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Money for Life work in partnership with the Money Advice Service, an independent organisation set up by government. Money AdviceService provides free, unbiased money guidance across the UK to help people make the most of their money.  If you have a question or need help, you can chat to them here.

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How I’m handling furlough as a shift worker – with two jobs

Photo credit: Nikola Topić

 

Name: Ellen Casey

Age: 25

Occupation: Bartender/Barista

Status: Furloughed

 

Even before lockdown my income was a little precarious; it depended on two factors – how much work I took on and the pay points of my two jobs.

Why have two jobs you ask? A good question and one, 8 weeks into lockdown, I’m finding increasingly hard to answer. I worked as a bartender and barista in the now mythical establishments that are cafes/bars, with shifts that could range from 6am-2pm, to 7pm-2am.

One was a chain that mostly served busy city workers, working on a kind of conveyor belt slinging out industrial strength coffee; the other is a local coffee shop, showcasing local art and hosting biweekly jazz nights.

I worked part-time at both and a result, before lockdown, my income would fluctuate between about £980 to £1150 a month, completely depending on shift patterns. Living in London, that’s not a lot of money – my rent alone is £625, so in the leaner months I had to rely on the good graces of past me and her ability to scrimp and save in the face of spring sales.

I was furloughed from both my jobs in March (I was actually asked to join a conference call to be laid off from one job while working the evening shift at the other – this was the day before the furlough scheme was announced) – and received my long awaited 80% of wages on the 29th April. For the first time in years, I’m actually in the enviable position of having some form of a fixed monthly wage.

However, as I know very well, the money tree is not evergreen; so top tips for hanging in there during uncertain times?

Save even though it hurts

The easiest way I found to save without feeling genuinely mournful was to save a relatively small sum (it’s currently £50), and having it come out of my bank as soon as I was paid. That way it feels like it was never actually my money, and I can effectively trick my gullible little self into actually saving.

No online shopping after 10pm

This is the danger hour – you don’t need another crop top.

Shop smart

I’ve genuinely been feeling the burn after having to buy food for myself constantly; the great thing about working at cafes is that you can generally scam a stale bagel or whip up a strange meal out of kitchen leftovers. Left to my own devices I was scranning a shameful amount of chocolate biscuit bars in the first few weeks of lockdown. If you have a discount supermarket like Lidl or Aldi near you then run, don’t walk, and snap up the bargains – but if not, just remember that own brand items are just as good as the fancy branded version. Do not be suckered in by the bright colours and fun little mascots – head for the boring packaging always.

Support local businesses if you can

This is going to sound counter-intuitive, because buying locally is sometimes a little more expensive than those low low supermarket prices. But I really believe that in hard times, we should be supporting the local people that help our communities thrive.

Cash-strapped as I am, I try to support the kind of business that hands out strong tea to the rough sleepers on the high street and knows every regular by name; one that really believes in investing in the community they’ve built their business around. Of course, it’s not always possible, but those times when I can afford to, I’ll go for a takeaway coffee from my local tiny cafe, or books from an independent bookshop instead of defaulting to big businesses.

An important lesson I’ve learned in my years of closely contemplating my dwindling funds is that being financially conscious isn’t just about buying the most stuff for the cheapest amount – the Granny at the Market approach, if you will. At some point, you have to start thinking of your money as not only currency, but an investment in the things you care about, and the delicate ecosystem in which you live your life. Clearly, by my examples, these two things are caffeine and books.

 

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Money for Life work in partnership with the Money Advice Service, an independent organisation set up by government. Money AdviceService provides free, unbiased money guidance across the UK to help people make the most of their money.  If you have a question or need help, you can chat to them here.

Launch Chat

Chat to the Money Advice Service
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Saturday, 9am to 1pm.