Resetting your finances during COVID-19 – a financial coach’s guide

Resetting your finances during COVID-19 – a financial coach’s guide
December 2, 2020


Never in our lifetime have we experienced such a global shock that has also provided a unique opportunity to take stock of our lives. Many of us are pausing to consider what areas we’re happy with, what we need to change, and new habits we would like to form to enable a more fulfilling life.

We also face challenges that have put a spotlight on our finances and show us just how financially resilient we may or may not be. This can be a confronting situation to find ourselves in but, like anything, we get to choose how we respond to the challenge.

I believe that there has never been a more critical time to take a closer look at our finances and set ourselves up for a less stressful and more prepared approach to our financial future.

In my work as Assemble’s Financial Coach, I help residents improve their financial wellbeing and guide them towards achieving their ultimate goal of homeownership via the Assemble Model.

My first piece of advice is to take stock of where your money is going.

During this period of uncertainty, it is best to focus on the essentials – food, transport, utilities, and housing. Consider reviewing any items outside of these essentials to check whether you can remove them altogether or look at reducing these costs to ensure you are on the best or cheapest deal available. If you work towards stripping these expenses right back, you may have the chance to decide if you still wish to continue paying for these non-essential items once you return to your lifestyle after COVID-19 passes. You may even consider new ways to use that extra money if you find that you could quite comfortably live without them.

While you may have had to reduce spending on the things that took a reasonable amount from your weekly budget – such as dining out, gyms or beauty treatments – it's important to take a look at where you can reallocate these outgoing costs.

If you’ve lost your job or had your hours reduced, this is the time to find more funds to better support you throughout this time. This could include using your emergency fund and any resources offered by the government, such as JobSeeker, or contacting service providers to pause payments or put bills on hold. It’s okay to accept the financial support available as there is no shame in asking for help.  If you feel overwhelmed, remember that this time will pass, so lean on friends and family for emotional support if you need it.

If your employer has not been affected, then this puts you in the fortunate position of being able to redirect these non-essential costs to boosting your savings. This could include a home deposit, increasing your emergency fund to future-proof yourself in the event your circumstances change, or to pay down debts that would have otherwise taken more time and money in interest costs to get rid of.

For example, if you’re no longer spending $160 on a gym membership each month, then this can be reallocated by increasing your monthly debt repayments by an additional $160 or setting up an automatic transfer for that amount across to your savings or emergency fund instead. You can apply this concept to many expenses, such as dining out, social events, exercise classes, public transport and pay TV or sports channels that you’re not using. All of these subscriptions and fees can add up, and you can get these amounts working for you in other ways.

You need to give your money ‘a job to do’ because if you leave it sitting in your account, it won’t be long before it’s given another ‘job’. These can come up as ‘bored in iso online shopping’ or ‘the extra chocolate stash’ – which isn’t beneficial to your financial position.

Although COVID-19 has been devastating for people, significantly impacting our health system and economy, it has brought an opportunity to re-evaluate how we spend our time, which influences how we will earn and spend money in the future.

This can mean that in the months ahead when we’re readjusting our lives and setting new goals, we can do it with confidence in our financial position and a new understanding of how we want to spend our time based on what we truly value.

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