As New Zealand heads into unprecedented economic times, it’s very understandable for people to be concerned about their finances. If you anticipate or are experiencing tough times, there are things you can do to try to make things easier for you and your family.

1. Get a clear picture of your financial position and plan for the coming months.

We recommend you take a close look at your finances and your needs for the next 6+ months.   Use Love My Money’s step-by-step Journeys and resources to help you understand where you’re at, and steps you may need to take.   The My Budget Journey and the Net Worth Journey will help you with this.

2. Look at inventive ways to reduce spending

Have a look at what spending is absolutely essential, and what’s not. Most people have some non-essential spend they can cut down on, eg eating out, buying clothes or gifts. Reduce and redirect that spend to help you manage and have enough for the essentials.

Subscriptions or direct debits: Are you paying for things you don’t really need or aren’t going to use? Review and decide what to cancel or suspend.

Groceries: Your grocery bill is often one of your largest weekly expenses. There are lots of ideas you can find online for making savings. Get inventive, learn new skills, and find tips on what’s nutritious and how to make your food go far. For example:

Do a meal plan to know exactly what food you need, so you can be prepared, only buy what’s required, and minimise waste.

How about a “pantry challenge” – search online for ideas on using what you have in the pantry already (and help alleviate the pressure on your local supermarket!).

Do you have room for growing veges in a pot or corner of your garden? There are many nutritious easy options to grow from seeds. You can buy them online and many can be grown indoors or all year round.

Buying groceries online is a great way to shop for specials. Plan ahead and put your orders in early (no panic buying!). Consider budget or supermarket brands, instead of premium ones. If you want to support small businesses, there’s a new online farmers market for local artisan producers.

Utilities: Take some time to look at what savings you can make on household bills, eg gas, electricity, phone, mobile and internet costs.

Providers compete to offer better deals, and most are offering special support for COVID-19. For example, Spark is (from the 23rd March for 60 days) waiving late fees and not terminating services for people in financial hardship.

Here are some ways to save on water and electricity. Providers are also offering payment plans and tips to help, eg see Mercury’s support here.

Insurance: Check what insurances you have and whether the level of cover is right (your financial adviser can help with this). Often people are over-insured or have overlaps in cover. You may be paying more in premiums than you need to.

Cheaper Living NZ is a Facebook page that has all sorts of great tips shared by a community of more than 116,000 members. It is supported by the Government Money Talks service, which is also a Love My Money partner listed on our People Who Can Help page.

3. Seek financial help if needed

Check what help is available from your employer, the government, your bank or financial provider. See the info and resources listed on our dedicated Help Page for you.

If you pay rent, ask your landlord for a rent decrease. They will want to keep money coming in. It will likely be in their interests to have you stay and pay a bit less rather than run the risk of not have rent coming in for a while.

If you have a mortgage you will probably be aware that the Government announced a 6-month principal and interest holiday. This is exceptional news that will reduce stress for many people. Speak to your bank for what’s possible for you.

If you have a personal loan, overdraft or consumer finance, speak to your provider about repayment options such as a repayment holiday or extending the term to lower the monthly costs. Whatever you do, do not stop paying without speaking to them. Act soon - they will appreciate it and be more willing to help you.

If you have credit card debt, in addition to speaking to your provider about repayment options as above, you could consider moving your existing balance to a 0% balance transfer card. Check the terms – often the 0% stops if you use that new card for transactions.

Financial providers are receiving very high call volumes at the moment. Check their websites for ways they might be able to help and the best ways to contact them.

4. Keep calm and stay positive

Financial stress has an impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. By taking these steps you minimise that, and put yourself in a better, stronger position. Be sure to take some active steps to nurture your wider wellbeing and balance the demands of this time.

Have faith in New Zealand’s strong financial system and the support that is being provided to contain and manage this. Stay home, look after yourself, and unite against COVID-19!