Happy New Year! You know what the turn of the calendar means…it’s time to start a new budget for 2021. If you struggled with budgeting the past few months because of COVID-19, you’re definitely not alone. The uncertainty many of us faced — and continue to face every day — made budgeting even more challenging.
It’s tough to stick to a budget when work, education, and everything else is up in the air. However, it’s worth giving your personal and family finances some structure. A budget can provide some guidance and help you make financial decisions when the unexpected happens.
Get comfortable with uncertainty
Fear of the unknown is a real thing. It’s easy to let your anxiety about the future affect your financial decisions right now. However, it’s really important to remain rational and don’t give in to your fear when making purchases or decisions.
It may take a little practice, but work on getting comfortable with uncertainty. If you don’t know when you’ll pick up more hours at work, find a new job, or pay off unforeseen expenses, try to accept it. Know that your situation is temporary. You can’t see into the future, so what you can do is focus on the information you have right now to build your budget.
Be honest about your current income and expenses
That information you have right now? It won’t do you any good if you’re not honest with yourself when putting together your budget.
Do a thorough review of your income and expenses and input them into your budget accurately. Then you’ll know where you can trim unnecessary expenses and where you may be able to pull in extra income.
Even if you don’t need to ditch any expenses right now, the time may come later in 2021 when you have to. You’ll already know where to cut back to conserve cash if you stick to a budget. And during these “uncertain times,” it may be a good idea to spend conservatively, anyway. It never hurts to have extra in your emergency fund.
Reassess your goals
Why do we budget? Budgeting lets you predict, control, and grow your resources so you can make the most of the money you have. It also lets you reach short-term and long-term financial goals, like buying a house in the next few years or saving for retirement.
When life can change in an instant during situations like COVID-19, it gets much harder to predict and control your money. That’s why it’s important to remember why you’re budgeting in the first place. You may find that your goals or values have changed because of the pandemic.
Instead of stocking money away for your next big summer vacation (who knows when we’ll go on those again, right?) maybe you update your short-term goal to building your emergency fund back up. And instead of putting money towards your dream of launching a small business, maybe you invest in professional development courses to shore up your career.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to abandon your goals altogether. They can simply be shelved for a later date. But for now, you want updated goals to guide your budget so you’re making the best decisions for your current situation.
Try to stay positive
I know, I know. Saying “stay positive!” to someone during a pandemic is just as infuriating as telling someone upset to calm down.
It’s okay to feel worried or freaked out about the future every once in a while. But maintaining a positive mindset overall can help you stick to your budget and make sound decisions. When you feel stressed and overwhelmed, give yourself a break and wait to look at your finances again when you’re in a better place.
We’ve survived crises in the past before, and we’ll do it again. You will do it again. Work with the money and information you have now, be honest about your budget, and try to embrace the uncertainty. You’ll be in a better position when it passes.
If you want tools that you can use now to get you on track for when things are a little bit more certain, check out the Everyday Money Shop. We have BudgetingBlocks™ that help you play with your money in a new way — instead of old-fashioned budgets. We also have the Everyday Money Workbook, designed to help you and your partner get on the same page with money and each other!