What's the most important financial lesson you've learned so far from lockdown?

The headlines remind us that we’re all impacted, but in truth the Covid 19 lockdown is affecting us all in lots of different ways, so the lessons we learn will all be very different.

What would you say is the most important thing you have learned from this experience that will change the way you live ‘PC’ (Post Covid) - if anything?

I don’t just mean personally, though I imagine many of us will have discovered how resilient we are in a crisis, but also how we spend our money (on local business, supporting family or charities, and on those things we’ve discovered are ‘essentials’ in life) but maybe also what we think local and national spending priorities might be.

Will we be willing to take fewer risks with our health, and our money - and be even more grateful for medical and teaching staff?

Or might we see a new ‘Roaring 20s’ where we react against this austerity, and decide to throw caution to the wind and get back to having as much fun as possible?

What do you think?

1 Like

I’m going to spend more in local shops, and I don’t mind drinking instant coffee now. :coffee:

3 Likes

Noooo! Get an aeropress and order delivery from a local roaster

1 Like

I for one will be taking life a little bit slower. I’ve never appreciated what I already have as much as I do now. Mostly likely because I’m around my own belongings a lot more, and doing what I truly enjoy and is good for me not just once but on a daily basis. Of course, I’ll jump at the opportunity to go see live music again or meet a friend for coffee. But much like @ColinR and @Gaoler said, I don’t mind finding a local or self-sustaining alternative in the meantime.

Has anyone else felt like this time has allowed them to pause and realise they were putting some important tasks on the back bench?

3 Likes

Lockdown really made show small the virus made us no travel and access to money the old fashioned way of passbook like has been for the best part of 100 years or more still limits access in a world where we have online banking and video calls and a host of electronic verification to prove you are you some building societies still use dark ages access where you must visit physically

It must be incredibly hard for a customer or a business that has not developed digital flows to keep going. Small financial institutions that have not made the digital transition and rely on face to face will certainly be badly affected, and their customers will be disadvantaged.

It is a similar story for retailers who have either not made, or were about to make this transition. I remember seeing some terrible stats for Primark as a brand because of this, and M&S groceries have been badly impacted (at least in terms of opportunity cost) by not yet having made the switch to being Ocado’s supplier.

I think there is definitely a lesson here for us all, to be prepared with a range of services and channels to cope with dramatic change.

There’s positive argument to having all your eggs in one basket but then there’s negatives like I had rbs accounts a few years ago when the who system they had crashed beyond anyone’s control no one could tell me what I had or what I was getting and had to issue money without logging on a computer cause I was desperate to access it now I have to not be linked to one like that in future to avoid the problems all in one place actually gives.

No one told the building societies to automate their accounts online ahead of the pandemic making access to them zero as you use a passbook to access them and to ask me to post the passbook is a risky procedure when I’m supposed to be staying at home all the time and would I trust the postman to deliver my passbook or a cheque in return unfortunately no

Lockdown has made me re-evaluate many of the things I spend money on and whether they are really worthwhile. Currently, I’m looking at a large number of black bags stuffed with items ready for the charity shops when they re-open! I’ve had the time to find ways to reduce waste, especially food waste which is better for the environment and my wallet. The “pause” created by lockdown has also given me the time and space to do a deep analysis on my daily expenditure and plan a detailed budget so giving me more confidence about the future.

Whilst I have no sympathy for Primark, I feel sorry for M&S because they had already decided to move the business in the right direction but got fouled in the penalty box by COVID19 and so I hope they will recover. My opinion of many businesses has changed based on their handling of the crisis (some very good, some truly awful) and my future loyalty will reflect their behaviour.

3 Likes

We have been very lucky - managing to keep working (both because our businesses have been accommodating, and because we could still deliver our services working from home) and because our kids were old enough, and well-enough supported by school, to get on with schoolwork independently, so didn’t need our constant attention [I have the utmost sympathy and respect for those who’ve had to manage work and home-schooling]

In our case we saw our expenses drop dramatically, so we’ve tried to make up some of this by spending more in local shops and increasing donations to local and national charities supporting the less fortunate.

It means that my spending is completely different today to a few months ago, and I have no idea what it will look like in a few months more. I’ m definitely thinking of saving up to buy an e-bike for commuting for example.

