Many third sector workers, particularly those on the national minimum wage, are finding it hard to make ends meet. Once a missed payment occurs it can be hugely challenging to return to an equitable place where money no longer feels like such a squeeze. Yet with some targeted advice, a willingness to make changes, a constructive dialogue with the employer and bespoke planning, things don’t need to get out of control.
Cut the commute: Covid has re-established working patterns permanently and for the employee hybrid working by default also negates the need for expensive train commutes and/or driving costs and parking charges. If presenteeism is expected, talk to your employer about reviewing the rules when productivity is assessed.
Take advantage of employee discount schemes: Many employers offer discounts on an array of products and services that will reduce costs to the employee consumer. These can range from gym memberships to mortgage products. Some employers subscribe to rewards packages such as Perkbox that offers thousands of discounts for workers on high street brands and retail products.
Slide into salary sacrifice schemes: Employees can choose to take advantage of a range of products from childcare vouchers to cycle to work schemes via a salary sacrifice scheme in which an employee sacrifices part of their pre-tax salary in exchange for these benefits. The advantage to the employee is obtaining these items without the need to pay tax or national insurance on these goods.
Take advantage of free food and drinks perks at work: Your charity or not-for-profit employer may have a canteen with discounted meals or may offer fruit, biscuits, and other food items for office workers. Take advantage of these perks as well as free tea and coffee and consider swapping an existing expensive retail, hot beverage for making one at work.
Enquire about extra shifts/work: Your employer may be looking for bank staff in busy periods. This may be linked to fundraising events or where phones need to be manned to take calls from donors and philanthropists. Sometimes, budgets may not allow, and volunteers are asked first but talk to your employer to see if there are ways you can raise your salary by taking on an extra shift or doing more work.
Attend financial planning and support sessions: Many employers provide financial education for their staff. This might be part of a wellbeing package but if your charity is smaller ask your employer if they have affiliations with any support groups. Understanding how to plan your money, afford seasonal gifting, cope with a hike in mortgage payments or cut your utility bill are valuable life lessons that will help ease the pressure and ensure that your money works for you in the best possible way.
Access hardship funds: When things are tough and you are in jeopardy of defaulting on monthly payments either for car loans, rent to a landlord or your mortgage, it’s time to seek help. Your employer will be able to point you in the direction of where you can go to find the appropriate help. There may be a hardship fund for employees that have hit difficult times or access to a low-interest loan that can be arranged to meet short-term costs. The important thing is to start talking about how things really are.
Change your consumer habits: There’s never been a better time to evaluate where all your money goes, and most banks can provide some data on how your salary is apportioned. It may become clear that an ill-placed affiliation with a particular supermarket, brand or high-street retailer needs to stop or change temporarily. Loyalty, when the cost-of-living bites can be misplaced. A good starting point is assessing what you are putting in your supermarket trolley. Can branded goods be swapped for similar but lower-cost items?
The cost-of-living crisis looks set to stick around for many more months to come, if not longer, and the quicker we can alter and change our spending habits while taking advantage of favourable rewards and benefits packages at work, the better. With some careful planning, strategy and forethought, employees in the sector can ensure things don’t spiral out of control.