13 Money Saving Tips for Doctors during the COVID-19 Crisis

Doctors aren't immune to money issues during the COVID-19 crisis! This article covers some important steps you can take to reign in your own finances.

There’s an assumption that because doctors work in healthcare, and healthcare is still very much in need of doctors during the crisis – that most medics will not have any money worries.

This is’t necessarily the case.

Doctors, medical students and their families, may be facing financial hardship as a result of Illness, injury, disability, bereavement or age as a result of COVID-19 or other factors.

An already difficult financial situation may have been worsened by the impact of COVID-19, whether working as a clinician or not.

The impact of mental health factors such as acute traumatic stress that much of the healthcare profession are facing, should not be underestimated as a contributory force towards money concerns.

..and we haven’t even started on the impact this has had on the self-employed doctors.

Therefore below I’ve summarised a few money saving tips for doctors to consider if they’re proactively looking to sustainable support their finances during these times.

Please kindly note, that any decisions you make based on this article are at your own risk – this is not designed to be financial advice – simply signposting.

Slash your mobile phone bills

Many of us overpay massively for our mobile phones after the promotional period is over (which we’re never notified about). Not forgetting the faux loyalty we may have to one network provider because we’ve been with them for years.

Well consider that you can get your monthly charge reduced substantially with the following:Unlimited Data for FREE

EE are offering NHS workers unlimited data until 9th October. Other providers are likely to follow anytime soon but none are offering it for this time frame so far.

Sky offers a SIM only plan from only £6 a month. This is on the O2 network if you’re wondering how much coverage you’ll get. Main downside with this is that if you’re in London and you take the tube, the underground WiFi isn’t included therefore you’ll need to pay a hefty fee if you need a connection inside stations.

There are also many other networks that are offering free add-ons such as unlimited minutes, and extra data to existing pay monthly phone users – so check your own network first.

Claim expenses if you’re working from home

If you’re working from home in any capacity, you can claim the added costs back at a general rate of £6 per week.

You can do this by either:

  • Employers pay you £6 per week extra tax free OR
  • Claim tax relief on every £6 you earn. Depending on your tax band it could be anything from £62 per year – or more if you’ve accrued more expenses than the average £6 per day.

You can claim this back on either your self-assessment or online P87 form for the HMRC.

Please note, that this is not a coronavirus specific arrangement. You’ve always been able to do this – check the Gov website.

Home and Mortgage Issues

We’ve heard of doctors who have actually been evicted having returned from their shifts which is extremely awful.

It’s a hard time for all in the housing arena, however the government have introduced important sanctions and have encouraged banks to support those in financial distress as a result of COVID-19.

In summary:

  • The government has essentially ‘banned’ all evictions during the crisis – however in practice it means that landlords have to give at least 3 months notice before commencing proceedings. Hoping that this will provide enough time for disputes to be resolved – especially if this is in response to being unable to pay rent.

  • Most if not all mortgage providers are offering mortgage holidays for those in financial difficulty. This should not affect your credit rating and it’s unlikely you’ll need to provide robust evidence you need the help. Check your mortgage provider’s website as many have online forms for application. If not, give them a bell and be prepared for a long wait.

  • The above is particularly relevant if you’re a landlord yourself and your tenants are struggling to pay. It may be worth pro-actively getting in touch with your tenants to see if their financial situation has been affected and reassure them accordingly. This will also help inform you as to whether you need to make plans for your own mortgage. Be aware that requesting payment holidays on buy-to-let mortgages may come with a bit more scrutiny!

Request a 3 month payment holiday from your Loan or Credit Card company

Currently banks or companies must be able to offer you this if you’re struggling financially due to the crisis, so make sure you contact them by July 14 2020 if this will help you manage your bills.

It is possible however that interest may still continue to accrue on your account during this time if applicable.

Apparently there’s also another catch where the lender will only give you the holiday if it’s a ‘suitable solution’. Most are unlikely to look into the detail unless you’re known to have significant financial issues prior – either way they’re encouraged to work with you to find a solution that will be beneficial to both parties.

Should you access cash through your Savings and Investments?

This is a question you should address to an independent financial advisor (IFA) as it really depends on your personal circumstances.

If you have a long term investment on the go (including pensions) and you don’t need the cash, remember that markets change all the time and taking it out now would only benefit you if the markets go down again afterwards. Which is unlikely in the longer term.

For those who were looking to take it out in the shorter term (ie. a year or so), you are best speaking to your IFA.

