By Katie Binns
Take a financial fitness journey with a new online tool from the government’s MoneyHelper service.
It's similar to the popular Couch to 5k app training which many people downloaded during lockdown.
While it doesn’t have a celebrity voiceover to ease you into new ways like Couch to 5k, its step-by-step training is designed to help you cut spending, learn to budget, stay on top of bills and boost savings. There’s the option of an extra five weeks of activities to hone your money skills for life’s milestones such as starting a family, buying a home and saving for retirement.
Who should use Couch to Financial Fitness
If you're worried your finances are out of shape, then Couch to Financial Fitness is for you. It's a free way to get help, learn and boost your confidence in all areas of money matters.
If you also saw your finances deteriorate because of the coronavirus pandemic, then Couch to Financial Fitness can help you get back on your feet. Around 20 million adults (38% of the population) saw their finances take a hit during the pandemic according to the Financial Conduct Authority.
Top areas of concern for people who call the MoneyHelper helpline include debt (23%), home and mortgages (14%) and benefits (12%). While the Government has provided support schemes such as furlough and the Universal Credit uplift during the pandemic, these are now being scaled back.
Who runs Couch to Financial Fitness?
MoneyHelper is a new government service that replaces the Money Advice Service and The Pensions Advisory Service. You can contact the new service online via Webchat, over the phone or via Whatsapp. Pensions Wise, which offers free one-to-one guidance face-to-face, remains - but as a named service provided by MoneyHelper. MoneyHelper has seen more than a million more page views since the pandemic.
How does Couch to Financial Fitness work?
The MoneyHelper Couch to Financial Fitness is available online and is free to everyone. You can access it on your phone or via a desktop or laptop computer, for free.
Each week the programme takes you through three simple activities on a particular area of money to help get your finances in better shape.
- Week 1: budgeting no matter how big or small your income is. The first step about understanding what money you have coming in and going out
- Week 2: debt and staying on top of bills and payments. Make sure you are coping with any debt and not missing payments. It also takes you through how to get help
- Week 3: cutting your bills and spending. Understand what your spending patterns are and if it is worth it
- Week 4: looking at starting to save. How to get into the habit of saving regularly and build financial resilience.
When you have completed each section you’ll get a tick box to mark your completion of each step in the course. You’ll be asked how you feel as you cover each step using a sad or smiley emojis to measure your progress.
After the four week challenge, you can complete more courses, which go into details like getting a mortgage or financial consideration for starting a family.
Caroline Siarkiewicz, of the Money and Pensions Service, hopes the familiar format of Couch to Financial Fitness will help people make the same sort of gains in their financial wellbeing that many have made for their physical health.
“Managing our money can seem daunting at first. It can be difficult to get out of the starting block. But just like the journey to improve your fitness or mental health, starting with a few small steps and building your confidence gradually can bring big benefits, and often quite quickly.”
How one reader benefited from Couch to Financial Fitness
Bron Davies, a 25-year-old project manager in Cardiff, was made redundant during the pandemic. “I was forced to move back to my parents while I looked for work.”
She eventually found a job after pivoting into a different industry - but it came with a serious pay cut of £7,000. “Yet my frivolous spending did not change, I really was on the cusp of serious money problems and worried about the future as I knew I wanted to save and buy a home one day,” she says.
Bron did the four-week Couch to Financial Fitness course and immediately felt much more financially savvy and encouraged to continue with the more advanced five-week programme. “My biggest learning has been on credit scores in week five. I didn’t know anything about them before but now I feel I could borrow with confidence.”
Katie is staff writer at The Money Edit. She was the former staff writer at The Times and The Sunday Times. Her experience includes writing about personal finance, culture, travel and interviews celebrities. Her investigative work on financial abuse resulted in a number of mortgage prisoners being set free - and a nomination for the Best Personal Finance Story of the Year in the Headlinemoney awards 2021.
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