How to Look After Your Finances During Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Last updated 06/01/2021 at 15:09

Brought to you in partnership with Money and Pension Service Youth Checkpoints programme.

If you have had to take time off work, have been furloughed (temporarily not working for your employer but are still on their payroll) or are out of work during the coronavirus outbreak, it's a worrying and stressful time. Whatever your situation, you might be particularly concerned about your finances and how you'll manage them.  

When there are still bills to pay and things to buy when you are experiencing a drop in income, what can you do to try and make sure you have enough money to cover these costs in the meantime?

Familiarise yourself with your rights

Understanding what your rights are at work, whether you're self-employed or are worried you might lose your job, will help you know what you're entitled to. Take a look at the Money Advice Service's guide on Coronavirus – what it means for you and what you’re entitled to, covering sick pay, what grants you might be able to access and the benefits available. This will help to give you an idea of what your income might be over the coming months. 

Make an emergency budget

Take a look at how much you have at the moment, what income you might expect over the coming months and what you're spending. We know this isn't a fun activity, but it's good to have a handle on what's happening and you'll likely feel more in control once you've done it.

The Money Advice Service's handy Budget Calculator can give you lots of advice on where you can cut a lot of costs, especially if you have less money coming in right now. 

Figure out how you can cut down essential spending 

There are some things that you have to spend money on, things like your electricity, rent, and food. But there are ways to cut some of these costs to make your money last longer.

Utilities (water, electricity, gas)

Although we are spending lots more time indoors, you can try and save money on your electricity and water bills by making sure to turn off the lights, unplugging things that you aren't using, having quicker showers so you use less water, and turning down the heating and popping more layers of clothing on.

Did you know that by turning down your thermostat by just 1°C - this could cut 10% off your heating bill?

It can also be a good time to try and switch suppliers, as this can help you save money. The Money Advice Service has some really good advice on how to do this.

If you think you might struggle to pay your bills, your most recent bill will have a phone number on it to call to talk to your provider. They will be able to tell you about ways you can make affordable repayments and they should also check if you’re on the best tariff for the amount of electricity/water/etc you're using. 

If you're having problems getting to or topping up your prepayment meter, the best thing to do is to get in touch with your supplier who will be able to help. Citizens Advice has lots of useful information if you have a prepayment meter.

Also, take a look at our information about how coronavirus is impacting mobile data and broadband and what you can do if you're struggling to pay your bills.


You should let your landlord know if you’re struggling to pay rent and discuss possible options with them as soon as possible. If you come to an agreement, for example, a reduction in rent or late payments, make sure you get this in writing. The Money Advice Service has a really good guide on how to talk to your landlord about rent payments. 

New legislation in Scotland means there will be no evictions of housing association tenants facing financial hardship because of coronavirus (COVID-19). 

If you have a mortgage, lots of mortgage providers are allowing you to take repayment holidays which mean you don't need to pay any, or a reduced amount of money toward your mortgage, for three months. It's best to chat with your mortgage provider about this. Here's what to expect when you request a mortgage payment holiday. 


In terms of food, it can be really good to meal prep. This means making a big batch of food once a week, dividing it into portions, and freezing it so you have breakfasts/lunches/dinner that you can have later on in the week, or can save for a couple of months! 

There also other ways you can cut back on how much money you spend on food. Here are some tips on how to save money on your supermarket shop.

If you cannot afford food at the moment, there are food banks across the country that can help. You can find your nearest food bank at the Trussell Trust website. 

With your Young Scot card, you can get 10% discount at the Co-op and Scotmid stores across Scotland. Remember that government guidelines say that you should only go shopping for essentials such as food once a day at the most.

Reduce non-essential costs 

If you're a live sports fan, it's probably time to cancel that BT/Sky Sports subscription for one, since there are very little sports currently taking place. And it might be worth putting your beauty box subscriptions on pause for a while too. 

Services like Now TV or Amazon Prime usually have offers where you can enjoy some free streaming TV for a while (usually for a month). Just remember to put a notification in your calendar to make sure you cancel it in time so you don't get charged.

Some libraries in Scotland are also putting lots of things online that you can access for free, you just need to sign up for a digital library card. It's worth looking up what your local library is offering. Find out what local authority you stay in and go on their website to find out.  And if you're missing your regular workouts, there are so many free ones you can access on YouTube once you've cancelled or postponed your gym subscription. 

It's important to still have fun and keep the things you really enjoy - we all need entertaining things to watch, read and listen to! Also, try and think a little differently - is it time to dig out your (or your family's) CD's/cassettes/vinyl, or dust off those old DVD/Blu-Ray boxsets you have, rather than paying for a streaming service? 

Dip into savings

Do you have savings that you could dip into? If you have an ISA, or other fixed-term or notice savings account, banks are being more flexible due to the current situation and therefore you may be able to access the money without paying a fee. Check with your bank or building society to see if this is an option for you. 

Access the help you're entitled to

If you aren't able to work at the moment, or your income has been reduced because of coronavirus measures, you should look into claiming benefits and other financial support that is available as soon as you can.

You might be able to get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you're ill from or are having to self isolate because of coronavirus. Take a look at Citizen Advice Scotland's information to see if you're entitled to SSP.

There are also lots of new or updated ways to get some extra financial support that have been announced to help people through the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. For example, in Scotland, you can apply for a crisis grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund.

If you already receive benefits and your income has changed you should update your council for your housing benefit and report the changes to universal credit. Shelter Scotland has a letter you can use to let the council know your circumstances have changed so they can update your housing benefit. If you receive Universal Credit, you can report a change in circumstances through your online Universal Credit account.