If you have cash sitting in a fixed rate savings account, many banks are offering access to this without the penalty that may have come with it if you did so before the end of your fixed term. Unfortunately this isn’t the case for a Lifetime ISA.

Get a £500 interest free overdraft with your bank

Recently the FCA announced that banks must offer this to customers for up to 3 months if they’re struggling due to the COVID-19 crisis.

For some banks it’s an automatic interest free arrangement, however for others you must specifically request, so again it’s best to check your bank’s website.

Remember that going beyond this will likely still result in up to 40% interest rate, so only use if you need to and definitely don’t get used to it.

Consider a 0% balance transfer if your current credit card interest rate is considerable

At the time of writing, this may be increasingly hard to get because of the crisis, however this could be a life saver for many who are stuck paying expensive credit card bills during a time of financial hurt.

The way this works is that you get another credit card company to pay off your existing debt and increasing interest, and you end up paying the new company but with 0% interest. Hurrah!

Most new cards will give you interest free for a promotional time period – make sure you take note of this so you can plan ahead for your repayments.

Can you claim through your Life or Income Protection Insurance?

Apparently you should be able to do this if you caught COVID-19 – however not if you’re on critical illness unless you become severely unwell with coronavirus.

Run a business?

Claim through your business insurance

A recent BBC article announced that the Financial Conduct Authority have mandated that insurance providers pay out where indicated as there has been a lot of bad press and resistance to paying out to companies with business interruption cover.

So if you struggled with your provider previously, go back to them again considering the FCA has put a hefty stamp on it.

The sad reality is that most small businesses, do not have insurance and will have to find other ways of staying afloat. Many have even taken to crowdfunding online in an attempt to keep themselves going.

Consider a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan

This isn’t exactly money saving however if your UK business has lost or could lose income due to the crisis, you can apply for a UK government underwritten loan.

Latest interest rates are reported as 0% APR for the first year and a reported flat rate of 2.5% per annum. No personal guarantees required if borrowing less than £250k.

You can access the scheme through various lenders. Apparently applying is much easier than it otherwise would be – especially if you’re applying for £50k or less.

Find out more on the British Banking website.

Have you lost income due to coronavirus as a self-employed / sessional / locum doctor? Claim from the government.

I’ve read stories on forums about GP locum doctors who have been effectively ditched from regular work with GP practices.

Really furious at how some practices are treating locums during all this. Either cancel, argue about terms, attempt to change terms, or see untriaged face to face against national guidelines!!

This is perhaps the tip of the iceberg, as demonstrated in my own Occupational Health specialty, where some colleagues have lost some work contracts due to fewer referrals from businesses.

It took a while longer for the UK Chancellor to come up with a fair package for self-employed however this has been announced as 80% of taxable trading profits of up to £2500 per month.

The application and the money for this is still unavailable, but keep on checking the government website for further details including eligibility criteria.

Recently left employment voluntarily and now essentially unemployed? Ask to be furloughed by your previous employer

The Coronavirus Retention Scheme was designed to financially support as many people as possible in the UK during this crisis, as all will be hit.

It generally works by your employer paying from 80-100% of your salary if they are unable to offer you work for at least 3 weeks in a row due to the crisis. The company can then claim back up to 80% from the government.

For many it sounds like a paid holiday, and in some ways it is – however being cooped up at home without much to do isn’t great for most.

For those who may have voluntarily left employment or was made redundant after 28th February 2020, you can still return to your employer and ask to be furloughed.

Find out more on the government website.

Resist the urge to buy a lot online

It’s now ridiculously easy to buy anything you need (besides supermarket shopping) online these days.

In our household, Amazon have made an increasing number of trips over the last few weeks..

With boredom comes buying stuff.

It’s perhaps really important to be mindful about how this may impact you financially in the longer term if your buying rate continues and consider other more creative ways to get what you need.

Subscription Freezes

Why not take the time to review your financial outgoings and freeze the regular payments you’re not using. Common examples include gym memberships.

From a professional perspective, consider asking your indemnity provider, and/or other professional bodies with whom you have a subscription to either freeze or reduce your monthly payments if you’ve been financially affected. It’s likely most, if not all will negotiate with you on a case by case basis.

We hope you found this article and tips helpful during these challenging times.

We’d love to hear from you if this has helped at all or if you have any additional money saving tips you’d recommend we feature!

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Abeyna Bubbers-Jones

Abeyna is the Founder & Director of Medic Footprints and a Consultant Physician in Occupational Health