The COVID-19 pandemic has paralysed the global economy, impacting everyone on the planet. Individuals are out of work, businesses have suspended operations, investors have lost trillions of dollars and governments are in crisis mode. Everything has come to a screeching halt, and we have zero clues as to when life will return to normal, or if it ever will. The uncertainty – the lifespan of the coronavirus, the last economic effects and the prospects of a vaccine – may be the most frustrating aspect of it all.
While policymakers are giving a lifeline to workers and companies, many people in North America and Europe might still be short on rent, groceries, bills and everything in between for the next six months. The pandemic has opened our eyes to our putrid money management ways, making us wonder if we could survive financially if we lost our jobs or if our lives were interrupted by unimaginable scenarios.
We have compiled a list of tips to help you economise during the coronavirus outbreak and potentially overcome another financial crisis.
1. Shop With a Plan
Consumers are panic buying toilet paper, hand sanitiser, microwave dinners and cans of spam. But is a year's supply of toilet paper and canned meat a necessity? You may sympathise with shoppers who fear they may contract the illness and be confined to their home for two weeks, but experts say people need to do a better job at doing the grocery shopping.
When you walk into a supermarket without a list or even a plan, you end up tossing whatever random items you can find into the grocery cart. You may not even normally consume these products, but it does provide you with a feeling of security. Unfortunately, the transaction will turn out to be a waste because it's unlikely that you will eat that tinned hamburger.
Instead, it is crucial to buy basic things you will actually eat, such as pasta, rice and beans.
The best thing to do to economise your weekly shop is to create a meal plan, buy what you need, and acquire a little bit more than you usually would at any other time.
2. Avoid Stockpiling Medical Supplies
Although it is not the primary cause, one of the reasons why hospitals are facing shortages of face masks is because the public is buying them in vast quantities. The reality is that unless you are sick or you are caring for loved ones who are ill, you do not need to possess a face mask.
Moreover, it is unnecessary to start stockpiling medications, hospital gloves and anything else that you would typically find inside a medical facility. Officials have repeatedly informed the public of how imperative it is that these supplies are available for medical care providers.
The idea is that you are better off social distancing than spending lucrative amounts of money to turn your home into a general hospital.
3. Use Basic Cleaning Supplies
Do you really need to spend a lot of money on buying boxes of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitiser? With or without a pandemic, it is a good idea to have these products at your disposal. But you are not going to defeat a pandemic with an antibacterial wipe and buckets of hand sanitiser. In fact, the most basic of supplies will do more to protect you – and your wallet.
Hot water and soap for your hands. A disinfectant spray and a damp rag for your home. Also, during a time when it is impossible to find antibacterial wipes, even at premium prices, you can always turn to bleach or rubbing alcohol. It is cheap, plentiful and can be used to wipe down all surfaces.
4. Track Your Budget
Governments and central banks worldwide have unleashed unprecedented amounts of fiscal and monetary stimulus measures. These multi-trillion-dollar programmes are meant to curb the economic fallout that was out of the control of the private sector, government and households. The typical response has been to issue monthly direct payments to individuals to limit the adverse effects.
These cheques may help keep you afloat, but they may not be enough to pay all your bills, especially if the pandemic is extended beyond 15 weeks. Therefore, it is vital to track and monitor your budget through these trying times. Or, if you have yet to establish a budget, it would be prudent to create one and stick to it.
Here are some suggestions:
- Produce a special weekly budget for the next three months using a template.
- Eliminate unnecessary expenses, like speciality cable packages and a morning trip to the only open coffee shop in your neighbourhood.
- Calculate how much money is coming in and how much you have at your disposal.
- Renegotiate your debts with lenders, who will undoubtedly be understanding during these chaotic times.
- Estimate what you need to do after the pandemic to get back on your feet.
The one positive is that since many stores are closed, you will not be wasting your hard-earned income on junk that will be tossed in a donations box in a couple of years anyway. Of course, Amazon is still open!
Ultimately, since you have additional time, you can analyse your money-saving goals and update them to match market conditions or your different needs.
5. Assess Your Investment Portfolio
Global financial markets have wiped out trillions of dollars in less than a month. If you've been sitting on the sidelines, waiting for your opportunity, this could be your chance to jump in and buy the dip. You can get your hands on steep discounts on some well-known stocks. Everything is down at least 33%, so this is a lucrative time to start building positions in Apple, Disney or Kraft Heinz.
At the same time, if you already possess an investment portfolio, you could take advantage of the market mayhem by reassessing your positions and your holdings. Perhaps your bet on nitrogen fertiliser is not paying off, so maybe hit the sell button on the up days and use whatever is left of your value and put it into Starbucks or an indexed exchange-traded fund (ETF).
Whatever you do, try to refrain from diving into the pump and dump plays that can break your portfolio.
6. Borrow in Credit Markets
For the next little while, accessing credit markets will never be easier and cheaper. The major central banks have effectively brought down interest rates to zero and are pumping vast sums of liquidity into the system. Governments are also extending loans to businesses – large and small. If you were thinking about applying for a mortgage, a car loan or a small business loan, then now or in the next couple of months could be the best time to do tap into the credit markets.
It is important to remind yourself that you should not borrow money to spend on big-screen televisions, a new wardrobe or fine jewellery. The credit should only be for essential items to ensure you have a roof over your head and groceries in the refrigerator.
7. Learn a New Career Skill
Are you self-isolating? Instead of wasting your free time binge-watching Netflix, you can take this opportunity to learn a new skill that might be beneficial for your career and prepare you for when everything goes back to the way it was.
If you are worried about cost, there is a vast number of online platforms that are offering free access to help teach you something new during this pandemic without burdening your wallet.
These are some of the organisations providing tutorials at no cost:
Digital marketing, stock trading, web design or a new language – even just an hour a day can ensure you become efficient in a different area that can enhance your human capital and deal with the quarantine more productively.
While some fault lines were forming in the global economy, nobody could have anticipated something like this ever happening. The year started promising, leading to some experts to refer to the decade as the Roaring Twenties 2.0. Indeed, there is still plenty of time to get another shot at enjoying another prolonged period of prosperity and growth. During a pandemic, every day may feel like an eternity, but we are a resilient species, and we will overcome whatever is thrown our way.
In the end, as we have more time to reflect and spend our days with our family (gasp!), we can find out what the most important things in life are. It is not all just about working, spending and crammed buses. It's about your loved ones, hobbies and catching up on detective stories.