Prepare your post-pandemic budget in 4 easy steps

Any change will raise its fair share of questions and concerns. The pandemic shook up a lot of things, including our spending habits. If you’re itching to get out there and start spending again, take some time to reflect first. Things aren’t back to normal yet: it’s a good idea to review your priorities and goals to avoid any nasty surprises. Read on for some tips to help you update your budget to fit your new normal.

1. Take stock of your finances

Take a step back and reflect on your goals for the short and medium term, as well as your financial situation.

After months of disruptions and restrictions, returning to “almost” normal is going to take some thought. According to financial planner* Angela Iermieri, assessing your financial situation - This link will open in a new window. is the first step to properly reviewing your budget.

“It’s a good idea to compare your spending before, during and after lockdown,” she says. “This will give you an idea of what your current expenses are and if there’s anywhere you can cut back.”

Getting back to normal may mean a lifestyle change and perhaps new spending habits, too.

2. Adjust your priorities

Some of the expenses that dropped off during the pandemic may reappear now. Ask yourself:

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“What’s important to you
now in terms of activities, entertainment, clothing and haircuts, food, home comfort, and so on? It’s time to take a fresh look at your priorities. We’ve all created new spending habits over the last year. You need to identify these habits (how you spend) and determine which ones to keep and which ones to cut,” says Angela.

For example, when school starts up again, will it be a mix of online and in-person classes, or 100% in-person? Should you buy a monthly transit pass, or does it make more sense to pay for trips individually?

If you cancelled your child’s daycare, you’ll need to add that expense back into your budget. And don’t forget about sports and extracurricular activities!

When you do start these activities again, keep things simple by being a responsible consumer - This link will open in a new window..

3. Review your financial goals

Now that you’ve defined your needs and priorities based on your new reality and your values, ask yourself these questions:

“Your financial plan isn’t set in stone. The answers to these questions may change over time. The pandemic may have sped up changes or decisions for some people,” says Angela. “You may need to make changes now.”

4. Update your budget

Based on these observations and reflections, you can now update your budget in an informed way.

“People who saved more over the past year will need to keep up this good habit, but starting to participate in your favourite activities again is healthy and normal. We can finally start doing more, but it’s a good idea to set limits for yourself to stay in control of your spending,” says Angela.

What’s your new situation? Will you be working from home full-time, or spending a few days in the office? Will your kids be returning to school in-person or remotely? Do you want to move your retirement date forward? What does that mean for your budget - This link will open in a new window.?

Some of the expenses that might pop up again include:

  • Picking up your favourite morning coffee
  • Dining out with friends and colleagues
  • Going to the gym again
  • Preparing lunches for your kids
  • Buying new clothes

Remember, whenever major changes happen, it’s often a sign that you should review your budget.

Here’s a recap of the ground rules for creating a balanced budget - This link will open in a new window.:

  • 50% for essentials (rent, groceries, transportation, daycare, phone and internet, insurance)
  • 30% for extras (clothing, haircuts, entertainment)
  • 20% for financial goals (emergency funds, savings, paying down debt)

Whenever you need us, we’re here to advise you on your decisions and help you review your personal finances.

*Financial planner and mutual funds representative for Desjardins Financial Services Firm Inc.

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