COVID-19 and your personal finances

Transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19, formerly known as 2019-nCoV.

As we ride out the Covid-19 storm, a lot of people are going to see it affect their budgets. There’s the cost of stocking up on medication and groceries in case you have to stay put for several days. But have you considered the financial impact that might happen if you were off from work for a few days or a few weeks?
Consider this: you are an hourly paid employee. You fall ill and can’t work for two weeks. That’s two weeks with no income flowing in and yet you still have rent, car payment, internet, power, and phone bills.
Perhaps you are too sick to venture out for groceries so you order delivery more than usual. You use your credit card, which still needs at least the minimum payment paid by months end. What if the kids also fall ill and you need to stay home to take care of them? Those two weeks could become more than a month with mounting bills and no pay.
Now imagine you and your significant other both get sick at the same time. That’s potentially two incomes not coming in. Without an emergency fund with enough in it to cover your reoccurring monthly expenses for 30 days or more, you’d be scrambling to get the expenses paid.
If you do have an emergency fund, good for you. But most don’t. In a recent poll, Canadians admitted they would have a difficult time surviving if they lost only one week of pay.
With the rising costs of everyday expenses and the high costs of carrying credit card debt, more Canadians are finding themselves struggling each month. As a licensed insolvency trustee with over 29 years experienced counselling on debt issues, trust me when I tell you, most Nova Scotians are over-extended and stressed over their finances.
No matter what your income, an emergency fund is essential to your well being. It gives you piece of mind. If a series of unfortunate events does happens, you can manage. It’s never too late to start.
Slow and steady best wins the race. Each pay, systematically allocate a certain amount to savings no matter how small. Over time, it will build up. Breaking a $20 bill? Use the change to go towards savings. Expecting a tax refund? Flip it into savings instead of spending it. Got a commission cheque from work? Make a plan to live on your pay but save the commissions.
Come up with a strategy that works for you. Anything you can save, even at this late stage, will help.
The only difference between those that save and those that don’t is one thing: they made it a priority. It mattered more than spending it on wants. Practice living below your means, not at or beyond them.
There is no better day to save than today. Don’t wait until your household is hit with a bump in the road before you protect you or your family from financial problems.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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