Helping you to to make the most of your money

Money advice conversation There will be some customers who are particularly feeling the impact of covid-19 on their household finances because of this tougher economic climate we’re in.

That is why we put together some advice which will hopefully help you to maximise your income or make it work better for you.

Firstly, there is help out there…..and it doesn’t cost anything! The internet can be a confusing place with so many sites offering support. Just remember, “You should never have to pay for advice to get out of debt”. If you find a site offering help for a fee, go elsewhere. You can do no better than follow Money Saving Expert's coronavirus help pages.   

A lot of us in the south west work in the retail and hospitality industries which are severely hit. There is help out there though. 

If you are struggling to pay your rent, read this page and see what you might be able to do. But also, don't struggle alone - get in touch and then we can start a conversation

Contact Us

We’ve asked our teams to come up with their top tips for real and practical help and this is what they came up with:

Complete an income / expenditure form

Talk it through image There are lots of these online but you will probably do best with the Money Helper Budget Planner which is a free and easy to complete form that you can save and refer back to.

Listing all of your income and expenditure will help you with your budgeting as you’ll be able to see where you can possibly increase your household income by reducing what you spend on other areas.

Check if there are any expenses that can be reduced

You can compare prices on comparison websites for almost everything, but some key household bills are a great place to start e.g. utility bills, broadband and insurance. www.moneysavingexpert.com is a great place to start with this.

Even better, some of these sites like www.uswitch.org.uk make the switch for you.

Sometimes companies may be able to offer you discounted tariffs e.g. check if you are entitled to a reduced tariff with South West Water. Other ideas include looking at reducing food bills by changing brands, you've probably seen that on some of the TV shows such as Eat Well For Less on the BBC. In fact you may want to play their competition - to see if you can save £1,000 a year through some simple food swaps.

Are you getting all the benefits you are entitled to?

You can complete a benefits calculation online to find out. These are really useful tools that do all of the hard work for you. We recommend the online versions that can be found at www.turn2us.org.uk and www.entitledto.co.uk

Organisations such as Age UK and Citizens Advice can offer advice regarding entitlement. Your benefit entitlement will depend on your personal circumstances e.g. age, household members, and if you are you a carer or disabled.

Are there any other ways of increasing your household income?

Sometimes there are others in your household who aren't contributing to your household income but ought to be asked? e.g. asking adult children to contribute to the household income.

If you have a spare room, it may be possible to offer this out to a lodger. You will need your landlord’s permission for this but it may be worth thinking about as it does not affect any universal credit that you may be receiving.  

 

Do you need emergency help with food and money?

There are organisations such as the Trussell Trust across Devon and Cornwall that provide information on how to access foodbanks and where to get help with money in an emergency.

You can also just search 'foodbanks' online or contact your Local Authority for emergency support.

Are you considering a payday loan? First look at these alternatives.

Payday loans can be a very expensive way to borrow money. If you need to take out credit you should consider your alternatives.

If you're already struggling to get by, then taking out a payday loan will probably only make your situation worse. The best solution is to get free and impartial debt help and a practical solution.

What are the alternatives to payday loans?

  • Your local credit union: they provide affordable financial products and are likely to be far cheaper than payday loans, so take a look at rates on Westcountry Savings & Loans
  • Sell your unwanted items: have a clear out and turn these into cash through a free sales site such as Facebook marketplace
  • Cut back: StepChange debt charity offers great advice on how to reduce your spending as this might be just enough to avoid needing the payday loan trap
  • Ask friends or family: if considered carefully friends and family loan could save you a lot of worry when trying to repay a payday loan. However, first make sure that you’re able to afford the repayments. Before you do anything, you should talk about what might happen if you can’t afford to pay it back and how this could affect your relationship as it might not be worth it
  • Get debt advice: if you're considering a payday loan to deal with an existing problem then you'd be much better getting some free and impartial debt advice from StepChange Debt Charity, Citizens Advice or Money Helper

Test & Trace Support Payment if required to self-isolate

Your local authority will have details of all government schemes offering financial support and other help available in your local area.

This includes the government’s Test & Trace Support Payment which is available to those people who are required by law to self-isolate.

A payment of £500 can be claimed for those on lower incomes who cannot work from home and have lost income as a result.

Eligibility for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment is restricted to people who:

  • have been told to stay at home and self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, either because they have tested positive for coronavirus or have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive;
  • are employed or self-employed;
  • are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result; and
  • are currently receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit.

Are you struggling with your rent or council tax?

You may be able to apply for assistance from your local authority e.g. Discretionary Housing Payment or Exceptional Hardship Fund?

Details can be found by searching on your local authority website.

Use a managed account to pay your priority bills

Use a managed account to pay your priority bills

If you are dealing with a reduced income, or income that changes all the time, then you may find a managed account works for you.

It will ensure that the money is taken to pay your priority bills and leave you with the money that is left over to spend.

It’s a useful way of budgeting when you aren’t sure what your income is going to be regularly.

Westcountry Savings and Loans can offer you an account like this or you may be able to find one with another credit union or bank.

Deal with debts

Contact who you owe money or payments to and request an affordable repayment plan.

If that worries you then contact an independent organisation that offers help and advice to advocate on your behalf, such as www.citizensadvice.org.uk, www.nationaldebtline.org or www.stepchange.org.uk

You may be able to apply for charitable funding

There is more information regarding eligible charitable funding via https://grants-search.turn2us.org.uk/

Westward Assurance

The team at Westward are here to help as much as we can.

If you are aware that your rent account is in arrears and you have not set up an arrangement with us, it is now more important than ever that you contact us to discuss your situation.

There are many ways that we can help you to begin resolving the financial problems that you may be facing, but we are unable to do this without you speaking to us. We don't want you to lose your home and it's never too late to get in touch.

Our Westward Assurance is:

If you fall behind in your rent payments because your income has reduced, or because you have lost your job, as a result of the coronavirus you will not lose your home.

If you are having difficulty in paying your rent we ask that you contact us as soon as possible. We can have a member of our Financial Inclusion or Income team contact you to discuss if you are entitled to any further financial help and to set up an affordable payment plan that fits with your current circumstances. If you are a Support customer please arrange this through your Support Worker or Housing Worker.

We remain committed to doing everything we can to support our customers whose finances have been most affected by the pandemic. So please call us on 0300 100 1010 or get in touch using the Contact Us form at the top of this page now, as we can help.