The disruption caused by coronavirus has no precedent in peacetime.
Over recent days, the Government has implemented measures that will have a huge impact on the economic landscape of the country and our collective social fabric.
Not since the Second World War have individuals and households been put under so much strain and been asked to change their daily routines so drastically.
There have been some bumps in the road towards getting everyone to abide by the new guidelines and rules. Reports have emerged, for example, of individuals still congregating in large groups, ignoring the scientific advice provided by the Government to remain at least two metres apart and only meet in groups of two.
In Wales, those trying to get away from the virus by setting off in their camper vans has caused a bottleneck in caravan parks, for example. Similarly, Australia has seen many people to Bondi Beach, despite advice to stay indoors.
Thankfully, most people have changed their behaviour to fit the new state of affairs. Many will be turning to video chat apps such as Facetime to help maintain contact with friends, family and work.
It’s not just how we behave that has been affected by the disease, but how we shop and work too. Both of these are intrinsically related to financial management. So, how can tech help us through this difficult period?
In these difficult times, many individuals and families will be concerned about their financial health, as well as physical health. From the closure of local businesses, to freelancers seeing work ‘drying up’ as a consequence of the government’s measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, many will have seen their income shrink over the past month. Whilst government support packages are in place, the majority will still see their budgets stretched like never before.
However, technology is on hand to help families and individuals manage their income during self-isolation. One of these, Mint, allows individuals to input all expenditure and income, as well as any assets they might own, and uses this information to calculate where they stand financially.
For those wanting to integrate all of their payments and accounts into one digital ecosystem, it might be worth researching new digitally-oriented banks like Monzo or Revolut, who notify users whenever the card makes a transaction. The banks also offer apps, which are well-designed and usually easy to use, making online banking accessible for the majority of the population.
There are other benefits to these management tools that might not be immediately apparent. Some, for example, break down your various spending categories, helping you establish which areas to cut back on. Of course, this might not be useful for those who are already aware of all of their outgoings, but many people take a more laissez faire approach and might be surprised by how much they spend on non-essential items.
Having developed a firm understanding of one’s financial position, consumers might be surprised to see how much they are spending on certain products, such as utilities or insurance.
However, self-isolation could prompt consumers to shop around for better deals to save money in the long-term. Price comparison websites can help with this process, outlining what benefits different providers have to offer. Spending time that might previously have been dedicated to commuting, or going on a short walk might now be spent comparing your current deals to those otherwise available.
Technology can also keep society safer during self-isolation, particularly when it comes to finances. Although now very much part of day-to-day, contactless payments are a prime example. By reducing the amount contact required in shops, the risk of passing on the virus is limited, whilst also providing users with a quick way to pay.
Similarly, isolation will no doubt increase demand for ways to purchase products online — whether it be via Amazon or otherwise. In turn, this will also reduce the amount of interaction between individuals, thereby helping also to reduce it spreading. For those with chronic health conditions and who are at risk, this can only be a good thing.
In addition to personal finance management, communities across the UK are using technology to help their neighbours. Indeed, crowdfunding apps are now being used by small groups to raise money for local causes.
For example, communities are rallying together, via an app, to raise money for a food shop for an individual who is unable to leave their home after experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or to send a food hamper to their local NHS hospital. In such uncertain times, it certainly is comforting to see technology facilitating small acts of kindness amongst communities.
Of course, these are unsettling times, and it will be difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Given the circumstances, gaining control and clarity over finances, or indeed helping others to get by, will come as a great comfort to many.