Thursday, 16 June 2016

Preparing for economic shocks

There is a good chance that the UK will vote to leave the EU in a referendum next week. Nobody knows whether this will be a good or bad thing in the long run, though both sides have vocal opinions about it. The markets and currency exchanges are jittery. In the short term we are quite probably in for another round of economic shock.

This isn't just a Brexit issue however. Plenty of experts have warned that the can of worms that was the credit crunch wasn't truly dealt with - that it was just kicked further down the road. Many ordinary people suspect this - they have endured almost a decade of sluggish growth, stagnant wages, zero hours contracts and austerity. The 'recovery' seems to be another round of asset bubbles ready to go pop.

In the run up to the referendum, I'm trying to get a few loose ends tied up. I've paid for next years school uniforms. We have made a few large purchases to finish our redecorating projects. The newly unfitted kitchen will be mostly complete next week:


Aside from that, my 'preparations' are just the things that have stood us in good stead through the economic turmoil of the past few years. Most of them are integral to a thrifty, simple life:

*Make sure all household paperwork is in order - in the event that we need to find alternative accomodation or switch banks at a moments notice, it's handy to know where everything is.

*Write a monthly budget - know what money is coming in and going out. It is much easier to find potential savings if you know where the money is going.

*Hold as little debt as possible - swap to lower rates of interest and pay it down as quickly as possible.

*Build up an emergency fund - several months income is the aim, but every little helps. I have been in situations where five pounds has been the difference between starving or eating for a week.

*Diversify savings - we hold several different accounts with different institutions in the event that one fails.

*Keep cash on hand - this is useful in domestic emergencies, and useful in the event of a repeat of Northern Rock.

*Keep and up-to-date CV.

*Stock up the pantry - we did this in the run up to the credit crunch when preparing for the arrival of our first child. Food prices (in the shops, not in the inflation indexes) rocketed, and we  saved several hundred pounds by stocking up. We also didn't have to worry about finding money for food in the event that maternity pay didn't stretch far enough. 

*Learn to live well on less - this is all about mindset. A healthy approach to needs and wants; a very healthy resistance to advertising and peer pressure; the curiosity to learn new skills; and the creativity to make a good life with less material resources.

After all that is done, I think you are as prepared as you can be. 

On the subject of the referendum, Martin Lewis wrote a great little guide about how - not why or which way - you should make your decision.You can read it here.

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