Managing your money during social distancing and self-isolation

A bit of planning now could make things easier in the weeks and months to come.

I started writing this on Monday and everything continues to change so much that I’ve stripped this back to just cover some simple things to think about now.

Sort these out and whether you’re working from home or self-isolated it will be easier for you to manage your money. Plus there are a couple of things to do which will hopefully save you some cash.

Though this is mainly about things you can do, it’s also worth thinking about any relatives and neighbours who might need help – especially elderly ones who aren’t so tech-savvy and might find themselves quarantined for four months.

Work out how you’ll pay people and get paid

Two weeks without banking might be just about manageable, but four months could be a nightmare, especially if you are at home and need friends or neighbours to drop supplies off for you. How are you going to pay them?

Well, bank transfers are the obvious alternative, and most of you will already have online banking set up so it’ll be business as usual.

But one extra step you could take to make it easier is to register for PAYM – and get others to do the same.

It’s a really useful service where someone can send you money from their app banking just by using your phone number. So there’s no need to faff around with account numbers and sort codes. I wish more people used it!

Activating this (via your online banking) will make it much easier for people to pay you if you’ve been helping them out while they are quarantined. If you get them to sign up too it’s easier for you if they’re returning the favour.

it’s also possible with some banking apps to pay in cheques, which could be handy if that’s how you are paid.

But don’t forget that there will be some, most likely older people such as my parents, who don’t do online banking and instead rely on physical banks and telephone banking.

They certainly won’t be able to get to the bank to take out cash, and it’s a bad idea to give out debit cards and PINs. Plus I imagine that telephone banking will be heavily hit if staff are too ill to man the lines.

So if this is you, or it’s someone you know, you need to take some action. Please do try to set up online banking now. Depending on the bank it can take a while for usernames and passwords to arrive in the post. You might also need card readers.

Start a budget

Yes you’re going to be spending a lot less over the coming months if we have to stay at home, but this makes it a much easier time to actually get to grips with the state of your finances AND keep track of your spending.

Starting this now will mean you’re better placed to find any crisis points if you are to be short of cash in the short or long term.

Here’s my video about how to make and stick to a budget which should be useful.

Open a savings account

Social isolation policies, and the fact that so many leisure venues are closed as a result, mean you’ll be spending a lot less money. 

Rather than have that sit in your current account, move it to a separate account where you can earn the highest interest rates. Here’s my guide to the best places to put your money.

If you happen to have more than £85,000 in accounts with a single financial institution, then I’d also make sure you split it across different banks. That’s because if a bank was to do under, you’re only guaranteed by the government that first £85k. 

Consider a 0% purchase credit card

If you think it’s inevitable that you’re going to have to borrow money to get you through a loss of earnings you could look at getting an emergency 0% purchase credit card. This would allow you do spend on the card without interest being added for a set period of time, potentially up to two and a half years.

However, I really want to stress that this is an emergency card and you should only use it if you really have to. Every time you spend on it you are building up debt which you will have to deal with later on.

Make sure you check your eligibility first to ensure you don’t get rejected, which will hit your credit score.

Switch your energy

I know, I know, how many times do I need to say this. But if you’re going to be at home more, perhaps indefinitely if your work has asked you to not come to the office, you’re going to be using more energy.

We’re likely out of the coldest weather now so you won’t spend much more on gas, but electricity use will increase. 

So if you’re on a variable rate deal you need to move to a cheaper deal. In fact even if you’ve fixed it’s worth comparing to see if your existing supplier has a cheaper deal you can move to without paying exit fees.

Keep a small emergency stockpile (and don’t panic buy)

I’ve written before about the importance of having an emergency stockpile for a couple of weeks. Sadly, some people have gone to the extreme and bought far more than they need. 

This has had a huge knock-on effect on all of us faced with empty shelves, but especially for those who can only afford to buy what they need each week. 

So please, as this goes on when you are in the supermarket only buy enough to get you through two-weeks and make sure you check what you’ve already got in the cupboards and freezer at home as part of this.


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