Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic , most public health experts agree that a second wave of the virus is likely. With uncertainty around what will happen next – as schools open up, more people go back to work and as government relief programs end – September is the right time to get on top of your personal finances if you haven’t already.
Ready to start work on COVID-proofing your finances? Here are 4 pro tips from Toronto-based personal-finance expert Barry Choi of MoneyWeHave.com – and a bonus one to round it out to 5.
“Using an app can go a long way when you're trying to juggle your finances during uncertain times,” says Choi.
According to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada , people who use digital tools such as budget apps and spending trackers are among the most likely to stay on top of their bills and manage their cash flow . They are also more likely than non-digital-budgeters to be working on eliminating their personal debts faster.
If you’re among the 51 percent of Canadians without a budget, start one now.
It goes without saying that 2020 is the year of saving, not splurging. Pad your emergency cushion so you’re as prepared as possible for reduced income or illness.
“It's a good practice to reassess your wants and needs,” says Choi. “Do you really need multiple streaming services when you can get away with one? How about your cellphone, internet or TV package? Do you actually use all the features that you're paying for? Take a look at what you're paying now and decide what you want to keep and what you should cut,” he advises.
Choi – an avid traveller – says there’s no need to cut everything to the bone, but it may be time to trim the fat: “If your income has been reduced, you may need to make some sacrifices,” he says. Find the easy saves first and put them into your savings account.
Try comparison shopping and couponing, both of which can save you plenty of money over the long run. Not into clip-and-saving? “There's also Reebee , an app that shows all the grocery flyers around you. This allows you to price compare or price match so you can keep your grocery costs down,” says Choi.
Shopping around is especially useful on big-ticket items like home appliances and financial products like mortgages. A mortgage broker, for instance, can help you get the best rate and features for your needs because they have access to way more lenders and products than a bank rep does.
Protect your good credit – or improve your not-so-great credit – by staying on top of your bills. Pay them on time, every time. Tech can help with this: download a bill monitor app, program payments into your digital calendar or sign up for auto-payments. Whatever you do, don’t miss those due dates: “This is important because even one missed payment can drop your credit score,” says Choi.
If your income has been affected by COVID, let your creditors know ASAP, rather than simply skipping payments.
Not all of us are naturally interested in personal-finance education or the big-picture economy. However, we are living in unprecedented times and it’s better to be as informed as possible. You can raise your money IQ by checking out these Canadian money experts who make learning about dollars and sense fun as well as smart.
• Follow Barry Choi on Twitter (@barrychoi) and Instagram (barry_choi), and bookmark his site: MoneyWeHave.com .
• Check out Kerry K. Fox’s Squawkfox.com blog.