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10 tips for budgeting during lockdown

There are some easy tips and tricks to help you keep a tight grip on the purse strings during this difficult time.

It sounds obvious, but crunching the numbers and making a budget can go a long way helping your money go further. 

Free online planning tools

You may be worried about your cash flow and decide that you need to cut back your spending sharply over the next few weeks. An online planner tool will be helpful for doing this.

We have a free budget planner tool to put you in control of your spending. You keep track of your pay, benefits and your regular outgoings in one place. You can save your budget plan and return to it at any time. 

Keep track of your spending

Tools like the one above are great to help you plan your spending. But there are also simple ways of keeping track of what you’re spending day to day, on your phone or computer. 

Here are some free tools that you can use:

These services pull in information from your bank account using a system called ‘open banking’. Read more about how open banking works.

Pushing the envelope(s)

Once you’ve compared the money coming in to what you want to spend, there are several ways that you can put together a budget. One of the most simple and effective is an ‘envelope’ budget. This simply means separating your money out into pots, or envelopes, for spending on different things. For example, you can create a pot each for household bills, food shopping and rent or mortgage payments.  

Do it all from the palm of your hand

If you’re tech savvy, you might be more comfortable doing most of your banking with your smartphone. You may find that your banking app lets you create these pots to separate out your money from within your current account. App-based banks like Monzo and Starling can offer this service.

You can read more about choosing the right current account for you.

Keep your receipts

Whether you shop online or do your essential shopping safely in person, it is always a good idea to keep hold of your receipts. This way you always know how much you’ve spent as part of your budget.You might also want to create a folder in your email account to keep all your online shopping receipts in one place.

Use your budget to look forward

If you’re lucky, you’ve been able to continue working during lockdown and earning the same amount as before. This might mean that you’re actually spending less than you were before the COVID-19 outbreak.

You could put aside what you were previously spending on eating out or going to exercise classes and save it in a separate pot or a savings account. Read more about finding the right savings account for you.

You could then use this cash to think about activities you might want to do once the lockdown is lifted. Doing this might also keep your spirits up while you’re stuck at home. 

Check your bills regularly

It’s always a good idea to check your regular household bills. Some companies, like energy providers, have been known to make mistakes when charging customers.

But checking your regular bills could be more important than ever right now. With more people staying at home for long periods, bills for energy, water and mobile data may well be going up.

So, now would be a good time to see whether these are services areas where you can save money by switching. Read more on comparing energy suppliers.

Opening a second current account just for bills

Once you have a good idea of your monthly household bills, you could think about opening a second bank account just for paying them. This might help you get a better idea of just how much you need to set aside for these costs each month.

You can set up a standing order to pay a regular amount from your main bank account to this ‘Bills’ account.But a few words of warning. Keeping a regular eye on those bills is a good idea as they may go up or down depending on your usage. It’s also worth understanding the impact that having several bank accounts may have on your credit record. 

So, this idea certainly might not be suitable for everyone. Read more on why your credit record matters.  

Cancelling payments for services you can’t use

The Government has laid down rules on reasons you can leave your home during lockdown. This means you will not be able to go to places you would usually, like the gym.If you’re a gym member you may be able to cancel payments for the months you cannot attend or end your membership early. It usually depends on your membership contract. If your gym hasn’t contacted you about your options during this exceptional situation, it might be worth contacting them.

If you think your gym is treating you unfairly, you can contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133. If you’re in Northern Ireland you can contact Consumerline.

Managing your debt

Credit card debt can be a source of stress even during normal times.

Several banks and credit card providers have brought in measures like payment holidays to help their customers through this difficult period. While some are waiving their fees for missed payments.

So you may want to get in touch with your provider if you’re struggling to make payments. 

Read more about managing your debt during the pandemic.

Shifting existing credit card debt on to a 0% balance transfer card can be a great way to help clear your debts. Moving your debt on to a 0% card means that for a set period you will not be charged any new interest.

Think carefully about if this option is for you, and whether you can set a realistic budget for paying off your balance within the 0% period.

Take a look at top balance transfer credit card deals.

Before you apply for a card, you can get an idea of which cards you’re most likely to get with our eligibility checker tool. Using the tool will not affect your credit score. 

Get free, impartial help if you’re having trouble covering your costs

While building a budget you might find that you have upcoming bills that you’re going to find it hard to meet. It’s a horrible situation, but there are places you can turn to for help:

  • StepChange Debt Charity offers free advice or a free debt management plan (DMP)

  • Citizens Advice (England) has advice on getting help with different types of debt during lockdown

  • National Debtline is another charity that offers free and independent debt advice over the phone and online

  • PayPlan is an independent provider of free DMPs