The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t done too many people favors, financially, but it has led to a little more “me time” for most people outside of the healthcare community due to stay-at-home orders and similar restrictions aimed at flattening the curve of the virus. Regardless of how your finances may or may not have been affected by COVID-19, the excess time allows for a lot of self-improvement, and there is never a bad time to work to improve your financial future with some planning and analysis.
Expenses should not be confused with everyday bills that keep you in the manner you enjoy, but as your life list of experiences grows, so should the frequency in which you need to seek out those experiences. A good old, classic budget is still a great way to see where your money is going each month, and creating one as a means of pinpointing your expenses can allow you to evaluate those expenses and determine which ones can be trimmed down without taking away from the ever-important “now.”
Educate Yourself on Your 401(k) (or Start One)
One of the benefits of going to college for business is a, at least, baseline understanding of finances. Unfortunately for the other 90% of college graduates, the inner workings of corporate finances and related programs like a 401(k) are often as much of a foreign language as their French or Spanish minor.
There are two sides of the self-education coin as it relates to your 401(k). The first is a general understanding of what a 401(k) means, and there are plenty of resources available online to better your understanding. The second part of the proverbial coin is relative to the company you work for. Though some companies do empower their employees with investment training and a clearly laid-out depiction of what they offer in relation to investment planning, many keep their options a bit more of a secret, requiring employees to do some digging in order to maximize their 401(k) benefits.
Maximize Other Benefits
Speaking of maximizing benefits, a great way to save in the now is to not take any shortcuts regarding your other employment benefits. If you have a flexible spending account, learn how to milk it for everything. You deserve it! Keeping an eye on your vacation time and selling time back is also something that many employees miss an opportunity to do if, indeed, PTO expires at a given company.
Another place where many employees underutilize their benefits is with healthcare, dental, and vision insurance. Re-evaluate your health, take a good look at the options your company offers, and you could very well wind up pocketing more money without impeding your healthcare options.
Not everyone can start saving this instant, especially when considering the pitfalls caused by the coronavirus. Formulating a plan that takes into account money that will be made when things go back to normal, or at least normalize as is, is a great idea for people who may not think a savings plan is really in the cards at present. If you tell yourself to start saving a small amount now, and steadily increase that amount as the economy begins to grow again, the small amounts “now” will make the growth to larger amounts much less noticeable in your monthly budget, and much more noticeable in the savings account a few years down the road.
Budgeting better is on almost everyone’s “to do” list, but few people even get as far as planning for that budget. Of those who do come up with a plan, many do not stick to it very long. With that in mind, all of these tips, and many more, are moot without persistence. Make financial goals, make benchmarks, celebrate those benchmarks, and stick to your financial plan just as you do with your work plans that make you the money.