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Emergency budgeting

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Emergency budgeting

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​​​​​​Things are really scary at the moment and lots of us have money worries right now. If you’re off work because you’re self isolating, if you have Corona virus, if your workplace is shut or your self employed you might be really concerned about your finances. I’m hoping that this will also come in handy (as it has in the past for me) when I’ve had a really bad month or the car has had to be replaced or I’ve had an unexpected bill as a way to make it through in the short term.

Is it really as bad as it seems?

​It’s well worth sitting down with your last few bank statements and a pen and paper and see what your actual outgoings are compared to what you’re expected income is likely to be (or how much extra you need to find in your budget) I find it’s useful at this point when you’re rounding up and down and you don’t have exact figures to underestimate your income and overestimate your outgoing to get the most realistic idea of how things are.
 
Now it may be that have done the maths it’s not nearly as bad as you first thought and actually things are going to be ok. It might be that things are going to be tight or it may be that things are actually looking pretty bad. Either way, there are things you can do to make small changes to make a difference this month and maybe next while things are really difficult.

Do you really need everything that you pay for?

​Now, your idea of what’s essential and mine are likely to be very different as we all have different priorities. But have a look down your list of outgoing as see what can go, just for now, to make things a little bit easier. So, maybe you have a magazine subscription or an audible account you don’t really use or apps that you pay for… maybe consider cancelling them. Remember, this is Emergency budgeting, it’s not forever it’s just to get you through.

What’s going down anyway?

​This one is specific to right now, but might be relevant for other situations too. If you’re off work and you can’t get out and about as much, your fuel bills are likely to go down, so factor in a much smaller amount for now. If schools close and you have teenagers who pay for public transport and food at school you’re likely to save a few quid a day by making sandwiches at home. Clubs, groups, activities, tuition are likely to be closed for a while too, so you can remove them from your outgoings too. As with everything here, it’s likely to be small amounts, but over a week or a month or a couple of months it will make a difference.
​ 

Where can you cut costs?


​Do you have budgets set aside that you can reduce? When your setting your food budget it definitely worth branding down if you don’t already, if you by branded products, switch to own brand, if you choose own brand, switch to ‘smart price’ Cut down some of the meat you buy if you can, switch prepared veg for the raw materials, try adding lentils to bulk up dishes, batch cooking and choosing a couple of veggie meals a week will all help. Even if you can only save £5 or £10 a week it really does all add up.
 
It’s also worth looking at whether you can step down a level in things like your tv subscriptions and mobile phone contracts. It may be disappointing for now, but you can step it back up again if you really miss it.
 
Do you have a takeaway or two a month? Coffee out? If you do, it’s likely that most of the places that offer these services are going to be shut soon if the aren’t already, so these will naturally be removed from your budget. If you’re reading this in the future, these may be things you make a conscious choice to go without for now.
 
If you set aside money for things like clothing, think about whether you really need to buy anything this month and whether that money might be better spent elsewhere. If you’re desperate for new pants maybe not, if you were planning on getting a new pair of trousers maybe you could wait till next month or buy pre-loved? Or perhaps have a go at repairing or up-cycling something you already have, if its something you already own, but isn’t wearable, have a go at sewing them up or patching the knee!

Talk to energy providers

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​If you pay your gas, electric and water by direct debit, give them a call and see what state your account is in, it may be that you’ve accrued credit without even realising it. If you are in credit, you can ask to offset it against the amount you owe this month so you can pay less. If not and you’re really struggling to pay your bill this month, be honest with them, ask to pay less or pay double next month, if you have small children they’re not going to cut you off and are often very happy to take something rather than nothing for a month or two.

Another idea with energy providers and other regular bills like phone and broadband etc is to ask to move your direct debit date. If you can shift it back a few days it means till after Pay Day or after a benefits payment goes in, you’re still paying within the month that the payment is due, but actually sending the money once there’s funds in your account.


Can you get any help?

At the moment, if you’re off work due to illness you can apply for Employment and Support allowance from day one rather than day 8. You may not be eligible, but it’s just over £70 a week so it’s worth investigating if you think it might be relevant for you. You can apply if you are employed, self employed or unemployed so chances are if you’re not entitled to something else you then this may be helpful for you.
 
If you are needing to apply for Universal Credits at the moment and/or need to apply for an advanced payment you can do this over the phone or via email. This is very helpful if you can’t get out to attend the Job Centre due to illness or self isolation.

The information on the help and support available is changing daily, so its definitely worth checking the Gov.uk website for the most up to date advice and how to apply.

How can you make some money?

​If you’re off work and have some time on your hands what not clear out the garage or attic or have a bit of a spring clean? Not only will it give you something to do and make everything a bit tidier, but you may be able to find some bits and bobs you’re not using any more. Chances are you have some household items, old clothes, baby clothes, toys and games your children have outgrown. Ebay or Facebook market place are great places to list these and you may be able to help out other families that are looking to save some money buying Pre-loved and make yourself a little in the process.
 
If you have DVDs, CDs and books, music magpie pay anything from a few pence to a few pounds an item and places like CEX love Pre-loved tech. It’s not going to make you loads of money, but every little helps, right?
 
Even if you can only do one or two of those, I hope its given you some ideas to help ease the pressure a little. Stay safe, look after each other and don’t forget to buy loo roll! 

By Jeni Atkinson

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