Along with change in season comes change in spending habits
The beginning of this decade has taught us that nothing is and will ever be as predictable as life before COVID. This holds true for every characteristic of personal habits, including finance. What people once valued and invested in quickly shifted in spring 2020. Family, money and where time is spent become the three most popular priorities in American lives.
Undoubtedly, how cash reserves are managed in the office has changed as well.
Fall always signifies a time when individuals and businesses rethink finances and begin to prepare, much like other mammals, for the long winter. Do you need to hold onto money for holiday, family reunion or home/office improvement? COVID has altered most plans for typical autumn and winter activity, so how does one prepare financially for fall during the pandemic?
Here are four steps to review, plan, and hopefully successfully achieve during these uncertain times.
Pay Off Debt
This is always the number one piece of advice a financial expert will give you if you come into funds and have debt. If you have any surplus of money from lack of vacations, going out or get togethers, look at refinancing or paying down debt. Rates are extremely reasonable and many banks and credit unions are willing to work with individuals.
For small businesses there are numerous debt relief programs that are now more critical than ever during COVID. The top tips to pay off debt for a company — create a monthly budget, decrease spending, consolidate debt, negotiate with lenders and increase business (if possible) — are still the same, pandemic or not.
Load the Emergency Fund
In the most uncertain of times, prepare for the most uncertain of experiences. That vacation that didn’t happen, the summer wardrobe that wasn’t purchased; use these types of funds to now fund your emergency fund. If it’s $100 or $10,000, it’s always usable. Then, set the goal for each quarter during the pandemic to grow the emergency fund. This will leave you with less stress which could help keep you healthier.
Reorganize Holiday Plans
There is a good chance that you might not be able to visit family for the typical Thanksgiving, Christmas and Winter Holiday. Instead of flying, you might be driving. Instead of a racking up a large bill at the grocery for the 30-person New Years’ Eve dinner you usually host, reprioritize your holiday plans and spending.
Make a target goal of saving 10 to 15 percent of your usual holiday travel and food budget for emergency funds. If you are longing to travel, but know you cannot fly or drive to your destination this year, look into booking discounted travel for the future with refundable deposits – scooping up numerous COVID offers from airlines and hotels in the process.
When purchasing and shipping presents (still sending office gifts?), don’t forget to send in bulk and do it in advance to save even more money. Things will be surcharged and possibly shut down. Reorganize when you do things and do not waste money on last-minute items.
For a small business, the holiday party was often a year-long highlight with significant others even joining in on the cheer. Don’t forget to reprioritize office holidays as well with restrictions in place. Invest in employees and their needs this year, whether that is more family time, flexibility or a monetary bonus. Open the lines of communication about this season to help understand the needs of the business and its employees.
Home Improvement/Business Office Projects
HGTV has turned everyone into a DIYer (Do it yourself-er). In summer 2020, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Lowes, etc., were running out of spray paint, brushes, etc., due to the home improvement surge.
Now is the time to be financially responsible with home projects or business office upgrades. Don’t invest in something that might be trendy during COVID but would serve no other purpose once life returns to a normal pace.
Be thoughtful in your approach. What is a good value and what could detract from your home or office? It’s always a good idea when thinking of undertaking a major DIY project to consult your real estate agent.
Adding an outdoor grill and patio area is lovely, but you don’t need to go overboard and buy three types of smokers and enough seating for three dozen. Be reasonable and appreciative of the renovation or addition.
Likewise, office spaces need less space in 2020 and likely beyond as workers adapt to working from home, a trend likely to stick around post-pandemic. Is it really necessary to invest in office art, new chairs or an upgraded kitchen? Likely not. Maybe a new espresso machine is more in the budget and realm of reason.
Spending and financial habits were drastically changed upon the emergence of COVID. Don’t fall victim to a personal financial pandemic as well. Prepare for the change in season with a change in financial attitude.