By Anila Baig

LIFE may be starting to slowly resume as lockdown ends and shops and businesses re-open but the impact of the Coronavirus crisis is still hitting hard.

Not only has our physical health been affected but there have been repercussions for our mental well-being, either through loneliness and isolation caused by social distancing and shielding or by financial worry.

One in four people have been furloughed during the pandemic, firms have been forced to make widespread redundancies and a number of big name companies have gone bust sparking fears of a deep and lasting recession.

In this climate of economic uncertainty it is difficult to keep a clear head so in the second of our series on mental health we look at the question of finance and what effect it has on well-being.

Council worker Michelle Taylor knows what it is like to live hand to mouth and says the current situation has brought back memories of how difficult it can be to balance a tight budget.

Michelle, 51, said: “Being a single parent there has always been anxiety about money. It’s very hard when you are relying on just one income and I always feel like you are just one wage packet away from destitution.

"A lack of money causes a great deal of stress and sleepless nights.”

She became a single parent when her children were aged six months, seven, eight and 15 years old and had to quickly learn how to manage her limited resources.

“The biggest expense was school uniform and school trips were always expensive and I had to budget carefully to be able to afford those.”

Now her children are grown up and only one remains at home things are much better financially but Covid-19 has had an impact.

“I have already been told that my job, which was on a two-year fixed term contract, won’t be renewed as a direct result of the pandemic.”

She was hoping to put extra money aside for her son who is aiming to go to university in September.

But having spent many years scrimping and saving she says she is in a much better position than before.

“When the children were small I would routinely go without in order to have enough for the things they needed.”

And the biggest tip she has is to forget the notion of ‘treating yourself.’

“I have a lot of friends who would say to me, get a loan, go on treat yourself, but I never saw the point of that.

“So many people fall prey to the doorstep lenders and it causes nothing but misery. They end up taking out multiple loans to pay off the first loan and spiral into despair.

“Sometimes it’s not even about treating yourself, they need the money for basic things like a washing machine or a cooker.

"Having four kids I was always scared of the washing machine breaking.”

Michelle says that a freezer is a good investment and she takes advantage of the ‘buy one, get one free’ offers at the supermarket.

“I did batch cooking which meant that there was always a supply of healthy home-cooked ready meals in the freezer if I didn’t feel like going in the kitchen.”

Naturally youngsters want the latest phones and gadgets but Michelle had a no-nonsense approach and told them firmly: “You can’t have the best phone but you can have the best phone that I can afford.

“Any treat things they wanted like trainers or sports clothes were reserved for birthdays and Christmas.

“We didn’t go on holiday but I made sure we had our own adventures.”

The one thing that Michelle felt guilty about was not being able to take her children to eat out at restaurants.

“Instead of going to McDonald's I would cook burgers and fries at home and get the kids to make the boxes that the Happy Meals came in.

“It was a fun activity and they loved doing it but I felt guilty about it. It was only recently they told me that that was one of the highlights of their childhood.”

Michelle also swears by an old cookery book she picked up from a second-hand bookstore many years ago.

“It’s a Farmhouse Kitchen cookbook I’ve had since I was 18 and it is full of those traditional recipes and it has been a godsend for helping me make nutritious and simple dishes.

“I make a vegetable pie using literally any leftover veg I have and a basic cheese sauce which is just flour, milk and butter and cheese.

"I also used to buy a lot of soya before being vegan became mainstream. The soya mince was a quarter of the price of meat and I could make a host of dishes like Bolognese, chilli, shepherd’s pie and the kids never knew the difference apart from one time they caught me with the empty packet.”

She also used to cut out coupons and vouchers from newspapers and magazines.

“I worked in a supermarket where I was in charge of sorting out the vouchers and I know how much they can add up to.

"I don’t do it so much now but when the kids were small it was a good way of buying them treats, the things that they didn’t normally have.”

Nowadays she is more likely to peruse the websites for good deals and swears by Money Saving Expert run by TV finance guru Martin Lewis.

“Those forums are fantastic. Often when you are in financial hardship the thing you fear most is judgement from other people but that online community is very friendly and supportive of each other and the tips are genuinely useful.

“Society has also changed and there is now no shame in buying from charity shops, in fact it is seen as environmentally friendly.”

There is a real danger of falling into the loan shark trap so to counter that Bradford Council set up the Bradford District Credit Union in 1993 to help residents get into the savings habit and access affordable loans.

These community banks are a 'Faith Friendly' place for people of all faiths and none to save as they share out profits in a dividend rather than pay interest on savings. They also lend to those who have a poor credit score.

Ian Brewer, Financial Inclusion Officer at BDCU, said it is not just about savings and loans.

“We believe in developing communities through collaboration and partnerships - that's why we set up and lead the 'Anti-Poverty Events Group' and helped over 1,500 people through road shows and community events.

"On July 7 we will be sending out 5,000 ‘Let’s Talk Money’ leaflets to vulnerable families with information on how to save money and get financial help during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We also are holding ‘Money SOS’ webinars to help community practitioners help their clients with money.”

One of their partnership projects is #LoanSharksAreMonsters and Ian said:

“The Stop Loan Sharks team has issued a warning amid concerns loan sharks may now be looking to take advantage of those who have found themselves in a vulnerable position during the pandemic and feel they have nowhere to turn for financial help.

“Loan sharks are unregulated and charge very high interest rates with an offer what appears to be a quick-fix small loan, but in the long term, any money borrowed will come at a very high price and may lead to violence, threats and intimidation.”

If you’ve been affected by a loan shark, or know of loan sharks operating in your area, contact the 24-hour confidential helpline on 0300 555 2222, email or use the online reporting form at

At the Credit Union, their main message is that there is no better time to start your savings habit with access to safe and low cost loans by joining the Credit Union by calling 01274 434100 or go online to

It can feel very hard to talk about money problems and ask for help, but do get professional advice if you need it.

Citizens Advice Bradford and Airedale have a telephone advice line (03442 451 282), and a website which can give you free information and advice about debt and benefits.

Men in particular can find it really hard to talk to someone when the are struggling with mental health but it really can help to take a positive step and speak to someone. You can call Guide-line, run by Mind in Bradford, on 01274 594594 from 12pm to 12am every day.

To find other local wellbeing and mental health services that can help with how you're feeling, visit:

• This article has been supported by Bradford Council.