How have you gone about your budgeting and what have you used?

Hi @robert. Just before lockdown began, I had migrated from YNAB to Wallet (Budget Bakers) because it has better cross-platform support. YNAB works fine on a laptop/PC but I think Wallet is better on a smartphone/tablet and it has better support for Openbanking API’s. Wallet has good reporting capabilities.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the work needed to create a detailed budget so a good starting point for beginners would be Yolt (very easy to use, some reporting) or MoneyDashboard which gives more detailed reports.

If you prefer paper or spreadsheets, I would recommend Martin Lewis’s Budget Planner.

If you feel confident enough to dive in to the deep end, I recommend Wallet.

The Dozens app has tools to help track short term spending that is better than nothing. It would be great if Dozens had a PSD2/Openbanking API so that it could be linked to one of the specialised platforms.

The big advantage of using these apps is that they help you to set budgets and then track and categorise your actual expenditure using data shared via OpenBanking. You will know of a daily basis whether you are on track and making tweaks is quick and easy. There are alerts to let you know when you might be straying too close to the edge.

Tip: For the tracking to work at its full potential, avoid paying by cash whenever possible. In fact, I rarely carry any cash! Pay regular bills by standing order or direct debit and use card payment (like your Dozens card!) for online shopping or High Street purchases.

Setting your first budget need not be daunting. Most people don’t benefit from a yearlong budget broken down into month-by-month cash flows. Keep it simple and build a budget plan for your average month. Start with the easiest figures - your income (wages and salaries, part-time or casual work) - some apps have a separate “pay day” feature where you enter your income details but it still feeds in to your budget.

Next tackle non-discretionary bills because they are usually regular(ish) monthly amounts and the bills are readily available or easy to spot in your bank statements - e.g. mortgage or rent payments, council tax, gas, electricity, water, TV licence, personal loans, credit card or overdraft debt, child care, student loans, mobile phone, buildings/contents insurance, etc.

Tip: Don’t include irregular income such as bonuses or share dividends. When they appear as income on the tracking, use it to clear some debt or, if you are debt free, allocate it to a savings pot (e.g. a weekend break for the family)

Tip: Some bills are not paid monthly, e.g. water bills are often once every six months whilst buildings insurance is an annual bill so just divide the annual cost by twelve. Council tax is often paid for ten months of the year - just enter the monthly amount (as though this amount was paid every month) because at the end of year you’ll have a surplus that can be used to offset the inevitable annual increase in council tax or other bills.

Next, tackle your household bills - groceries, household and cleaning, Sky TV subscription, broadband, any child related costs (clothes, schools meals, babysitting, pocket money), car maintenance, family entertainment, commuting, healthcare, dentistry/opticians/haircuts, etc…the list is endless and down to personal/household circumstances.

Tip: Don’t worry about capturing every little piece of expenditure. If you have missed anything, it will be picked up by the tracking feature of the apps and can be fed in to your budget figures easily. The tracking is actually the best way to highlight your “unconscious spending” such as just how much you spend at Costa’s or Pret on a weekday commute even though you tell everyone it’s less than £5 a day.

Finally, enter the amounts for discretionary spending and savings like holidays, Christmas, gifts, a new car, deposit for new home, etc, a rainy day fund, other savings and money you want to set aside for the future much as a wedding, driving lessons for the kids, university costs, your charitable donations, etc. The figures here can be less precise because they often reflect an aspiration rather than a set target, well at least until you set the date for that family holiday or wedding! Setting aside some money in a savings pot here will be your padding against any short-term disruptions such as we have just experienced with COVID19 or short periods off work or “in between jobs” or the need to replace a broken washing machine. I recommend that you do have a target for the “rainy day fund” which is enough money for you and your family to live on for at least 3-6 months, i.e. in case of unemployment or long-term illness or any other major disruption to your lives.

The budget is a tool for you to gain control of your finances and it will take time for you to see the benefit. Like many tools, it’s precision will develop over time as the data from the tracking is used to refine and update the budget. This incremental improvement in precision will boost your confidence and help diminish your money management problems.

