Money experts Sheridan New and Tom Martin from Chip, the app that automatically saves up money for you, share their guide to Marie-Kondo-ing your purchases, from meal planning to lowering your bills and getting back those much-needed refunds that will help stretch your salary to last three months.
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Let’s face it, every single one of us is being affected by the outbreak of Coronavirus right now. While many of us might be working from home, it’s hard not to get stressed out about what might be around the corner for our jobs – whether we’ll become furloughed workers or lose some of those important bill-paying contracts, with no idea how this will affect our finances in the long-run.
Plan your meals
If you’re one of those people who picks up meals as they go and ends up with a fridge filled with bits you didn’t eat (that you probably end up throwing away) now is the time to really change those habits.
“Seeing as we’re encouraged to limit our shopping trips, meal planning not only sets you up for the week, but also means you aren’t buying anything unnecessary as you would when you just pop to the shop for ‘one thing’, so try to stick to one shop per week.”
With the extra time you might have in the mornings and after work if you’re not travelling to the office, make a meal schedule and look up recipes you can do before you do a big shop.
“Take inspiration from recipe sites such as MOB Kitchen who have a plethora of 3-ingredient, budget, or back-of-the-cupboard meals.”
Adjust those utilities
Now is the time to contact your phone provider and see if there’s a way to bring that monthly bill down.
“Think about going down to a smaller phone bill if your plan allows. Since you will probably be only operating on wifi for a while, you won’t need to pay for as much data.”
This is also an opportunity to sort out any contracts that you’ve let rollover – you might be unnecessarily overpaying just because you’ve not negotiated a new contract.
Set up a safety net fund
While saving is all well and good, when you don’t have much coming in, can you really afford to be putting any aside?
“Something that becomes very apparent as you get older is that unexpected expenses lurk around every corner; boilers break, laptops crash, cars need repairs, and you’re the one who needs to sort them out. Something that will always help is having some money squirrelled away, so if you’re able to put some money aside – no matter how little – then start building up a safety net fund.”
The experts add: “You don’t have to be good with money to do that. For example, Chip is a clever app that helps you automatically put away money. It uses AI to decide how much you can afford to save, sends you a notification saying how much money you’re about to put aside (with an option to cancel), and then automatically transfers it into your Chip account. This sum is small enough that you don’t notice the money leaving your account, but big enough that it soon adds up.”
“If your adjusted budget allows for it, manually save what you would normally spend on transport each week.”
Stop yourself from making unnecessary purchases
If, like me, you feel like you’re being pulled to spend money on things you probably don’t need right now (thanks Instagram – do I need new champagne glasses and cashmere joggers? Probably not), try to build up some spending boundaries.
“It can be very tempting to indulge in some online shopping, but before you do that, ask yourself if you really need it. Will you truly be happier with another pair of jogging bottoms? In the words of Marie Kondo, ‘does it spark joy?’ Check your bank balance; can you afford this?”
“If it’s something that does indeed spark joy, then use price comparison sites like Idealo and Camelcamelcamel to reveal the price history of a given product, telling you if and when it was at a lower price. You can also use a Google Chrome plug-in called Honey that will automatically check for any available promo codes to get you an even lower price.”
Check for available refunds
Make sure you keep tabs on what you’ve already paid for the months ahead and see if you can claim back any of this.
“Check for any available refunds for upcoming bookings, gigs or travel. Do you have a season ticket that you’re not using due to working from home? Have you booked a city break with Ryanair that’s definitely not going ahead? You can get a refund for those bookings and get some much needed money back. It’s worth nothing that some companies will only offer you a voucher and a chance to rebook for later date, so check their T&Cs.”
Speak to your bank or landlord now
With many banks offering mortgage holidays for up to three months if you’re up to date with payments, it’s worth speaking to your bank or landlord now.
“If you’re worried about not meeting your payments on your mortgage, credit card or other borrowings in the coming months, make sure to speak to your bank now and make arrangements. If you rent the same goes about talking to your landlord.”
“Leaving it too late and missing repayments will incur some hefty unnecessary fees, damage your credit score and make it harder for you to access credit in the future.”
If you want to cut costs, making changes to your diet could help.
“Depending on the meal, swapping meat for veggie alternatives can save you some money. This doesn’t apply to things like fancy meat substitutes from Planet Organic that cost as much as a yellowfin tuna steak, but a meat-free stir fry will certainly work out cheaper.”
Get those student cookbooks out, pronto.
If you have a hobby you might be able to make money on, now is the time to try.
“Why not turn it into a side hustle and make some extra cash? If you’re a knitter, cross stitcher, painter, potter or another crafty type, then look into setting up a shop on Etsy.”
“Alternatively, if you’re, say, a digital designer, you can look at websites like Everpress or Redbubble that will allow you to sell your designs on t-shirts and various other items – all you have to do is upload your design and they’ll take care of the rest. “
0% interest borrowing as a last resort
“If you’re in a position to get a 0% interest credit card you can enjoy some short term free borrowing on new purchases. This can be a good way to get some breathing space. It’s worth keeping it as an option in your back pocket or as a last resort. But generally, it’s unwise to rely on debt for your day-to-day expenditures. if you are struggling with debt, I’d encourage you to seek help from a charity, like StepChange”
“It’s always worth remembering that borrowing is essentially gambling on your future income. You need to be sure you can meet your repayments and keep your credit score in good shape, or your debts could quickly spiral out of control.”
If you are seriously struggling with cash flow, you may be entitled to Universal Credit. The government also recently announced the Self Employment Income Support Scheme which is likely to be made available to those eligible by early June.