The Struggle for Financial Freedom in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jack Wynn was once proud of his financial independence. Now, as He sits at home anxious and working out how long the money in his current account can last with the bare essentials, he’s fearful about the future and the potential lasting effect Covid-19 will have

Despite living month-to-month when I was working full-time a year ago, I would have considered myself to be financially independent and didn’t think twice about buying a new pair of jeans or shoes for a night out. 

That said, I was fortunate to have some savings (albeit not much) in the bank in case of a rainy day.

Although I was happy and enjoyed my work as a call centre representative, I still wasn’t fully satisfied with a lack of career progression. It was always my dream to go back to university to study for my master’s degree and, as I had recently become engaged and moved in with my partner, I could make this dream into a reality.

Don’t get me wrong, there was a big dip in my income since going back to study. But with the combination of my little savings and student finance payments – and cutting back on some of the luxuries I became accustomed – I was able to get by quite happily. Alongside my studies, I managed to get the odd freelance writing job to supplement my income.

Now, fast forward to present day, I’ve been told by my university that classes will be held remotely for the remainder of the academic year, my freelance gigs have dried up, and my last student finance payment will have to last until the end of the coronavirus pandemic, whenever that may be.

Approximately two weeks ago, I woke up to a segment on Good Morning Britain about entitlement for Universal Credit. I made myself an account on the GOV.UK website and prompted to put forward a claim for myself and my partner, who earns more than £30K per year as an account manager. I fill in my details, my partner inputs his information via a linking code, for the claim to then be immediately thrown out due to my partner’s income.

The rent on our two-bedroom flat in South Wales is £800-a-month; with utilities it’s more than £1,000. My mobile phone tariff is £45; credit card payment is also £45 plus interest; and a payment for a loan I took out when I embarked on starting my own business in an oversaturated market is £106.

I make a conscious effort to analyse the online job boards everyday for a miraculous development in new opportunities, as well as mail-shooting my CV to anyone that will listen, and pitching ideas to editors’ that I’m sure are bogged down with a huge number of pitches from other freelance writers. But, until the climate starts to repair itself, I’ve come up with some strategic tips to follow and make the most of what I have left in the bank. Hopefully you will be able to benefit from these, too:

  1. Reach out for a helping hand: I think it’s fair to say that the Universal Credit restrictions are tougher than a lot of us initially anticipated, but that obviously doesn’t apply to everyone. Even though my claim was thrown out, the form was fairly simple to fill out and easy to navigate, so try this for yourself. Also, contact your bank or money lenders about the possibility of a payment holiday on any outstanding loans. If you’re struggling with utilities, there’s also help here. Call your providers as some have come up with some impressive solutions to cut down the costs.
  2. Figure out a strict budget: My partner and I have had many conversations about what we can and can’t save money on. We’ve written down a clear plan outlining the monthly costs for our bills – even down to our Spotify and Netflix accounts – to put everything into perspective. From this, we’ve made crucial decisions about where we shop for food, to changing laundry detergent and toiletry brands to save the pennies.
  3. Use whatever you have in the cupboards: I’ve been amazed at what I’ve found at the back of the freezer; the tins of ravioli I bought on a whim which were overshadowed by the coffee and tea at the back of my cupboard have also come in handy. Using these items, albeit small, I’ve already saved money on my weekly food shopping bill. Do you have food items lurking around and you’re not sure what to do with them? A Google search will bring up all sorts of possibilities. Plus, you’re limiting food waste.
  4. Avoid payday loans: I don’t know about anyone else, but the temptation to Google the many payday loan lenders and find out what I’m eligible for is apparent, but risky. I have to keep reminding myself of the extortionate interest rates for even small amounts, and you should too. Exhaust all other possibilities before slipping down this windy, troubling road.
  5. Sell your unused items: As I write this, I’m surrounded by designer bags purchased years ago that have been sitting on top of the wardrobe collecting dust; wall art I’ve not managed to do anything with are leaning against the walls; and I have clothes hanging in my wardrobe with tags still on. From first-hand experience, I know you’ll be surprised by how much interest your unused items can generate. Consider buy-sell apps such as OfferUp and VarageSale to earn some extra cash.