Where to start if you are struggling to pay your essential bills due to coronavirus
1. Plan your budget
If you’re struggling to pay essential bills, it’s important to plan your budget to get the most out of it. And this might help to ease any money worries you have too.
First, work out your income. Include any monthly income from employment, benefits, tax credits, pensions, maintenance and any other income. Add these together to get your total income.
Next, write down your total expenses - everything that you need to spend money on each month. This includes rent or mortgage, utilities bills, other costs such as council tax, food, your phone bill, travelling expenses, money you spend on debt, like loans, credit cards and child care costs, for example. Make sure you include everything. Then add up all of these things.
Then, do a quick sum: your total income minus your total expenses. You will either have a surplus or not enough money to pay all of your expenses. If you have a surplus, you can plan what you want to spend it on. That might include saving some of it.
To help, you can use the free Lloyds Bank online budget calculator.
You may not have enough money to pay all of your expenses. To begin with, look at your expenses to see if there are any you can cut or reduce. If you still don’t have enough money to pay your expenses, it’s best to get debt advice. You can get free expert, debt advice from Mental Health and Money Advice.
2. Take action with your utility bills
Your utility bills are your gas, electric and water bills.
Utility companies are aware that the coronavirus outbreak is financially impacting families across the UK and many people are struggling to keep up payments on essential bills. Most utility firms will have specially trained, sympathetic staff to explain the help that’s available. It’s important to speak to them as soon as you can, as they’ll be able to give you more options the sooner you call.
If you’re unable to pay your bills because of coronavirus, the Money Advice Service and the Citizens Advice Bureau are able to offer advice. The Mental health and Money Advice service also has information about which bills are the most important ones to pay first.
3. Look into cheaper broadband, phone or other services
You should be able to switch to a cheaper broadband or phone provider, despite coronavirus restrictions. This is because no new physical line is required, so you shouldn’t have to meet anyone face-to-face. You can negotiate with your current supplier or simply switch to a cheaper one.
Find out more information on how to save money on your home phone and broadband through the Money Advice Service.
4. Find help getting food
If you are in extreme need and have run out of food, you can apply for food bank vouchers through your council or job centre. These give you an emergency food parcel that will last you and your family a few days. You can find the locations of local food banks through The Trussell Trust.
Food pantries are also now available in many areas where you can buy food for a lower price than in supermarkets. You can find the locations of some local food pantries through Your Local Pantry.
5. Get a council tax discount
If you’re struggling to pay your essential bills, you might be able to get a council tax discount, such as:
- the single person discount,
- student discount or
- a discount if you have a severe mental impairment.
You can find out more from the UK government website.
If your income has reduced, you might be entitled to council tax support. You will need to apply to your local council to get this, but you can find out more from the UK government website.
You can ask your council to have a payment break and start paying your bill back in July rather than right now. It’s also nice to know that many councils won’t chase you to repay money you owe while your income is affected due to the impact of coronavirus.