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Emergency budgeting: family money tips

saved me big bucks debt Christmas stress
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Emergency budgeting: family money tips

saved me big bucks debt Christmas stress
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​​​​​​Things are really scary at the moment and lots of families have money worries right now. Lots of people are off work because they’re self isolating, have COVID-19, or their workplace is shut. If you’re self-employed you might be really concerned about your finances. I’m hoping that article will also come in handy in the future. These techniques have helped me in the past when I’ve had a difficult bad month. The kind where the car has had to be replaced or I’ve had an unexpected bill. These techniques have provided a way to make it through in the short-term.

Is it really as bad as it seems?

​It’s worth sitting down with your last few bank statements and a pen and paper to identify your actual outgoings. Compare this to your expected income. This can help you to work out how much extra you need to find in your budget. At this point, when you’re estimating rather than working with exact figures, it’s best to underestimate your income and overestimate your outgoings. This will give you a realistic to worst case scenario picture of your family’s money.

Now, having done the maths, it may not be nearly as bad as you first thought. Alternatively, it might be that finances are tight, or things may look pretty bad. Either way, there are small changes you can make for a couple of months.

Do you really need everything that you pay for?

​Now, your idea of what’s essential and mine are likely to be very different as we all have different priorities. Have a look at the list of what your family spends money on. What can go, just for now, to make things a little bit easier? Maybe you have a magazine subscription or an Audible account you don’t really use? What apps do you pay for? Consider cancelling them. Remember, this is emergency budgeting. It’s not forever, it’s just to get you through.

What expenditure will go down anyway?

​This one is specific to right now, but might be relevant for other situations too. If you’re off work and can’t go out much, your fuel bills are likely to go down. Factor in a smaller amount for now. If schools close and you have teenagers who pay for school buses and dinners you’ll save a few quid a day by making sandwiches at home. Clubs, groups, activities, and tuition are likely to be closed for a while too. You can can save a little money by removing these from your family’s outgoings. As with everything here, it’s likely to be small amounts. However, over a month or two it will make a difference.

Cut costs: money saving for families

​Do you have budgets set aside that you can reduce?

Food budgets

When you’re setting your food budget branding down can really help to save a family money, if you don’t already. Where you buy branded products, switch to own brand. If you choose own brand, switch to ‘smart price’.

  • Cut down some of the meat you buy if you can.
  • Switch prepared veg for the raw materials.
  • Try adding lentils to bulk up mince based dishes.
  • Batch cooking and freezing/chilling portions for later helps you benefit from economies of scale.
  • Choosing a couple of vegetarian meals each week can help too.

Even if you can only save £5 or £10 a week it really does all add up.


It’s worth looking at whether you can move down a level in things like TV subscriptions and mobile phone contracts. If you don’t fully use a service then moving down can really save a family some money. It may be disappointing for now, but you can switch it back up again if you really miss it.

Do you have a takeaway or two a month? Coffee out? If so, it’s likely that most of these places will be shut soon if they aren’t already. That means that these will naturally be removed from your budget. If you’re reading this once service have reopened then these may be things you make a conscious choice to go without for now.

Where you set aside money for things like clothing, think about whether you really need to buy anything this month. Might it be better spent elsewhere? If you’re desperate for new underwear then maybe not. However, if you were planning on getting a new pair of trousers then maybe you could wait until next month or buy pre-loved? Or perhaps have a go at repairing or up-cycling something you already have. This can save money, and if the whole family is staying at home it doesn’t matter as much if the results aren’t perfect. This may be the time to have a go at stitching up holes or patching the knees!

Talk to energy providers

For those of you who pay your gas, electric and water by direct debit: give your energy company a call and see what state your account is in. It may be that you’ve accrued credit without even realising it. If you are in credit, you can ask to offset it against the amount you owe this month so you can pay less. If not and you’re really struggling to pay your bill this month, be honest with them.

Ask to pay less or pay double next month. If you’re a family with small children they’re not going to cut you off and they’re often happier to receive some money, rather than nothing for a month or two.

Another option with energy providers and other regular bills is to ask to move your direct debit date. Shift it back a few days to after payday, or a benefits payment comes in. You’ll still be paying within the month that the payment is due, but be sending the money once there’s funds in your account.

Can you get any help?

At the moment, when off work due to illness you can apply for Employment and Support Allowance from day one rather than day 8. You may not be eligible. However, it’s just over £70 a week, so it’s worth investigating if you think it might be relevant for you. You can apply if you are employed, self employed or unemployed. So, chances are if you’re not entitled to something else you then this may be helpful for you.

If you need to apply for Universal Credits now, and/or need to apply for an advanced payment you can do this over the phone or via email. This is very helpful if you can’t get out to attend the Job Centre due to illness or self isolation.

The information on the help and support available is changing daily. So, it’s definitely worth checking the website for the most up to date advice and how to apply.

Free activities: family fun without spending any money

indoor ball games skittles with cups money saving family fun

Indoor ball games

Simple games to play in the home. Family friendly fun that doesn’t cost money

There are lots of other ideas for activities, most free, in the activities section of our website.

How can you make some money?

​If you’re off work and have some time on your hands you might have a clear out. Tackle the garage, or attic, or have a bit of a spring clean? Not only will it give you something to do and make things a bit tidier, but you may be able to find some item you don’t need.

Chances are you have some household items, old clothes, baby clothes, toys and games your children have outgrown. Ebay or Facebook marketplace are great places to sell these. You may be able to help other families to save money by buying preloved. You’ll make a little money for your family too.

If you have DVDs, CDs or books then Music Magpie pay anything from a few pence to a few pounds an item. Places like CEX buy Pre-loved tech. It’s not going to make you loads of money, but every little helps, right?

Even if you can only do one or two of those, I hope its given you some ideas to help ease the pressure a little. Stay safe, look after each other and don’t forget to buy loo roll (but only if you need it)! 

By Jeni Atkinson

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