Managing Your Finances During the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic not only caused a devastating public health crisis but also affected the global economy. With businesses closing and employees losing their job, everyone, regardless of their social status, is feeling its financial impact. There is no doubt that the times are tough, especially with our health and economic future remaining uncertain.
No matter how your current situation is during this crisis, managing your finances is now more crucial. Although some factors affecting our financial health are beyond our control, there are certain practices that we can change to promote and improve it. Below are some ways and tips you can follow to help you manage your finances during the pandemic.
Find out if you’re entitled to any government assistance
The national and local government has several assistance programs that can help you during these tough times. You might want to check if you’re entitled to access and claim these benefits or other financial support available to you as soon as possible. It’s a good idea to regularly check government websites and official pages or call your local government office to avoid missing out on these financial aids.
For example, last year, the Department of Social Welfare and Development provided cash subsidies to low-income families through the Social Amelioration Program. You can also look into the Social Security System and Pag-IBIG’s calamity loan to see if you’re eligible. Those who lost their jobs because of the pandemic may apply for unemployment benefits from the Social Security System.
Review your current financial situation
Because of the lockdowns, no-work-no-pay policies, temporary pause in business operations, and even company layoffs, many people aren’t able to work at the moment or had their income reduced. That means your financial well-being may not be the same as it was in 2019. So before you start managing your money, you will need to reassess your financial situation and see how much you currently have.
After all, you won’t know the best way to move forward if you don’t know where you are. When evaluating your financial situation and well-being, calculate your cash flow and spending. You must keep track of your financial assets, review your credit reports, and evaluate your net worth. If it’s on the negative side, then addressing your budget should be your top priority.
Find out how you can cut down your essential spending
During these times of financial uncertainty, it’s important to be extra frugal. Sure, some things are essential in life where you have to spend money on, like your electricity, water, food, and rent. However, there are a few steps you can follow to cut down your expenses so that your budget can last longer.
Although most of you are spending more time at home, you can still save money by reducing your water and electricity bills. Make sure you unplug electronics when not in use, turn off the lights when you go out of the room, and have quicker showers. Instead of ordering food from restaurants, why not prepare your meal at home?
Reduce your non-essential costs
Another way to provide stability and control over your finances is to reduce your non-essential costs. It’s time to think about your purchase priorities and make more empowered decisions. Whether it’s your daily Starbucks drink, little payday shopping sprees, or monthly Netflix subscription plans, you might have to say goodbye to these little luxuries.
You will need to track your spending and review what subscriptions you currently have ongoing. For example, you can drop your cable TV plan if you find yourself and your family using streaming services like Netflix more. You may be surprised to find that you’re paying for things you don’t even need or use as much.
Create and stick to a budget
The best way to make sure you cut down your essential and non-essential expenses is to create a comprehensive budget plan. It’s easy to say you will spend your money in a certain way or designate your income on more essential things. But some people may not have the self-discipline to follow through and stick to the plan.
If you want to have a better grasp on money management and make things easier for yourself, consider putting your plan on paper and creating a personal budget spreadsheet. Note your net income and establish a number you could safely spend each month. You can arrange your expenditures by categories like food, rent, bills, or non-essential sources of joy.
Keep a spending diary
Aside from having a personal budget sheet, it’s also a good idea to keep a spending diary to track every peso you spend. This practice is one of the best ways to create healthy habits with your finances. You can use a small notebook, download apps like Mint, Goodbudget, and YNAB, or store it as a note on your phone.
Choose whatever method is easy, convenient, and allows you to have a spending diary no matter where you go. Whether you paid with cash or card and bought from an online shopping website or brick-and-mortar store, you must record every transaction you make. Having a clear picture of how much money you spend and where you use it can help you make lifestyle changes and cut back expenses easily.
Save money that you’re not spending
Once you review your finances, stick to your budget, cut back your expenses, you may find yourself with extra cash available at your disposal. Even if it’s only a little, it’s better to save that money instead of spending it on non-essential things. Managing your finances is all about planning and having enough money for when you really need it.
Think of your savings as funds you can use for a particular short-term or long-term goal. You can use it as a downpayment for a new home or an electronic device upgrade for your work-from-home set-up. It doesn’t even have to be a lot. Even putting away 100 PHP a month is enough.
Build a reasonable emergency fund
If you’re still fortunate to have a job or a stable source of income, you should consider establishing an emergency fund separate from your savings account. You never know when stress-inducing events like a pandemic layoff, family emergencies, or even testing positive for the virus will strike you. With an emergency fund as your safety cushion, you will be able to alleviate those unexpected expenses and financial crunches.
When you’re establishing your emergency fund, it’s best to start by setting a goal for how much protection you want. Most financial experts suggest having at least three to six months’ worth of usual expenses tucked away in an emergency account. Again, it’s best to set it apart from your regular savings to avoid dipping into it whenever you want to buy something.
Reduce your debt
Reducing your debt may be the last thing on your mind when you’re already tight on budget during the pandemic. However, your debt can get in the way of meeting your financial goals and even push you into deeper trouble. Since most of them come with interest, it’s best to pay them off as quickly as you can.
To begin your debt-free journey, list down all your debt and their respective interest rates. Experts recommend focusing on the highest interest rates and paying them off first. You can also try the avalanche method, where you pay the minimum due each month on all your accounts, or the snowball strategy, where you start with the smallest unpaid balance.
Always be alert and watch out for fraud and online scams
Because of how desperate most people are during these trying times, many people fall prey to fraud and online scams. You will have to be extra careful and alert when making transactions. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as easy money. If it sounds too good to be true, then it’s probably something shady, illegal, or a scam.
If someone offers you an investment opportunity that promises quick and easy cash, you will do well by avoiding them. You must also ensure the website you’re visiting is legitimate and secure. Don’t immediately provide your private information such as your account passwords, credit card number, social security details, and other personal details without checking.
Find alternative sources of income
If you’re among the millions of Filipinos who lost their job or the employees who suffered from reduced work hours or workdays, it may be time to find alternative sources of income. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can earn money. If you own another real estate property, you could even get into a rental business to earn passive income.
There are also several job opportunities online that you should consider checking out. Instead of spending your time wasting away at home and scrolling through your social media account, be more productive and get another job. You can earn money at home as long as you have reliable internet, a fast computer, and the necessary skills and knowledge.
Looking after your finances in times of great hardships and threats like the COVID-19 pandemic is never an easy task. However, keeping track and managing where your money goes is a must if you and your family want to get through these tough times. With enough control and practice, you will be able to reach your financial goals, have enough money during emergencies, prolong your budget, and achieve the life you want.