Managing Your Bills And Expenses in Times of Financial Uncertainty

With lockdowns in place and the reality of many businesses being forced to close, anxiety around money and the ability to make payments and pay bills may well be affecting you.

There are three important points to remember here.

Number one – you are not alone! The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting us individually and collectively on so many levels. It is having an impact on everyone and yet being ordered to stay at home means feelings of isolation are real and intensified. It is so important to remember, you are not alone, even if physically, it feel like you are.

Number Two – “Action is the antidote to anxiety”. We are being warned that the next few months will be tough and it is easy to let the panic take over, but taking actions, however small, will help you regain a sense of control. One such action is to list and then prioritise your payments. Getting across the outgoings you will have over the next few months and knowing which ones you should make a priority will help you keep clear, calm and focussed.

Number Three – Don’t ignore your payments or your payment dates. In times like this it is easy to get overwhelmed and want to stick your head in the sand. But when it comes to your bills and repayments, get real, get informed and get in communication.

It is time to get clear on what you will need to spend your money on and what you can go without.

Here are some suggestions for how to prioritise the things you may need to pay for, but please remember, this advice is general. You should seek advice from a trusted financial advisor for information relating to your personal situation.

1. Food & essential household items

These are your number one essentials. We all need them, it’s not negotiable, so you need to make sure you factor this in to your finances. Having said that, be smart about what you buy and where you buy it. Look for special offers, buy things that you can stretch out and make smart choices. It might mean beans on toast more often, or wine 2 nights a week instead of 4. It is likely we will all have to make sacrifices, but planning will help you stay on top.

Budget Management Advice - Managing Your Bills And Expenses in Times of Financial Uncertainty

2. Housing

Our homes are our place of refuge, security and retreat. Whether you own your own home or you pay rent, housing costs are an important priority. There is a lot of concern around how people will be able to meet their housing costs in the coming months, but one thing is absolute key here – communication!

If you have a mortgage and you are worried about meeting the repayments, talk to your lender. Major lenders have measures in place for times of hardship – but it is important to communicate with them (before the payment date) and lay out your situation. If you are renting and worried about paying your rent, it’s exactly the same. Talk to your rentals agent or landlord. Discuss the situation and see what can be done.

3. Utility Bills, Internet, Mobile Phone etc.

Not perhaps quite as essential as a roof over your head, but all of these bills are important. Gas, water and electricity are needed for cooking, hygiene, cooling and heating and given the nature of this pandemic, our phones and internet are our windows to the world – the way we can keep connected. So again, if you are worried about your ability to pay, get in communication with your providers and see what they can do for you. Make sure you stay connected – literally!

4. Transport

You might need to stay at home for now, but when things get back to normal, think about your transport needs. Do you need your car for work, to drive the kids around? Do you need it at the moment to get food and provisions? Our cars are often essential for us to do so many things so if you have a car loan, this is something you should prioritise. Again, if you are worried that you will be able to make the payments in the coming months, get in communication with your lender and see what you can arrange. Communication is key!

5. Credit cards, store cards, payday loans, road tolls and personal loans.

Just because these payments are last on our list, doesn’t mean that they’re not important. They are! But paying them is not essential to your every day, which is why we’ve listed them here. However, the same rules apply – if you can’t pay, contact the lender or provider before your payment is due. Lower priority doesn’t mean NO priority. There are many things your lender may be able to offer such as freezing payments, extending your payment date or lowering your interest. Just remember, communicate communicate communicate!

So keep the anxiety at bay, take action and start prioritising. These are unprecedented times and lenders and utility companies are developing measures to assist people through this period of uncertainty.

We are also working on a program of what to do to ask for assistance from creditors if needed so watch this space. In the meantime, we will provide relevant and accurate information from the government, creditors and other trusted sources on this situation as it unfolds.

Your Debt Reliefe Plan Manager - Kitty Thomas
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