As we collectively seek to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the top recommendations of Dr. Bonnie Henry and the Provincial Government is to stay at home. Many people have been forced off work while others are staying home because of immune system deficiencies. Still others have faced a mandatory quarantine after returning to BC after a trip abroad. This has created an eerie atmosphere with a majority of the population in their homes instead of out and about. However, it has also presented a unique opportunity to use some unexpected time to improve your finances and avoid the buildup of unnecessary debt. How can that happen while you are stuck at home? We are glad you asked. Here are a few thoughts:
Lower Food Bills
With many restaurants closed, people are rediscovering the joy of cooking. This by itself will lower your monthly food bills. Even you are culinary challenged and don’t consider yourself a good cook, the time exists to seek out some instruction online and learn.
In addition, what a great year to plant a garden. You would be surprised at how easy it is to grow things and how good they taste. This way you don’t have to visit the grocery store for the same item and put the charge on your credit card.
Do It Yourself
It’s YouTube to the rescue again. It is so easy to put off tackling that small repair yourself because you don’t have the time. Well, there is no excuse right now. There are lots of specific instructions available that will help you fix items so that they will last longer and won’t need to be replaced. That helps lower your expenses, which is a key component of staying out of debt.
Review The Cost Of Your Utilities
This is a big one. With everyone’s lives previously so busy, the weeks and months seemed to blur past. With that comes the danger of a repetitive monthly charge that was either too high or completely unnecessary. Why give thousands of dollars over time to a huge company when there is a less expensive alternative?
Review your internet and phone bills to see determine if there is a less expensive plan you could be using. While you are at it, you might as well look at your hydro expense and other heating expenses, just to gain an awareness. Having a good understanding of your expenses is a key component to getting ahead financially. Alternatively, an unawareness is a sure recipe for the buildup of debt.
Cancel Unused Memberships
Let’s be honest, we probably have all signed up for some service or membership that has a monthly fee and then end up rarely using it, or perhaps not using it all. We currently have the gift of time to review those memberships and either adjust or cancel them. Even the process of reviewing them will bring more awareness to your expenses and thereby create a more accurate budget picture.
In addition to adjusting memberships, it is also a good time to review if you have any redundant assets you could sell. Although there aren’t any garage sales going on right now, you can get things ready to sell via an online marketplace. Reducing clutter and gaining a few dollars is a good combination.
Finally Make That Budget
When our lives are busy, it is easy to defer putting energy and thought into making a budget or tracking your expenses. Now is the perfect time to go for it. Have a household meeting and discuss expenses. Start keeping track by writing down daily spending. If you are more computer oriented, you can use a spreadsheet or a smartphone app. Any type of feedback will help you formulate a more accurate budget for the future and is probably the best way to improve your finances and avoid debt problems.
If you are still faced with too much debt pressure, reach out for help. A Licensed Insolvency Trustees can often see solutions that you can’t. Utilize that expertise as a resource. There is often a pathway to a better financial future without using the formal federal options of a consumer proposal or a bankruptcy filing. While some of these terms may sounds scary, schedule an appointment via telephone and ask questions. Soon you will realize that there is a pathway to a better financial future. Go ahead and make that first appointment, its free and can be done without putting on pants!