Lockdown: An Opportunity to Prepare, Plan and Get Your Ducks in a Row
Coronavirus has completely changed our daily lives; from the ability to see friends and family members to simple things such as popping to the shops for a loaf of bread. Reading through social media and the news is important in keeping up to date with the latest happenings but can leave us with a sense of doom and gloom about the future, particularly with regards to our finances.
Times of great change such as this can be viewed from two very different perspectives. You can view the alterations to daily life and isolation as a negative or it can be used as a time to reflect on the areas of our lives that we don’t normally get time to deal with.
consumeradvice.scot want to offer practical advice and support on how to make the most of this ‘downtime’. So, grab a cup of coffee, a pen and paper and let’s go through the things we can do to save money, improve our financial situation and get the most out of the extra time that we have on our hands.
Money & Personal Finance
Now is a better time than ever to review personal finances. With many incomes reduced due to redundancy or reduced wage income, assessing our financial situation can place us in a stronger position and allow us to form more effective money-management habits, that will be beneficial in both the short and long term.
- Income - Start by making a list of the income you have coming in on a regular basis. This could be from wages, any benefits that you receive (such as Tax Credits or Universal Credit) and total them up.
Is there any ways you can realistically increase income? This may include overtime at work (which understandably may be in short supply just now) or additional benefits that you may be entitled to. More information on benefits, including an independent benefits entitlement calculator is available HERE.
- Expenditure - The next stage is to look at the areas where we spend this income regularly. It is surprising how many things we buy and pay for on a monthly basis. Our expenditure includes things such as rent or mortgages, council tax, food shopping, energy bills and entertainment and leisure activities. A good way to see all of this is to look at previous bank statements which will break all of this down.
Understanding the areas that we spend the most on is important, especially when these extra costs can be avoided.
- Disposable income (what’s left) - By subtracting the amount spent from the total amount of income that we have; we can see the ‘disposable income’ that we have each month. This is the ‘extra’ money that we have leftover and the aim of assessing our finances is to ensure this amount is as healthy as possible. By maximising what we have coming in and minimising the amount we are spending on different areas, we can increase this figure and ultimately have more leftover for ourselves.
Our article ‘The Dread of Debt: Regaining Control of Your Finances’ outlines areas in which savings can be made in order to reduce debt. You can access our top tips and guidance on key areas where savings can be made by clicking HERE.
Additionally, we have previously looked at several areas of savings and offered top tips in ensuring you purchase the most suitable and cost-effective products and services for your own circumstances. You can access these by clicking the links below –
PAYMENT PROTECTION INSURANCE INCOME TAX REBATES (https://www.consumeradvice.scot/news/have-you-received-a-ppi-refund-your-financial-institution-or-ppi-claims-company-may-still-owe-you-a-tax-rebate/)
Write a list before you go to the supermarket of what you need. This helps to ensure that we are only buying what we need and not unnecessary extras. Sometimes deals and offers are beneficial; but only if you are going to use the items.
We wrote an article at Christmas time (Available HERE) about planning for Christmas Day and avoiding waste, but the principles can be applied to any time of the year. Getting organised and ensuring that we are making the most of special offers and deals such as ‘Buy One Get One Free’ only when the items are required, we can ensure that we are saving money and avoiding waste.
With the current Government restrictions on movement, other than for essential things such as shopping for food and medical supplies and one form of exercise, we may find ourselves faced with excess items and items that could potentially go to waste. Get creative and plan meals before going shopping. You may be surprised at how much you could save by doing this.
By reflecting on the key areas where we spend the most money and making slight changes to the way in which we purchase and consume items, benefits can be seen in both the short and long term. By making changes to existing habits, you may be able to improve your financial outlook long beyond the end of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdown guidelines.
For more information, which is updated regularly on rights in relation to COVID-19 and the coronavirus, you can visit our dedicated website at www.coronavirusadvice.sco
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