezer before you go to the supermarket to make sure you’re not buying anything unnecessarily Maybe there are a few things you’ve not been able to find recently? By planning your meals in advance you can utilise what you’ve got in your cupboards and make large batches to feed the whole family or fill your freezer. If you find that you don’t know how much you need and often buy too much, use this portion planner to make sure your eyes aren’t bigger than your belly!
Get creative in the kitchen:
- The next step on from meal planning, is looking at your weekly shop. According to the Office of National Statistics the average UK weekly shop is £60.60 but one woman has been able to cut her food shop bill from £100 a week to just £20. Think you can’t feed a family of four on just £20? Read this and think again.
Clear out those cupboards!
- Now’s the perfect time to get rid of clothes you never wear (or those Christmas gifts you didn’t really want or need). Use Depop to offload clothes, shoes and accessories for cash, and Shpock or Facebook Marketplace for literally everything else (these are better than eBay if you want cash in hand ASAP). You can also sell old unused tech like mobile phones, tablets and laptops on Mazuma or Laptopsdirect. Even if you’re not sure anyone will want your old Lego collection, it’s worth putting it up for sale anyway - one person’s trash is another’s treasure! Many high street shops, like H&M and John Lewis, will offer you money, a gift voucher or a discount if you bring in the stuff you no longer wear. As stores are closed at the moment, you won’t be able to take these in right now, but you can start the decluttering process and reap the rewards when lockdown is over.
Understand your spending triggers:
- What makes you spend money? Is it a shopping app on your phone you gravitate to when you’re bored and scrolling late at night? Is it that your card details are saved to your browser or that you shop when you’re feeling down? If you’re someone who shops when sad or stressed, try to avoid temptation or make it more difficult for you to shop quickly. Maybe you can delete an app or two or remove your card information so that you physically have to move to get your card before you can complete a purchase. By making it less easy to impulse shop online, you may find you're able to save a surprising amount. If you still find you have the urge to splurge, make an agreement with yourself to put it on your wishlist or leave it in the checkout for a day - if you still find yourself thinking about it, maybe it’s worth it. If you forget about it after 24 hours, you probably didn’t need it in the first place.
Go big or go home (oh, wait…):
- If you really want to challenge yourself to think about how little you could spend - create a Pot Noodle budget. Imagine you were going to eat the same thing every day - noodles, beans on toast; pick your favourite. From there, add to it only the expenses that are completely necessary. This exercise could make it easier to strip out the necessary from the indulgences. While we’ve got a break from social pressures, we can get a firmer grip on what we spend because we have to and what we spend because we want to.
Debt me out of here:
- A number of companies and lenders have put measures in place to help those struggling with debt because of the Coronavirus. If you have debt, such as credit cards and loans, call up your providers and explain to them you are struggling to make payments. The Financial Conduct Authority has also suspended its credit card persistent debt rules, which means providers cannot cancel your card until October at the earliest. This could provide some relief to those relying on credit for everyday living costs.
- If you have credit card debt, could you benefit from transferring it to a 0% balance transfer card? Compare the different options here. If you are really struggling with debt, Stepchange has a lot of resources and also provides free debt advice.
This difficult period will end. It’s weird adapting to social distancing, being apart from loved ones and there’s enough to worry about without your finances being one of them. While we don’t know when things will go back to normal, rest assured they will!
If you find that you’re struggling or want to speak to someone to ease your anxiety you can call Samaritans at 116 123, visit Mind or Anxiety UK. We’re all in this together, so take a moment, breathe and don’t be afraid to ask for help.