A £500 grant is available for anyone earning below the real living wage who has been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test & Protect. Including households where their children have been asked to self-isolate. From the 11th of February, you can download a certificate of proof from the Protect Scotland App that you can give to your employer or use when claiming the self-isolation grant as proof that you need to self-isolate.

For more information on if you are entitled to it and how to access this grant visit

If you're a student

On 7th April, the First Minister announced that a £5 million package of emergency financial support is being put in place to help university and college students facing hardship. In June, this was complemented by a further £11.4 million of discretionary funds available through colleges and universities. Speak to your college or university for information on how to apply.

Unlike students in higher education, most of those in further education can apply for benefits such as Universal Credit if they're unemployed, and colleges have the flexibility to offer discretionary funds to bridge the timing gap between bursary payments ending and Universal Credit payments starting. Courses to which this applies include:

  • National Qualification Framework level 3 or the Scottish Qualification framework level 6
  • General Certificate of Education Advanced level (A Level)
  • AS Level
  • Advanced Diploma
  • National Diploma, Certificate or Award
  • Level 3 NVQ, Award, Certificate or Diploma

For more information on accessing Universal Credit while you're in full-time education, visit the UK Government's website. For more information on the funds made available in June, visit Student Information Scotland.

If you are entitled to an Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA)

You will still receive your payments, even if you can't attend school or college because you:

  • you need to self-isolate
  • you have the virus
  • your school or college closes

Find out more about EMA here.

If you're an employee and can't work because of the coronavirus

From 20th April, the UK Government opened its Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This scheme allows employers to claim 80% of the wages they would normally pay an employee who is now furloughed (not working) due to COVID-19 so that they can continue paying them (up to £2,500 a month). Employers can 'top-up' the grant to pay you the remaining 20% but don't have to. To qualify, you need to have been on your employer's payroll by the 19th March 2020.

There's no rule in the scheme that says you can't work somewhere else while you are furloughed and receiving 80% of your wages. However, your employment contract with your employer may stop you from working somewhere else so it's worth checking if you intend to work elsewhere.

If your pay isn't the same each month - for example, if you're on a zero-hours contract or you do lots of overtime - the 80% of your wage will be calculated on the higher of

  • your earnings in the same month of the previous year or
  • your average monthly earnings from the 2019/2020 tax year

If you've worked for your employer for less than a year, the 80% will be based on on your average monthly earnings while you've worked there. If you think your furlough salary has been calculated incorrectly, speak to your employer. 

In July, the flexible furlough scheme was introduced which means you can be furloughed part time and work part time. Find out more about how this works on the UK Government website.

The scheme is set to last until March 2021. You can find out more at Money Saving Expert and at Citizen's Advice.

If you're self-employed or a sole trader

The government will pay you a grant for 80% of your monthly profits (up to £2,500 a month) for three months. If you're eligible for their self-employed income support scheme. Find out more about the self-employed income support scheme at the Money Advice Service.

Additionally, if you have coronavirus or are self-isolating, you might be able to claim Employment Support Allowance (ESA). Find out more on the Citizen Advice Scotland website.

If you have your own business

The government has said they will fund the costs of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for employers with workforces of 250 people or fewer for up to 14 days. You can also apply to HMRC for a grant to cover up to 80 percent of your employees’ salaries, up to £2,500 a month, if you furlough them.

The government has also announced grants and business rates support for small and medium sized business. Find out more about how the Government are supporting businesses impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19).

On September 24th it was announced that further support would be available for small and medium sized businesses. This includes the extension of loan repayment, the option to suspend loan payments or pay interest only repayments. Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans will also be extended for up to 10 years.

Businesses who deferred their VAT will no longer have to pay a lump sum at the end of March next year. There will be an option to spread the payment over 11 months with no interest.

Credit ratings will not be affected if any of these options are taken on.

If you're a young parent

Changes to the Pregnancy and Baby Payment, Early Learning Payment and the School Age Payment mean that parents or carers under the age of 18 are automatically entitled to this payment – even if they are not on benefits. People could still be eligible after their 18th birthday if COVID-19 meant that they couldn’t get their application in on time.

Support for funeral costs

Applications for Funeral Support Payment can be made up to six months following a funeral. The six month rule can be ignored for people applying late, if the reason for delay is in relation to COVID-19.

For the above benefits, the Scottish Government have advised that you apply by visiting, if you receive an automatic prompt advising that you are not eligible you are advised to still continue with your applications and, given you have a reasonable delay relating to COVID-19, your application will still be considered. If you're unable to complete the online form, you can request a call back by calling 0800 182 2222 Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm.

If you're care-experienced

Who Cares? Scotland have received some funding from the Scottish Government to offer financial aid for Care Experienced People and Kinship Carers to relieve fuel, material and food poverty. They could support people to get immediate help for essential items such as food, heating, clothing, nappies, bedding, and furniture.

Apply for Winter Aid from Who Cares? Scotland

Extension of the Help to Buy scheme

The Scottish Government has announced the Help to Buy (Scotland) scheme has been extended by a year to March 2022. For more information on the scheme, visit the Scottish Government Website.

More information and support

The Money Advice service has a great article guiding you through how to look after your finances during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Watch our CashChats series to hear from the experts on topics such as budgeting, saving, your rights and work and preparing to go to university. 

Learn more about the benefits you could be entitled to during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak from Citizens Advice.

See how your current benefits may be impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19). Get support from Citizens Advice if you can't pay your bills because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

You can also speak to the Money Advice Service for free, impartial advice. Call 0800 138 7777, Monday to Friday 8am - 6pm. You can also contact them using WhatsApp to discuss debts, credit questions and pension guidance, just add +44 7701 342744 to your phone and send a message.

More information from Young Scot on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Get more information about money management at Money & Me.