Planning_Finances

No matter how much planning you do, there are just some events you can't equate for.

The coronavirus pandemic has been one such event, and it's one that will have put a lot of strain on people's finances.  This means many people will be forced to take a look at their finances during this period and come up with a plan to aid them through the next few months.

Luckily, we have highlighted below eight places to start when you're planning your finances during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Have a Plan

We find ourselves in one of the most uncertain periods since the Second World War, and in order to navigate through this time, people are going to need a plan. Financial planning is essential no matter what is going on in the world, but it becomes even more critical in times like these.

Whatever situation you find yourself in, it's important to keep setting goals that challenge you to move forward and improve your finances. These goals might look a little bit different from what they might have been pre-COVID-19, but the important thing is that they're there, and you have something to work towards.

If you're going to set effective goals, then try to make sure they have the following characteristics:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Once you've set your goals, then you can create a plan that's going to help you achieve them, and as you reach specific goals, then you can continue to set new, more challenging ones to help push you on even further.

Create a Monthly Budget

One thing that will help you achieve your goals is understanding your finances in detail. It's hard to make plans if you don't know precisely what you've got coming in and going out, so outlining a budget should be one of your first steps.

Sit down and list out exactly what income you have coming in each month and what money you are spending. We tend to have a rough idea in our heads of what this is, but often when we write it out, we find it is not exactly how we thought it would be.
The more in-depth your budget is, the more helpful it will be, so aim to go through all your transactions - no matter how big or small!

Once you've got a hold of exactly what you're spending, then it's much easier to plan finances for the months ahead. Most people find when they write out a budget, there are lots of little areas to make saving that they didn't realize, and all these small savings can add up.

It's surprisingly easy to be leaking money without realising it, but a monthly budget makes sure you're on top of all your finances.

Review Your Direct Debits

One of the areas where it's easy to leak money without realising it is through direct debits and standing orders. A direct debit is an arrangement with your bank that allows a third-party to transfer money out of your account on a specific date. These are set up to make bill payments such as your credit card and phone bill easy, but they can quickly start to add up.

If you haven't been through your bank records in quite a long time, then you might find you have some direct debits left over for things you no longer use. It's easy to stop using a subscription or device and think, "oh I'll end the direct debit later," and then never get round to it. That's one of the reasons companies love subscriptions so much; they know it takes some effort on your part to cancel, and often, people end up paying for much longer than they otherwise would.

When you go through your direct debits and find ones that you no longer use, it's first a good idea to speak with the company in question to try and get the direct debit cancelled, and if that doesn't work out, talk to your bank.
If you're tied into a contract, then you will have to wait until that contract finishes, but many direct debts are on a rolling monthly agreement and are very easy to cancel.

Pay Off Your Debts

It's almost certain that you will be paying more interest on the debts you owe than the interest you receive on your savings. This means that money can be used better to pay your debts because it's going to save you money in the long run.

One thing that can be extremely helpful when it comes to paying off your debts is creating a bill payment calendar. Doing so allows you to know exactly when each bill is due and create a schedule for paying off your debts. One of your worst enemies is late fees because they make it that bit harder to pay everything off, but when you've got a bill payment calendar, you shouldn't have such problems.

Create a strategy for paying off your debts in the most efficient way possible. It will generally mean paying off the highest interest debts first, which usually are credit cards. Another option is to pay off the debts with the lowest balances first. Once these are paid, then you're not paying interest on them, and you've got a little extra cash to pay off your other debts.

It might be a difficult time at the mmoment, but many people will find their household expenditure has gone down, so any savings would be well used to pay off debts.

Unlock Cash

While some people might find the recent lockdown has freed up a little extra cash to pay off some bills, others will find it has had the opposite effect. While the furlough scheme has mitigated some of the impact Coronavirus might have had on job losses, there are still many people who will have found themselves with a lower monthly income than they previously had.

For these people, getting hold of cash to help pay for day-to-day spending is a priority.

Most people have a lot of their cash tied-up in their major assets, such as their house and their car, but there are ways of getting money out of these items.

If you own a house, then it's worth looking at your mortgage to see if you can make savings, or re-mortgage to release some equity. Likewise, if you own your car, you can look at getting a logbook loan, which allows you to get a loan against the value of the car.  This money can tide you over until things become more certain, at which point you can pay the loan off.

Make Your Savings Work Harder

On the flip side, if you do have plenty of savings, then you should be looking to make sure you're getting as much interest as possible. It's not a great climate for savers at the moment, with savings rates being very low, but it is possible to make your money work harder than it currently is.

It's a good idea to shop around and find the savings account that offers you the best deal. There are lots of different options to choose from, giving you more of less flexibility as you desire, but if you're going to be keeping your money in a savings account, it might as well earn you as much money as possible.

Another option is making use of your ISA allowance, which offers a good rate and tax-free interest. You're able to pay up to £20,000 a year into your cash ISA, and the new year started at the end of the last tax year on April 6th.

Get Ahead on Paying Your Taxes

If you pay your tax through self-assessment, then it's a good opportunity to get everything ready for your 2019-2020 tax year. While you've got until January 31st to file your tax return (and many people wait till the last minute), it's much easier if you've got everything sorted ahead of time, and you know how much you can expect to pay.

The tax year finished on April 6th, so by now, you should have all you need to fill out your tax return. Even if you file early, you won't have to pay until the end of January, so it's a good opportunity to get everything sorted.

This way, you can factor your taxes into your savings more accurately and can plan out a long-term budget.

Conclusion

Just because you're often stuck at home, it doesn't mean you can't do a substantial amount of financial planning. Exceptional times require us to make sacrifices we don't ordinarily make, and for many people, this will be true during the pandemic.
However, as long as you keep planning and working towards your goals, those sacrifices will only be temporary, and you can limit the damage of the Coronavirus pandemic. It all starts with understanding your expenses, and from there, there are lots of ways you can find savings.

These savings might seem small, but when you add them all up over months and years, they can make a big difference.