As vaccination rates to control the Covid-19 novel coronavirus rise across the United States and Texas, there’s hope that we may soon enter a post-Covid world. Last year brought much of what constitutes “normal” life to a halt through lockdowns designed to protect as many people as possible. For most, vacations, music festivals, movie openings, going out to eat, school, reliable childcare, etc., all but disappeared.
Now that fun, festivities, and school are back on the menu, it’s important to consider how you want to experience life in the coming year. If you’re already planning to make up for lost time, it’s essential you decide what your budget after the pandemic will look like.
Here’s what Houstonians and others around the country can do to create a workable, wise, and fun-filled budget for 2021.
1. Get Specific About Monthly Income
Many households have experienced dramatic fluctuations in income during the pandemic. Some of that has been due to job loss or cut hours. Some of it has been due to changing unemployment benefits and occasional stimulus payments. Now that it looks like the dust may settle, really hone in on what your monthly income will be going forward, so you know what to consider when budgeting.
2. What Are Your Expenses, Including Hidden Expenses?
Some expenses, like mortgage or rent, utility costs, food costs, etc. are pretty constant. Be sure to include all of these as you create your post-pandemic budget. Don't forget hidden costs, though. If you spent the majority of the past year doing remote work instead of going into an office, upcoming commuting costs need to be accounted for.
3. Rebuild Savings
For many individuals and families, last year depleted emergency funds. Make it a priority to allocate monthly income toward your savings account. 10% of your monthly income is a good place to start, but if you're able, aim for 30% or higher. Once you've replenished your savings, you can go back to the percentage you put away prior to the pandemic.
4. Ditch Debt
It's true that not all debt is the same, but in a world with interrupted cash flow, any debt can cause headaches. Starting with high-interest debt, like credit cards, work to pay down the debt you owe, or transfer high-interest debt to a lower-interest credit card. Not only will this save you money on interest rates over time, but it will also make any future financial difficulties easier for you and your personal finances.
5. Budget for Fun
Lastly, don't forget the fun! Start small if you're building up emergency funds again, but after a year of social distancing, you deserve to have a good time. Patronize Houston small businesses like restaurants and clothing boutiques. Buy tickets to a summer music festival. Plan that family trip to New York you've always wanted to take. Now that lockdown is hopefully over for good, enjoying the world and its offerings will help you continue to recover from what's been a very difficult year.
Embrace 2021 with a solid budget for a potential post-pandemic world, and a sincere hope that things will continue to get better.