As government Covid support measures are withdrawn and the cost of living rises, many households in Northern Ireland will experience financial hardship.
Mortgage, personal loan and credit card The Covid payment holidays ended on July 31, while the temporary increase in Universal Credit introduced last year is expected to end in early October. Closing the leave program at the end of September could put many of the 60,000 NI workers currently on leave at increased risk of layoff.
This financial pressure is compounded by an increase in the cost of living. Recently, many NI energy providers have increased their prices by more than 10%, due to a worldwide increase in wholesale energy prices. Gas suppliers are expected to announce price increases in the coming weeks.
In 2020, our debt service processed over Â£ 28million of debt in over 7,500 deals and predicts this could worsen as 2021 progresses.
With an increase in the cost of living, coupled with the withdrawal of government measures to support Covid, many households could find themselves in financial difficulty and get into debt. With this in mind, we would like to advise you on the overhaul of your household budget in order to balance the evolution of your income or your expenses.
Track your income and expenses
As your finances change, it’s important to rework your budget, track your spending, and make any necessary adjustments. You can start by calculating your income, as well as that of your partner and any other sources of income you may have.
You then need to calculate your fixed monthly expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments, your food expenses, car and insurance payment, utility bills, and cell phone payments.
By subtracting your fixed expenses from your income, you will be able to determine how much money you have left for more flexible expenses, like entertainment.
Identify areas where you can save
As the cost of utilities increases, try using a tool like the Consumers Council’s Price Comparison Tables to find a more profitable energy supplier.
You can also contact your mobile operator to see if they can offer you a cheaper rate. Many suppliers will be willing to do this for loyal customers.
When doing your weekly grocery shopping, take advantage of supermarket loyalty programs and in-store discounts to keep the cost of your weekly bill low. Likewise, always look for restaurant deals when dining out. Many restaurants will offer deep discounts outside of peak hours.
Cancel unnecessary direct debits
Now is the time to take stock of waste. If you have a gym membership that you never use, for example, or a sloppy Netflix membership, it might be a good idea to cancel them. This could free up money that could go towards more essential expenses.
The pandemic has strained household incomes across NI and this pressure is increasing. Many families will inevitably find themselves in debt owing to the rising cost of living, coupled with the withdrawal of government support measures related to Covid. We urge anyone who feels they are having difficulty managing financially to seek professional debt advice from our expert advisors.
We want to remind Northern Irish households that they don’t have to face financial hardship on their own.
- Advice NI and the Independent Advice Network have 69 members and over 300 advisers across Northern Ireland, providing free and confidential advice to individuals and businesses. To access Advice NI’s money and debt advice and unlock your future, call the free number 0800 915 4604 or visit www.adviceni.net. To find a counseling center in your area, just visit www.adviceni.net/advice/local.
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