Twenty twenty one is boom time. Everyone is getting back out in the world and having a good time. People who were stuck at home all last year are now traveling and seeing friends and family… But in between those BBQs and vacations, it’s time we should all spend a few minutes focused on our finances. After all, now that it feels like the world hit the “reset” button, there’s no better time to check in and see where you stand, by the numbers. With this new chapter comes the need for a balanced budget and a bright investing future! Here’s a few of our favorite tricks to make sure your wallet is as robust as your summer social calendar.
1. Prioritize what’s important to you
The pandemic forced us all to take a big pause, slowing us down from the scheduling whiplash of get togethers, dinner dates, school schedules, and social calendars. Many of us scaled back our discretionary spending when the world went on “pause,” which gave us the opportunity to reallocate our money in a more meaningful way. Now is the time to press on with these pandemic changes and rethink how you would like to spend your money. For example, if you had previously enjoyed a gym membership but found during the pandemic that an outdoor run + Openfit classes were sufficient for you, do you really need to add that monthly expense back into your budget? Likewise, if you and your friends enjoyed picnics in the park and nature hikes when restaurants were closed, do you absolutely need to go back to expensive brunches? It’s time to evaluate how you’d like to shift your resources on a permanent basis. If you were privileged enough to continue to work through the pandemic and build up savings, don’t let that surplus go to waste. Keep it working for you by investing and keep it growing!
2. Remember the 20% rule
Let’s keep talking about that surplus, shall we? A good rule of thumb is to think about dedicating around 20% of your monthly budget to either building up savings, making contributions to a retirement fund, or paying off consumer debt. Again, a full 20% isn’t possible for everyone, but the important thing is that you do the best you can, and work towards that savings goal. If you took on consumer debt during the pandemic, you’ll want to pay that off first so you don’t pay more in interest and fees than you absolutely have to. There’s a number of strategies you can use to pay down debt, but I like to tackle debts that have the highest interest rates first and then work my way down. I also recommend that you work towards building back your emergency fund if you depleted it, or begin building it from scratch if you’ve never had one. Ideally, one day you’ll have enough money saved in your emergency fund to live off for 6-12 months. You’ll want to hold these funds in some kind of liquid account, like a savings account, so you can access the money easily if needed.
3. Carry some of those good financial habits into the future
Experts say it takes about 28 days to start a new habit and keep it going. Most of us have been forced to start new habits in the last year that have lasted much longer than 28 days… Take a look around and see what some of the new habits you’ve accrued over the last 18 months might be. Have you cooked at home more than you used to? Have you shifted your weekly night out to the movies to a more “local” setting (i.e. your sofa)? All these new habits allow us to spend less discretionary money and, in some cases, save money. There’s no reason why you need to drop those good habits altogether! Keeping some of those less costly routines could have a huge impact on your budget in the long run and allow you to shift your spending to other areas of your life.
4. Consider your return-to-the-office costs
Just as we’ve been able to save on discretionary spending by staying home, we’ve also saved money by not commuting into the office. Lunches out, gas money, bus fare, new clothing — all of those expenses have been largely absent for the last 18 months for workers who were fortunate enough to have the ability to work from home. Now that more offices are opening back up, you’re likely to see all those costs tick up. The best practice is to monitor these expenses for a few months until they stabilize, and then build them into your budget. If you want to start budgeting for these right away because you foresee these costs being substantial, then think about adding 20-30% to your budget just as a buffer. If it ends up being less than that, great! You can always re-budget accordingly.
5. Consider inflation
Inflation isn’t just something you’ll need to consider in retirement — since the pandemic, the inflation landscape has changed, which means that some prices for things have increased, and this will impact your ability to spend. There are many factors at play with the inflation we’re seeing now —mostly low interest rates and pent up demand outpacing supply. No, there’s no dire need to curb your spending altogether, but just be prepared to get a little little sticker shock when you go to fill up your tank for your summer road trip or even buy a plane ticket, and make sure you budget accordingly.
No matter where you are on your financial journey or career, is always a good time to think about how you’re spending your money and how it serves you, your financial goals, and your future!
MORE ON HERMONEY:
- Yes, You Can Save Money This Summer (We Promise!). Here’s How.
- It Could Take 4 Years to Rebuild Savings Post-Pandemic
- Are You Falling Victim to Revenge Spending
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