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One of the silver linings to come from the COVID-19 lockdowns and pandemic restrictions is undoubtedly how much money we’ve all managed to save while waiting to return to our “normal” routines. Whether it was cancelled vacations, fewer opportunities to shop (local and cross-border), less money spent on entertainment or far less frequent dinner dates or bar adventures, our wallets were happy.
According to the central bank, the gap between spending and wage expectations has never been wider in Canada. As restrictions lift and our routines slowly return to “normal,” it’s looking like we’ll be ready to spend all those extra savings over the course of the next 2 years. As our optimism for a healthy future grows, so do our plans to live life to the fullest by enjoying all the things we took for granted prepandemic: going out on the town at the end of a hard workday, the excitement of taking day trips to explore new areas or the planning of elaborate vacations and parties to celebrate milestones (or pretty much anything at all at this point).
As the world opens up again, it’s important to keep your financial goals in mind so you don’t get caught up in unrealistic spending habits that could cause serious issues down the road or negatively impact your short- or long-term savings goals.
Evaluate Your Finances And Spending Year-To-Year
Most Canadians were actually able to save more money in 2020 than in a typical year. As time continues and the pandemic shifts our spending priorities, it’s important to use your previous habits as a guide for growth. Having a better understanding of your financial priorities in 2019 and 2020 will give you a better idea of how to move forward through 2021 and beyond.
Come Up With A Budget
Throughout the pandemic, most Canadians have likely dealt with income fluctuations and may have taken on support through government programs like CERB or EI. As a result, managing your finances in a post-pandemic world may be slightly different from the process you’re used to when it comes to budgeting. The ever-rising cost of living, in combination with higher taxes to repay government funding support programs, could mean that we have less money sitting around for a rainy day.
If the pandemic has you itching to get away, you should start considering your next travel adventure in advance so you can work out a budget and a savings plan that won’t put any financial pressure on your day-to-day routine in the meantime. Reactivate any travel reads programs or third-party savings apps you may have discontinued at the start of the pandemic and focus on finding options that offer flexibility as the world continues to move through this new COVID-19 landscape.
Food And Eating Out
Over the course of the pandemic, you may have realized just how much money you normally spend on dining out. If you’re lucky, you may have also discovered a new passion for baking and cooking that could help you cut back on those costs as you move forward. If you know you’ll want to continue picking up takeout or going out with your friends occasionally, make sure you factor that into your budget so you don’t get caught off guard when the costs start eating away at your savings.
If you’re like most Canadians, you may have learned something interesting about your shopping habits during the pandemic. Did you notice a shift in your needs or wants? Did you discover that you truly have everything you need or that shopping is important part of your regular routine? Regardless of your personal discoveries, think about how your findings can be worked into a new budget as you move forward. If you enjoyed having the extra income for your savings while shops and businesses were closed, consider taking money away from your shopping habit to fund your new priorities.
If you’re able to take advantage of low interest rates and shift more income into paying off your debts while you have fewer financial obligations on your plate, you can make a big impact! While rates are currently low and trends are showing that they’ll stay that way through the remainder of the year, it’s important to expect the unexpected. If you can pay off a sizeable portion of your debt, do it now while the rates are low and adjust your plan accordingly if they increase.
Over the course of the pandemic, many of our recreational hobbies were modified, or in some cases, canceled entirely. Classes, workshops, events, sports, theatres, fitness clubs and more were forced to shut their doors or modify their offerings. This likely resulted in many items we’d normally spend money on being removed from our budgets entirely. Consider this past year an opportunity to take a hard look at what hobbies are worth continuing to pursue and which were just a budgetary burden.
Give Yourself A Spending Buffer
It’s likely that you’ll want to spend more this coming year than you did the previous year, so allot for that right from the start. Once your basics are covered, you can move that extra money around as you see fit. Be realistic about each budget category and aim to round up when considering how much money to place in different areas. Better to have extra money floating around than to constantly overshoot your goal.
Build An Emergency Fund
Although you may be tempted to place every dollar in your budget into specific categories that are important to you, it’s vital that you don’t overlook the value of an emergency fund. As COVID-19 has taught us, there’s no way to predict the future and what it will hold, so think of your savings account as an insurance policy for whatever life may throw your way. Not sure where to start? It’s typically advised to keep enough cash to cover 3 months of your expenses tucked away at any given time.
What Is Revenge Spending?
Revenge spending is a rush to spend your money as a means of finding normalcy in a world that hasn’t been normal for quite some time. We shouldn’t have to spend money to feel “normal” but for most of us, consuming is a big part of our lives. It’s likely that as restrictions continue to lift, life as a consumer is going to get more expensive. Pair impending inflation, product shortages and supply chain interruptions with your strong impulse to purchase new things, and you’ve got a dangerous combination.
How To Avoid It
As you return to socializing with friends, working from the office and attending functions/events, make sure you keep your finances in mind so you don’t get caught revenge spending to make yourself feel better. If you’re worried about your self-control, you may want to consider speaking with your financial institution about card transaction limits or prepaid cards to help you better manage your spending as you being to open up your social calendar once again.
Always think about why you want to spend and what your motivating factor is for making a purchase of any kind. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that budgeting is easier when you have more money, but it’s often easier with less. When you don’t have room for waste, you’re more mindful of each purchase and you’re able to really focus on what matters most.
As things open back up and our lives return to “normal,” it’s important to hold tight to the lessons we learned during the pandemic and apply them to our lives as we continue to move forward.