It’s safe to say that the pandemic has taken a toll on our mental health. From missing out on pints down the pub with your mates to worrying about your loved ones’ health – there’s been A LOT to contend with. But the pandemic hasn’t just affected our social lives, it’s had a real impact on our pockets too – with 800,000 people losing their jobs in 2020. Struggling to make ends meet, pay your rent or feed your family are the less spoken about effects of the pandemic, so we’ve put together some stuff that might help if you’re struggling with money.
If you’re finding things tough financially right now, you’re not alone. With a record figure of redundancies in 2020, as well as 1.2 million people receiving furlough pay, more people than ever are worried about their finances.
Not having any dough can make us feel like failures – but the truth is, most people are skint at some point in their lives – and when we are it can be really tough to deal with. In fact, in May 2020, just two months after the first national lockdown, the Office for National Statistics reported a surge in anxiety levels among those whose income fell.
Talking about how much dosh we’ve got in our wallets has always been a bit, well, awkward, which can make it tougher when you’re struggling. Add to that filling out forms and thinking about numbers, it’s easy for things to get on top of you. We don’t have all the answers, but there’s support out there. We’ve put together a quick guide to help you get started in dealing with whatever is getting you down.
What are you up against?
Take a step back. Yup, it sounds like the opposite of what you need, but when your very real worries about not having enough money take over, it’s hard to see clearly. You might feel like you’re in a cycle of the same thoughts and fears.
Whether you’ve lost your job, racked up extra debt, or can’t pay your rent – get your worries out of your head. Often when we’re anxious our worries can feel too big to deal with, especially if there is more than one thing on your mind. Getting to grips with what you’re stressed about, and what financial situation you are in can help put things in perspective.”
That might mean writing them down or chatting with a mate. Knowing the extent of what you’re going through can help you prioritise and find ways to deal with your stresses.
Once you know what you’re up against, it’s easier to know how to tackle it. There are different types of support out there for different situations, so think about what’s happened, what you need, and go from there.
No matter what situation you’re in, there’s support out there. We’ve put together some tips for common money worries below, find what works for you. And if you’re struggling, talk to CALM.
Ask for help
Dealing with money is hard, and it can make your brain feel numb. Thinking about numbers can be enough to make you shut down – you might want to ignore your problem even exists so you don’t have to deal with it.
The good news is, that there’s help out there. And actually, when it comes to money, you can’t know everything. There’s no shame in asking for support. Getting solid advice from a trusted source is often what you’ll need to move forward. It’ll stop you going round in circles, and oftens save you time.
Look, we know it can be scary to call someone when you’re struggling with money, but there really are people out there to help.
- Citizens’ Advice Bureau
- Step Change
- Money Advice Service
- Martin Money Saving Website
- Your Local Council
- Shelter (for housing advice)
If you’re not ready yet, read Jo’s story to find out how she got help when she was struggling with money here.
Find out what you’re entitled to
Depending on your situation, you might be entitled to financial help from the government. Sometimes there’s stigma or shame attached to receiving what some people call ‘benefits’ but there shouldn’t be. Everyone deserves support when they’re going through tough times. There are lots of reasons you might be entitled to support – like losing your job, someone leaving your household, or being a carer.
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a monthly payment to help towards living costs, which is available to low earners or those who don’t have a job at the moment. The single monthly payment replaces some of the benefits you might already be getting, such as Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit or Income Support. You could get between £340 to £600 a month, depending on stuff like your age and if you are single. If you have children or a health condition, you may be entitled to more. Your partner’s income and savings will also be considered, even if they’re not eligible for Universal Credit.
Universal Credit Payments have been topped up by £20 a week since April 2020 in response to the pandemic, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed in 2021’s Budget that this will continue until September 2021.
We know it’s a lot, but it’s important to apply for Universal Credit as soon as you need to. While filling out the forms can be stressful, especially if your circumstances have just changed, it’s better to get things in motion as soon as you can. Payments may take a while to arrange, so the sooner you apply the better.
Working while claiming Universal Credit? There are no limits on how many hours you can work, but the amount you receive will reduce as you earn more.
What about furlough?
Furlough is a pretty weird word, and one most of us had never heard of until 2020. The Furlough Scheme means that employers can get support from the government to pay their employees’ wages. Simply, it means employees get to keep their jobs when they might otherwise have been made redundant.
If you’ve been furloughed, your employer is able to claim 80% of your salary through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Your employer may also be able to top this up to 100% – but this is not always the case. If they can’t and you need that extra income, you might be able to take on part-time work elsewhere. Just check your place of work allows it and that it isn’t an organisation connected to them.
What if I’m self employed?
Not everyone works a 9-5. And not everyone has an employer. If you’re self-employed or a small business owner, there is support available. You may be entitled to a grant via the Self Employment Income Support Scheme or a loan from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme or a Bounce Back Loan. The eligibility criteria and end dates for these schemes were updated during the recent Budget so make sure to check gov.co.uk.
I’m worried about my home
The first thing we often worry about when we’ve not got enough money is keeping a roof over our heads. If you’re struggling to make rent or mortgage payments because of the pandemic there is support available.
The pandemic has caused all kinds of financial stresses and the government introduced rules to help manage them, so do your research and get to know your rights.
If you’ve been struggling to pay your rent, you are protected from eviction until at least 31 March. Until then, landlords must give six months’ notice to vacate a property, (unless serious conditions have been breached such as illegal occupation or anti-social behaviour.)
For people with mortgages, most lenders introduced mortgage holidays, allowing payments to be deferred for up to six months. There are also other measures in place for various services such as payment holidays on credit cards and loan help, overdrafts and car finance. You’ll need to speak to your bank or the organisation responsible for your payments to find out more.
I can’t afford the basics
Food, water, electricity, when money’s tight it’s hard to know what to prioritise.
In recent years, food banks have become a lifeline for many – and there’s no shame in using them. You can find your local food bank here. You’ll need a referral to be able to access a foodbank – you can find out more about that here, or contact your local food bank for help.
Make savings where you can
Whether or not you’ve managed to get financial support or a payment holiday of some sort, that can only get you so far. Look at your spending and see where you can make changes. Emilie Bellet, financial educator and author of You’re Not Broke, You’re Pre-Rich, says if you’re in debt or struggling to pay your bills, it’s worth talking to your energy, water, internet and any other service providers you may have.
“They might be able to offer alternative payment plans, give you more time to pay or provide reductions,” she says. “Then, you should prioritise what debts and bills you need to pay off first. For example, while credit card debt is expensive, not paying your rent has more serious consequences. It’s worth making a debt repayment plan and writing it down.”Once you’ve settled any immediate debts, put together a budget. It sounds really official, but a budget is just a way of knowing what’s coming in and what’s going out.
Start by writing down your monthly income and all your monthly expenses and then looking at where you can cut down. Emilie says switching gas and electricity, broadband, and mobile phone providers can cut costs.
And if you’re struggling
Worrying about money can cause us to spiral, but there’s always a way to move forward. If you’re struggling with your mental health or having suicidal thoughts because of your financial situation talk to CALM. Our helpline and webchat are open from 5pm to midnight everyday to chat to you about whatever you’re going through.
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