By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS
Life during a crisis is hard. If you have a family or someone to care for, you probably have even more to worry about. You might be going to bed at night with your mind racing, trying to figure out how to overcome the situation you’re in. A lot of people lost their jobs during the COVID-19 crisis, and many of them don’t know how to cope. We know how frightening it is to think you’re in it alone, so here are some tips on how to save money during tough times like these.
We’ve all had moments where we see that shiny, new toaster, or we realize that our old coffee table has finally had enough. While replacing your coffee table with a new one sounds like a great idea, maybe you should think about timing. Is it really necessary to buy a new toaster today? Is your old coffee table really that old?
Setting spending priorities is key here. You should know exactly what you need versus what you want. We all like to buy something new every now and then, but adding a new sweatshirt to your collection is not what you need, and certainly not now.
You might try making a list of the things you need and the things you’d like to have—and when tough times are over, you know exactly where you’re spending that last paycheck.
Knowing how to manage your finances plays a huge part in how your life is going to look during a crisis. The University of Illinois suggests you thoroughly assess your finances, writing down every penny that enters your home budget. Once you determine your net worth, it’s going to be a lot easier to know how and where to spend your money.
The first thing you should do when it comes to cutting back expenses is to write everything down. It might seem like an additional hassle, but J. Michael Colins, family and consumer economics specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension, doesn’t think it should be. “Once you have it on paper you have a much better sense of where the money goes. Pick one week and track everything you spend. You will probably be surprised,” he says.
If a digital budget is easier, you might want to try some of the numerous money-saving apps out there. Most of them are free to install and have great features that can help manage your budget easily.
If you think creating a budget is the hard part, you’re wrong. The hardest part of managing your budget is sticking to it. Remember those times you told yourself you’d do something tomorrow? Or you’d start that new diet next Monday? You simply hold on to it for a week or two and go back to your old habits. Sticking to your budget is very much like a diet. Don’t let it get away from you. Be firm and determined. Teach yourself how to be smart with money.
Focusing on your goals might help. Write down:
It’s always easier to stick to something if you know the bigger picture.
Traveling is the best investment you can make in yourself—but not now. You don’t want to go on a trip and think about how you’ll get by until your next paycheck. It’s not that fun being surrounded by people with masks disinfecting everything you touch, either. Instead, make yourself a big cup of coffee and enjoy it in your favorite corner of the house, jotting down every single place you’ll visit after the crisis is over. Make a detailed plan of the places you always wanted to see but never did.
There are numerous ways to plan a trip on a budget, so don’t be discouraged by the current situation. There will always be obstacles to overcome, but that’s what keeps us going and makes us even stronger when times get tough. Think positive, and focus on the good things coming your way.
Many experts agree that investing in your business right after a crisis is the best time to boost your company’s success at the very beginning. If you have the entrepreneurial spirit, now is the time to start showing it. Besides, if you have some money in your account, isn’t it better to invest in something that will bring you revenue rather than just spend it on the things you probably don’t need?
If you have an idea that requires more money than you currently have, you could start by investing in a small business, like dog walking or child care services. Or you could invest in your knowledge and buy that online photography course and become a pro photographer. This is by far the best investment you can make. Equipping yourself with the knowledge and resources you need to become a professional and scale your business, is going to take you to heights you’ve never seen.
The only downside you’ll have to remember is that, as with anything, success doesn’t come overnight. There will be many obstacles you will have to face, but once you make it, the sky’s the limit.
The only thing standing between you and saving your money today, is you. Try to focus on building healthy habits, and stick to them. That means if you’ve decided to put a ten-dollar-bill in a “travel” jar every week, and it works, why not stick to that approach? Try out different methods. We are all different, and something that works for you doesn’t mean it will work for your aunt Greta, as well.
Picture your goals in your head, and stick to your healthy financial habits. Start today, and you’ll thank yourself later.