How quickly everything can change! It is mind-blowing how our world has changed in a month, a week or even a day! Last month I was looking forward to saving more money, planning a vacation, and re-doing my budget as I was picking up more hours at work and getting a raise. Literally over the course of one weekend my reality went from finally having some extra room in my budget, to being laid off and staying at home for an indefinite amount of time. To say surreal and slightly shocking is an understatement! Shit just got real...
My current situation
I have 4 children to support...and I am the only person supporting my household. Losing my job is (to put it lightly) devastating on my finances. And I know I am not alone here, there are so many people that have lost their jobs, their businesses, or future work, because of the current COVID-19 lock down. It overwhelming to think about it all! It is also a serious (and valid) source of stress for many people.
Stress is a normal reaction the body has when changes occur, it happens so that we can react appropriately to these changes with physical, emotional, or mental responses. It is designed to help.
However! It is designed to get us through short term situations.... when stress lingers for an extended amount of time it can damage our health! Short term it can make us more alert, motivated, and focused. Long term it causes both physical and emotional wear and tear. Headaches, GI issues, elevated blood pressure, problems sleeping, irritability, panic attacks, depression, anxiety, to name a few!
So I want to give you some tools and tips to navigate your finances in this challenging time so that you can make the most out of what you have and hopefully minimize the long term damage that this situation will have on your budget and your stress levels/health.
I am located in Canada, so I realize if you are in another country some of this information may not apply to you. However, some of these tips and the budget calculator should be a big help ;)
I also feel that I should mention that my employer gave me the option to continue to work through this situation (Veterinary medicine was deemed an essential service), or to be laid off. Just the week before I had planned to continue working simply because I didn't think I could afford to stay home and pay my bills on E.I. payments. But then they cancelled my children's school. They were going to be home and were going to start online education. I was worried about them, about them maintaining some sort of structure, about them getting the work done if I was gone at work. I was worried about them being home for any prolonged period of time. It was weighing heavily on my mind and my heart. I was also worried about being out in the work force and bringing the virus home. I made the decision to stay home with them. I decided that I would find a way to make it all work. Despite how uncertain my finances were, it felt like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders not having to worry about them. Because in the end what really matters is their well being, their health and my own health. Money can be made back...
How to make it work!
Follow these steps to completely re-do your budget and get a grip on your personal finances during this challenging time. This is everything that I did to make things work for me and my family.
1. Create a up to date budget
The very first thing I did was re-do my budget! I created a spreadsheet for this purpose that makes it fairly simple to figure out where you have room to make changes and where you cannot (ie what things are fixed vs variable costs). I will be including a link at the bottom of this post so that you can download this for yourself.
2. Figure out what you can live without
On the budget you will have fixed costs, things like electricity and mortgage payments that you may not be able to change. I know a lot of banks are allowing deferral on payments for things like mortgages but I believe that should be held as an absolute last resort. (I will explain more later). Try all the other things I list here first, and if you still don't have enough then look into those options.
For my family we got rid of things like :
Kids cell phone bills (they are in wifi 100% of the time so don't need them currently)
Spotify memberships (again always in wifi now)
I put RRSP and RESP contributions on hold
I put savings contributions on hold
Sports memberships for kids
Take out (home cooked meals for the foreseeable future!)
3. Downgrade some of your current services
Things to look into:
Car insurance (I was able to switch my daughter's car into "storage" which saved me a ton and take the commute part of my own insurance off)
Cable/phone/internet (maybe consider just getting internet and call your company to see if they have any deals on internet packages that may save you money)
Phone plan (same thing maybe there is a cheaper plan you can switch to where you don't need data currently)
4. Apply for Employment Insurance or the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit
In Canada if you have lost your job or unable to work because of COVID-19 you can now apply for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit. This benefit is $2000 a month for up to 16 weeks. It doesn't matter if you were and employee or self employed, both are eligible.
You can apply here: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html
Something important to know about this benefit is that it is considered taxable income, and the government is not deducting tax from it automatically. So you could end up owing tax next season if you do not plan accordingly and set some money aside each cheque.
I am receiving $1000 every 2 weeks, so I am setting aside $150 from each cheque and placing it in a separate account to save for tax season next year.
If you did not lose work due to COVID-19 BUT did work enough eligible hours within the last 52 weeks you may be eligible to apply for Regular EI Benefits instead (you cannot apply for both).
Apply for EI Benefits here: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-regular-benefit.html
In Canada they are also increasing the GST credit and the Universal Child Care Credit which will be a big help especially for those people with children. Eligible recipients will receive $300 more per child starting on the May 2020 instalment. (No need to re-apply this will happen automatically).
5. If you need to, you can look into deferrals
Lastly, if you still cannot cover your costs you may need to look at deferring some bills short term.
Banks are offering deferrals on things like your mortgage, credit cards payments, loans, students loans, auto loans etc. You will have to contact your bank to find out details on how this works. A word of warning though is that many of the mortgage deferrals are not stopping interest accruement during the pause in payments. So this could end up costing you thousands more in interest by the time you pay off your mortgage. Make sure you ask all the appropriate questions and how much it will really cost you to do this.
If you are in Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Power will not be disconnecting services for non payment for at least the next 90 days, so that may be another bill saving option to look into.
More information on that can be found here:
We will get through this!
I know this situation is scary! Personally, I do find myself falling into moments of crazy worry for what the future holds. I have also questioned myself many times on the decision I made to stay home. But, what I do know is that money can be made back. I would never trade any amount of money for the piece of mind that my family will be healthy and safe. It also provides me with a lot of comfort knowing I will be there day in and day out for my kids during these uncertain times. I have to keep reminding myself that nothing is more important than that at this time! When I let go of the worry and uncertainty...I can focus on the amazing moments happening right in front of me. As a working mother my time spent with my children was limited. In the past few weeks we have spent more quality time than ever before with them. I have played boardgames, done yoga with them, taught them cooking and baking skills, created new projects with them and had some really important heart to heart conversations. For that this "forced pause" on my life has been such a blessing!
If you have any other helpful financial tips or information please share in the comment section so I can keep this up to date and we can help as many people as possible get through this!