Managing your money during difficult times

5 min read


Latest update

Please note that this article was last updated on 23 November 2020.

It’s hard not to worry about money in these uncertain times. If you or someone in your household has been made redundant, had their working hours cut or fallen ill you may have suffered a big financial shock. Even if your finances haven’t been affected by the pandemic you may be worried that they could be in the future. Here are some steps to help you stay on top of your money.

Review your budget

Whenever you think your financial situation might change it’s a good idea to review your income and spending. If you draw up a list of all your income and spending you’ll be able to clearly see how much money you have coming in and how much is going out. If your income falls and your financial commitments are greater than your income you’ll either have to cut your spending or increase your income. Cutting your spending is much easier if you know exactly where your money goes each month.

Our Budgeting guide has lots of tips on how to budget and there’s a useful Budget Planner on the MoneyHelper website if you want help drawing up a detailed breakdown of your spending.

Check your entitlement to benefits

If you can’t work because you’re sick, have to self-isolate, you’ve lost your job or your income has dropped significantly, there are a number of benefits you may be eligible for. These could include Universal Credit, Statutory Sick Pay or Employment and Support Allowance. There is also support available if you need help with childcare, housing or council tax costs. The national charity Turn2Us has details of state benefits and other grants available on its website plus a benefits calculator to help you work out what benefits you may be eligible for.

For more on State benefits see our guide.

Check for any additional government help

The government has introduced a number of schemes to help people who have seen their working hours affected by Covid-19. There is help for those who can’t work because their business is closed due to coronavirus restrictions. There is also help for those who have had their hours reduced and so are now only working part-time. You can find out more about the new Job Support Scheme on the GOV.UK website.

There is also help if you’re self-employed and are getting less work or no work. Details are available on the GOV.UK website.

The type of support available changes frequently. You can find the latest news and information on what help the government is offering. This includes information on employment, financial support, health and wellbeing and working safely.

Check your insurance policies

If you can’t work, check if you have any insurance policies that cover your mortgage payments, loan repayments or that will replace some of your income. This could be mortgage payment protection insurance, payment protection, income protection or accident, sickness and unemployment insurance. You may have taken out this insurance when you started or changed jobs, or took out a mortgage or loan.

There is often a minimum period before these policies pay out. Your policy provider will be able to tell you how you should claim and when you can expect any payments.

Keep on top of your mortgage or rent payments

If you have a mortgage and are worried you won’t be able to make your monthly repayments, contact your lender straight away. They’ll be able to tell you what your options are. For example, you may be able to take a payment holiday or temporarily reduce your repayments. Although the government’s mortgage holiday scheme officially ended on 31 October, the financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority has told lenders it expects them to continue to offer tailored support to customers who are encountering financial difficulties – even if they can no longer offer a payment holiday.

While you may still be able to negotiate a mortgage payment holiday this will be noted on your credit report. This means that taking a mortgage holiday could make it harder to get credit (such as loans or credit cards) in the future.

If you’re renting and having difficulty paying your rent, speak to your landlord straight away. See if you can come to some sort of arrangement such as having more time to pay or a reduction in your rent.

The temporary ban on evictions has now been lifted which means they can take place again. If you’re having difficulty paying your rent or have been threatened with eviction Citizens Advice can help. Its advisers can tell you how to negotiate with your landlord and what assistance or benefits you may be entitled to. You can call its Adviceline (England) on 0344 411 1444 or Adviceline (Wales) on 0344 477 2020 or find your nearest bureau or the webchat on the Citizens Advice website.

Keep on top of bills

Energy bills are a major expense for most households. With winter coming and many of us spending a lot more time at home you may be worried about your gas and electricity bills rising.

If you’re having difficulty paying your bills, speak to your energy supplier as soon as you can. You might be able to arrange a payment plan to help spread the cost or your energy provider may agree to reduce or pause your energy bills. There are also schemes to help if you can’t afford to make your payments or if you’re on a prepayment meter and can’t afford to top it up. Contact your energy provider to find out more.

You can also find out more about what to do if you’re struggling with energy bills and what grants and benefits are available from energy suppliers on the Citizens Advice website.

If you’re concerned about your water bill, again speak to your supplier as soon as you can. Many water companies run hardship schemes or fund charities which can help you pay your bills. Find out more on the Consumer Council for Water website.

Cut the cost of bills

There are several ways you may be able to cut the cost of your bills. The government-backed Simple Energy Advice website includes tips on how to save energy and reduce your bills.

Another option may be to switch suppliers. If you’ve never done this before or haven’t done so recently, this could be the best way of reducing your bills significantly – possibly by several hundred pounds a year. You can find out how to do this on the energy regulator Ofgem’s website. Citizens Advice has an energy comparison service to help you find a cheaper supplier.

You may also be able to save money on your mobile phone or broadband package. If your contracts are coming to an end or you’re worried you may be paying over the odds for your deal, check out the communications regulator Ofcom’s website for information on how to go about switching.

For more money saving ideas, see our guide on How to cut your bills.

Get help if you’re worried about debts

Keeping up the repayments on any loans or credit arrangements can be tricky if your income has fallen. If you think you’ll struggle to meet your repayments contact your lender or bank straightaway and explain the situation. They will tell you what options are open to you.

It’s easy to lose sleep if your debts are mounting up and you’re worrying about money. Help is available. Organisations such as National Debtline, Citizens Advice and StepChange offer free independent advice from debt experts. Visit their websites for details of how they can help.

Also take a look at our money guide on Debt.