How to manage finances through tough times

It’s common to have concerns about managing your finances. As the coronavirus pandemic has shown, unexpected events can suddenly create financial difficulties, putting us in situations we might never have planned for.

At The Co-operative Bank, we understand the challenges that financial difficulties can cause. But we also know that with the right support, these challenges can often be overcome.

If you’re concerned about managing your finances, our guidance below and from some of our Co-operative Bank colleagues may be able to help:

Get your finances organised

Organising your money into categories can help you understand your spending habits, prioritise bills and other outgoings.

Every approach to money management is different, but some common actions include:

Draw up a budget

Use a free online Budget Calculator to enter your monthly incomings and outgoings and plan a budget around your debts. These tools can help you to see how much you could afford to save each month, such as by cutting back on non-essential spending like TV and music subscriptions.

Antonia Wiggins, Manager at our Stafford branch, also advises shopping around to find cheaper insurance deals or lower tariffs on utility bills. “Shop around to find better deals,” she says. “Don’t just renew automatically.”

Identifying the most urgent bills

Some bills are classed as priorities because the consequences of not paying them are greater than others. For example, if you don’t pay your rent or mortgage, you could face eviction or repossession of your home.

Examples of essential bills according to StepChange are:

  • Mortgage or rent payments
  • Council tax
  • Energy bills

Create a list of bills in order of importance to understand which payments you need to meet first.

Check interest rates and repayment options

If you have debts on products such as personal loans, credit cards and overdrafts, go back and check the interest rates and repayment options for each product. There could be implications to not paying on time, such as financial penalties or a negative impact on your credit score. Again, understanding these implications will help you to prioritise your most urgent payments.

Consider consolidating multiple debts

A balance transfer is one option you may want to consider to help manage your finances. If you’re eligible, you may be able to move credit card debt, if you have it, to a single card with a lower interest rate. Whilst a balance transfer might be the right option for you, it's really important that you weigh up all benefits, costs and risks of the product you're interested in, so that you can make sure it fully meets your needs.

If you’re concerned about debt

If you’re concerned about debt and feeling overwhelmed, the first step is to take a deep breath, relax and assess your situation.

Try asking yourself these quick questions:

  • Do you have concerns about the amount of money you owe?
  • Do your repayments only cover the monthly minimum on your debts?
  • Do you often pay bills late?
  • Do you sometimes exceed your overdraft or credit limits?
  • Do you ever withdraw money from cash machines with a credit card?
  • Do you borrow even more money to pay off existing debts?
  • Do you depend on your overdraft to get by each month?

If you’ve answered yes to some of these questions, or you’re worried about your finances, let us know. We may be able to help.

If you’re still unsure whether you need help with your finances, you can take the StepChange 60 second debt test. StepChange is an impartial debt charity that we work closely with, and which can offer you advice and support.

By understanding the challenges in your finances, you can then start to make a plan for what your next steps should be.

See how StepChange helped Jamie to overcome his debt problems

Seek advice and support

If you’re behind with payments or you just need some respite to take control of your finances, you can contact your creditors directly to discuss your options. Gill Holmes, Manager at our Bristol branch, says: “Let your creditors know straight away if you are struggling to pay. Often they'll be able to help you review your situation and can provide repayment options to support you.”

And remember that you shouldn’t suffer in silence. If you're continuing to experience financial difficulties, seek advice and support.

In the first instance, you can visit our website for information on all the financial support you need.

If you are a customer of The Co-operative Bank and would like more help and information, you can contact us here.

We’ll listen to your situation and work with you to offer a payment arrangement based on your individual circumstances.

Independent help

As an ethical bank, we also work with a number of charities and organisations that can provide further support to those who are experiencing financial difficulties and other challenging times. There are a number of organisations who can help.


StepChange is a UK charity which offers free debt advice based on an assessment of your situation, as well as practical help and support.

Get support and advice from StepChange

Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice offers free and impartial advice for people experiencing financial and debt-related problems.

Get direct help from Citizens Advice


Turn2Us will let you know if you're eligible for benefits or Universal Credit.

Visit the Turn2Us website

Further support

Learn more about our financial support partners and other helpful services

Not found what you're looking for?

Contact our support team