Personal Budgeting Tips & Tricks
What Will Your Post-Pandemic Budget Do for You?
by Julie Jaggernath
Following personal budgeting tips and having even a good simple budget is going to become more important as the economy fully reopens and things get back to normal. If your job has been stable throughout the pandemic or you’re getting back on track now in 2021 after income uncertainty in 2020, your next thoughts might be about how you’ll catch up on all the good things you missed. This could, unfortunately, set the stage for a lot of catch-up spending and heap debt onto what you still owe from before or during the pandemic. While hugs might be free of charge, travel, shopping, and activities big and small come with a price tag.
According to FCAC survey data, as many as 23% of Canadians believe they’ll never have what they want. This isn’t entirely surprising, but likely a more profound sentiment for those living on a tight budget because of the pandemic. This feeling can have an impact on your spending as we enter the pandemic’s recovery phase. Here are practical budgeting tricks for beginners and the experienced alike to help you keep your catch-up spending within your means and easy on your wallet:
Figure Out Your Post-Pandemic Budget
Many Canadians – including college students, millennials, young adults, couples, families, single moms and dads – learned new smart budgeting tips & tricks to help them deal with low income during the pandemic. Regardless of where you stand, however, managing your budget and finances in a post-pandemic world will need to be slightly different. Living costs are higher. Government support during the pandemic will likely result in higher taxes and/or user fees. Effective monthly money management includes spending below your means so that you have money to set aside for emergencies. A revised household budget will be your key to managing different financial priorities. Beyond the basics of building a budget that works, reflect on what you learned about money during the past 12-15 months and base your changes on your insights.
Keep in mind that a few types of expenses will likely need some extra attention:
Whether you like to stick close to home or travel abroad, consider how best to plan your next adventure. Start setting savings aside, reactivate your travel rewards credit card, and look for discounts that can be redeemed with enough flexibility to account for any change as the end of the pandemic unfolds. If your travel plans or flights were cancelled as the lockdowns started, reread the terms and conditions of any vouchers you may have received. Take advantage of what you already paid for before shelling out for more.
Many Canadians discovered how big a bite eating out, snacks on the go, and drinks on the run took out of their budget. And almost as many people discovered how much they like to cook and eat at home. This budget category is one you have a lot of control over, especially if you combine it with some basic meal planning. If you like to pick up take-out or dine with friends, factor that into your budget and enjoy this pleasure guilt (and debt) free.
How did your recreation choices change during the pandemic? What changes will you keep as your community opens up again, and which will you abandon in favour of how you did things before? Depending on your activities of choice, there might be more free/lower cost options now than before. Adjust your budget as you answer these questions for yourself.
Whether for clothes, home décor, household items, or toys for yourself or your kids, what did you discover about your shopping habits during the lockdowns? Did your needs and desires change based on changes to your activity levels? Only you know the answers to these questions, but most of us discovered that we have more than we truly need. If that was you, think about how you’ll incorporate that into your post-pandemic spending plan.
As they say, make hay while the sun is shining. Take advantage of the low interest rates to make as big a dent in your debt as you can. Once you’re back to a stable level of income, consider what debt consolidation option is best for you. Even if you’re not seeing the extremely low interest rates on your products, e.g. credit cards, lenders are and it gives them more flexibility to help their clients than when rates are higher. Waste no time executing your plan once you have one. Interest rates are expected to stay low through next year, but if there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected.
The unexpected can happen at any time, so think of savings as your personal insurance policy for whatever comes your way. If you didn’t factor savings into your pre-pandemic budget, you need to consider that savings is an important expense going forward so that you’re well protected whenever the next unexpected situation or opportunity comes your way.
Think About Why You Want to Spend
If you didn’t think you were good at budgeting your money before you were suddenly faced with less of it – and then you found you could actually budget better than you thought you could – you’ve learned a valuable lesson. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking budgeting is easier when you’ve got more money, but the truth is that it’s often easier during times with less. The reason is simple: with less, there isn’t as much room for waste. Each purchase becomes a mindful activity, a trade-off between expenses and a laser focus on what’s most important.
When it comes to prioritizing your spending post-pandemic, keep any good habits you developed and ditch the bad. Ideas include:
Plan Your Purchases
Make a list before you go shopping based on what you need. This is especially true for grocery shopping. Meal plan with what you’ve already got and what you can add from sale items at your favourite store. Be sure to use up anything you stocked up on in the early days of the lockdowns.
Avoid buying duplicates that aren’t really needed. If you’ve already got two or three jackets, don’t buy another. Organize your laundry system better so that you don’t need to overbuy clothing for kids that seem to outgrow their clothes every month anyways. For household items, adopt a one in, one out rule.
Stashing Your Stuff Adds Up
Avoid paying to store items you don’t need or want. It’s easy to fall into this trap if we live in a home that’s bigger than we need. Not only can the mortgage be bigger on a bigger home, utilities cost more as well. If you live in a small space, you might be paying rent for a storage locker each month to store things you don’t even use. Unless an item is seasonal or of true sentimental value, chances are you’d never miss it.
Avoid Expressing Emotions Through Spending
Don’t express how you feel through your spending. Your emotions are important, but avoid letting them influence your financial decisions in a disproportionate way. Whether online or in person, stay away from your favourite retailers if you’re not in a neutral emotional state. And even then, identify what you need to buy ahead of time so that each purchase takes you closer to your goals, not further away from achieving them.
Spend within Your Budget
Feeling like you missed out or that you need to catch up on something is much like FOMO, the fear of missing out. FOMO could elicit feelings of fear, frustration or upset, and because these aren’t enjoyable feelings to have, you’ll feel motivated to get rid of them. Be conscious about the role these emotions play in your motivation to spend. The best way to spend on what you feel like you missed out on is to plan your spending ahead of time. Based on your budget, allot yourself an amount and spend within that. Sticking within what you can afford helps resist the temptation of paying with credit. The last stressor you need now is to dig yourself deeper into debt.
The desire to catch up on what you feel like you missed out on isn’t unique to consumers; retailers are feeling it too. In an effort to encourage consumers to spend, retailers will resort to tactics typically associated with Black Friday and holiday shopping. To outsmart the strategies designed to encourage you to part with your hard-earned cash, pull out your savviest tricks. Avoid shopping each day or each week to reduce temptation. Insert a time delay into your spending decisions by forcing yourself to wait a day or two between seeing an item and actually buying it. And then ask yourself the ultimate question: what will happen if you don’t buy it? Don’t fall for marketing psychology – it’s big business, and the deals and deep discounts usually feel better than they truly are.
Get Personal Help & Budgeting Tips from a Non-Profit Credit Counsellor
If you’re worried that a return to normal will run your budget off-track, keep it going straight with professional budgeting help from a non-profit credit counsellor. Our friendly counsellors are happy to give free and confidential advice on sticking to a budget that works for you. You can call us at 1-888-527-8999, send us a quick email, or begin an online conversation with a member of our team. If you’d like to learn more on your own, or even become the redditor everyone comes to for advice about money, you can get help making a personal budget with our free, in-depth resources and self-guided courses. We’re ready to give you the support you need whenever you need it!