Note: How you manage your money to fit your budget is a whole topic on its own. If your expenditure exceeds your income, you will have to make savings somewhere. Long-term overdrafts and credit card debt or payday loans will only make the problems worse. Hopefully, you have a bit left over each month and after all the hard work you put in to making and keeping to the budget, you’ll save that bit of money for something useful (like clearing debts or a family holiday) instead of being tempted to spend it for the sake of it. In fact, if you are tempted to make a significant unplanned purchase, look at your budget first to decide whether you can afford it and not your bank balance.

I’m sorry that became a bit long winded but I hope someone finds it useful. :smile:

3 Likes

Yes please! Not likely to happen any time soon though

Biggest lesson I learned is that the vast majority of British individuals and businesses don’t save for a rainy day despite all the guidance over decades. Shocked, for instance, at how few businesses even bothered to ensure they had minimal reserves when we have severe economic downturns every decade or so.

I feel like a plonker for having saved for a rainy day by being fiscally prudent and making sacrifices in my life (e.g. not a single holiday in ten years) to ensure I was well prepared for a recession because now I’m one of the minority of people who haven’t received a penny in government handouts and, on the other hand, I’m being punished because returns on savings accounts have been slashed to almost nothing.

Lesson learned: don’t save up, because in this socialist society you will always be bailed out and given endless handouts using the money of people who do bother to be wise.

The reason these “bailouts” are necessary is that we are far from a socialist society and there are many many people who will simply not have enough of an income to be able to save. Even if they did manage to save a bit each month, they could not save enough to realistically get them through a major economic downturn.

1 Like

All these people have ample money for cigarettes, alcohol, partying every Friday/Saturday night, foreign holidays, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sky Sports subscriptions, yet they can’t be bovvered to save money for an economic downturn?

If you look at the international comparative data, people in many countries like China have a far lower median income but substantially higher savings rates. I’m sure anybody who has a mentality that they should live off other people’s money will ignore that statistic.

It’s one’s attitude. The attitude in UK used to be one of prudence but now it is simply “live for today, enjoy life, and tomorrow somebody else’s money will pay my bills”.

That is a massive assumption. I grew up never having a foreign holiday, my mum had extremely rare nights out, and did not smoke, we didn’t have subscriptions outside of a basic TV and landline package. My mum was one of the people that did manage to save, but she definitely was not able to save enough to see her through an economic downturn if she lost her job.

My mum is still in a tricky position financially.

My sister has her own children now. She struggles alot financially and frequently needs to borrow from family to ensure that she is able to get everything her children need.

I have been lucky that I’ve managed to get into a well paid job and have been able to start saving. Not as much as I’d like, but I have some debts to pay off first.

So you cannot assume that people who aren’t saving are just wasting their money and can’t be bothered to save. That’s an extremely ignorant view in my opinion.

I don’t know how useful the median income is as a metric here. I have no idea what the income range is in China, but in the UK, we have such a huge range that the very small minority that earn stupid amounts of money (not saying they don’t deserve to earn that much or anything), pull that median way up. This makes it easy to forget there are people far below that median that are struggling with everyday life in this country.

1 Like

Thanks for sharing @Albatross - I’m glad you’ve been able to start saving and clear those debts.

@DozensFan you are right that there is a different attitude to savings in this country compared to others. This is not about blaming any one group though. The vast majority of marketing messaging in our society is geared to spending and borrowing. It is not about the benefits system, it is about the constant adverts about access to credit and our ‘duty’ to be consumers (as opposed to savers).

Dozens is trying to change this, by moving the discussion to looking after your future and being engaged with working for greater financial security. That is why we put all of the financial journey, from spending to investing, in the one app while many others focus on overdrafts and loans.

Now that so many more people have experienced the need for an emergency fund, the conversation might be quite different in future.

4 Likes

Be wary card companies can block your card easily doing day to day transactions and it takes a lot more during lockdown to get it unblocked I had the problem on three different cards and each time was awkward trying to navigate different ways each card has to sort it

I think the bailouts and handouts are about to come to an abrupt end! Then you’ll see the true value of having savings, even if they’re losing value…

I think the wirecard scandal has taught me how vulnerable I could be.

On a day-2-day basis I carry a mini card wallet with curve and dozens in it. Luckily I was at home when it all happened, so I just went into my real wallet and grabbed some traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ cards I still had. But I realised my 3 main cards were wirecard.

It may sound old fashioned, but a week’s worth of cash in a drawer is no bad thing

1 Like