Learning how to budget during a pandemic and working reduced hours has been a very educational and informative experience for me.
The year 2020 decimated all of my financial goals and achievements of 2019. I had reached the point where I had paid off most of my major debts and was aiming towards clearing the rest, and then on March 17th 2020, the first positive cases were reported on the island. No work for almost 3 months, and like a lot of people around the world I was surviving on what little savings I had and unemployment benefits.
My return to work at that time brought with it a glimmer of hope for the industry here and I intended to get back on the horse, build back up my savings and keep moving forward, praying that things would turn around. However, the second wave of the pandemic brought another period of not working, savings gone and reduced work hours. So now here I am in 2021 trying to figure out everything.
After trying to learn how to help my family, my loved ones, and my significant other, who up until now, had not been working steadily. I had to sit and take a look at why am I always broke.
I know I made a lot of mistakes over the years where my finances were concerned. Lending people money I didn’t have, splurging on things for my family and myself, making plans and then never following through. A lot of it is pretty much my fault, so now at the ripe old age of 35 soon to be 36 and starting all over again from scratch, what are some of the ways I can try to turn this around amid a pandemic and on reduced hours.
Well, the first step is adjusting my mindset. I remember when I first started working at the age of 20, I would save my pennies and budget. Then my grandmother got sick, my mum passed away and I found myself with a lot of financial responsibilities that I did not have before and became quite reckless with my spending. So here I am years later and trying to figure out everything again.
Some tools and resources I have found useful are Clever Girl Finance videos, reading financial management books, Pinterest, yes I have become one of those people who go to Pinterest for everything and Google.
One common thread is the importance of adjusting my mindset, and going easy on myself and beginning with small changes. This has become a very valuable tool because if my mind is not to it then I won’t follow through.
The second step is sitting down and being honest about myself with why I’m always broke and finding ways to avoid my triggers and being honest about my spending habits. thus is something I think everyone needs to do at some point in their life.
The third step is everyone’s least favourite word budget, budget, budget, budget. I hate budgeting.
I don’t know when I have started to hate budgeting. Maybe it’s because subconsciously I knew I was being frivolous and I didn’t want to face it but now I have to because I’m in a situation where I have no other alternative and God he always knows when back my ass in a corner, sit me down and make me face whatever it is I’m going through. So while I’m not a perfect budgeter and I probably never will be, I’m learning that budgeting is a very valuable tool for me to have in the present and future.
The next stage for me is leaving my credit cards and store cards at home and only shopping with cash and when I say with cash I mean a very limited amount of cash daily, in other words, giving myself a daily allowance. This method is so far for the past few weeks has worked along with the rule that any small change and/or two dollar bills I have leftover from the day, I put in a little piggy bank until I can deposit it to my savings account. I’m hoping I can stick to it because spending cash is a lot harder than just swiping a card.
Lastly, the importance of having an emergency fund, in addition to a savings account. Depending on who you’re watching reading or listening to they will say to start with an emergency fund of $1,000 then focus on clearing your debts. Once you have cleared your debt, continue to build your emergency fund so that you have first a 3-months, then 6 months worth of savings.
For my immediate goal, I’ve broken it down into smaller chunks. I think another reason why I always failed is that I was going all gung-ho and lost all motivation. So my first goal is to save $150 and then from there I’m going to aim for $300, then $500 and so on. By taking smaller steps I can reach the thousand dollar mark but without all the pressure. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me but that’s what I’m dedicating myself to, because I don’t ever want to be caught in this situation again. I just feel so hopeless and I just can’t do it anymore. It has contributed to my anxiety and depression, and I don’t like that and I don’t want to go into the future with that feeling of uncertainty.
This time I plan to succeed. I’m giving myself room for flexibility. I know I’m going to make mistakes along the way but I’m hoping that by actively practising it every day, every week, every month, that I’m going to get to the point where I can say I am debt-free.