On the money

With the third lockdown under way life has been financially difficult for many. ITV This Morning’s money saving expert Emmanuel Asuquo offers some advice

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a lot of people take a drop in income and for some the 20 per cent drop caused by furlough has been enough to put them in overdraft and other debt.

For those who are struggling I always ask: how much does it cost to be you? Get to grips with your money. Look at your outgoings, your travel, utilities, living costs, food – and if you’ve got kids how much it costs each month to get by. You have to really understand that number and your real monthly income.

A lot of people are worried about losing their jobs. It’s hard but you can’t simply wait for that to happen. What you need to do is add value to yourself by retraining and seeing if your skills can be moved into online roles and adapt to the new situation. It’s a big change but none of us have seen this situation before. Look at the free materials and resources on the Open University and others. It may only cost you time. Don’t wait till you become redundant.

Stay alert. A lot of people may say they’re too old, or its not for the likes of us. But the skills of the older generation are enormous. Sit down and analyse your life skills and experience and think about targeting industries where you can really thrive.

Examine your priorities too, including your treats. The free school meals campaign is important and we all agree that feeding your child should be a priority. At the same time some who tell others how to live have never been in that situation. If the one thing you can give to yourself is a cigarette I don’t think that can necessarily be held against you

I believe that financial education should be on the curriculum. If your child goes to school, college then university with credit cards and student loans, you’re often setting them up to fail and people win from those failures. Working in banks I’ve seen too many people make money from debt itself.

Sometimes when you are tight with money you can be shy and embarrassed, but be open and work together. London is expensive which can make it difficult to participate, and this can help to create a divided society. Community events are difficult in lockdown but if there are events, such as a swimming club or bowling – you can often barter a discount.

Some want to get rich quick. But anyone can be rich for a moment. We’ve seen people win the lottery and within a few years they go bankrupt. It doesn’t last because they haven’t learned how to manage money.

Learn how to manage £10, then £100, then £1000. A lot of people – particularly the young – want to spend all the money they earn. We need to teach them how to budget.

The main thing we spend money on is food – so look at where your spend it – can you cut down? If possible go to cheaper places like Aldi and Lidl and don’t just go into the supermarket – plan for meals so there’s less wastage. Take packed lunches if you go out to work. If you have children have a snack list. When children are at home they’re bored and they eat so account for their daily snacks.

Many people don’t have that discipline but necessity often brings it out of them. In a situation like we’re in, we must understand the importance of an emergency fund as we can’t always rely on work, the Government or Universal Credit. Have some self-assurance and put more money into savings. It’s empowering.

I grew up in Tower Hamlets and couldn’t afford the basic stuff that others took for granted – trainers, school shoes, clothes. With school trips you’d be one of the few kids left back in class. But for me, from a council estate, I wanted better in life. My parents weren’t born in the UK and didn’t have that opportunity but it became my motivation. I lived close to Canary Wharf, and looking at those buildings through my bedroom window became my vision board. My mum would shout if I left the light on, and I’d see all those buildings with lights on.

 Some people save and don’t enjoy life while others spend in a YOLO spirit and that instant gratification is helped by the Internet. But there has to be balance and I remind young people that no one posts on social media when life goes bad – only when it’s good. Also, self-worth can’t be gained by a car, iPhone or a fancy restaurant. Understand your value and you’ll enjoy a better life.

There’s a lot that’s wrong with the world but I looked at the things that were in my power, like being on time, being positive, friendly and achieving something every single day. I’ve had so many rejections and learned a lesson from each of them. Getting a mentor is a good idea.

I understand what it’s like to not have anything. I can’t lie that I’ve never resented people born into very wealthy lives. But for me my wife and kids are the things that are most important to me and the most important things in life are free. This year we’ve lost a lot of people from Covid-19. So let’s look at what we do have in common, foster a true community ethos – and teach our children how to manage money and avoid debt.

Visit: emmanuelasuquo.com