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After a year of lockdown, you may be ready to go out and spend your money.
Not so fast.
“We quickly went through what can be called a big discretionary spend,” said Jim Wang, founder of Wallet Hacks personal finance blog. “After a year of spending relatively little, you may want to make up for lost time.”
Americans have already started spending a lot. Retail sales rose in March thanks to $ 1,400 in economic checks issued. Sales then stagnated in April.
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Jamila Souffrant, creator of the financial literacy podcast Journey To Launch, believes some consumers will get this YOLO-ATP feeling: You only live once, after the pandemic.
“For some people it will look like, ‘Listen, I want to spend money the way I like it now because tomorrow is not promised,'” she said recently on her podcast.
Others plan to stay on track. By then, 32% of adults in the US said their financial discipline had improved during the pandemic, and 95% expect these newfound habits to be maintained, according to a new report from Northwestern Mutual.
Before you whip out your wallet, according to financial experts, there are a few steps you should take to shore up your finances and spend smartly.
In the past 15 months, your perspective may have changed. You may find that there are things that you thought you couldn’t live without, that you really don’t need.
“Review your life and what makes it meaningful,” said certified financial planner Zaneilia Harris, president of the Harris & Harris Wealth Management Group based in the Washington area. “Write these things down.
“Analyze your spending to see if there are things you can eliminate because your perspective has changed,” she added.
Budget, budget, budget
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Not only is it important to create a budget, you also need to make sure that you stay on top of things.
Write down how much money you go in and out. Also, think about what you want to spend on, whether it’s returning to regular nightlife or traveling, and incorporate it into your budget.
“It is really intended as a guide so that you have the best of both worlds: You can live your life in the now and still be financially responsible so that you can achieve your medium to long-term goals,” Souffrant told CNBC.
If you’re not using a budgeting app, then you should use one, suggests Wang.
“Many are free and have enough features to make sure you don’t spend too much,” he said.
While cutting expenses is the first thing that comes to mind when budgeting, Souffrant also suggests thinking about making more income. Make use of skills you have, like tutoring or babysitting, she said.
Save for emergencies
One of the great lessons from the pandemic was the importance of emergency savings.
Make sure you’ve saved at least six months in spending before loosening up your spending habits, advised Wang.
Undo all Covid-related changes
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If you have had to cut your contributions to your retirement plan, make sure you get it back to normal, advised Wang.
The same applies to debt repayment. When you’ve cut back on the amount you normally paid for your credit cards, go back to your pre-pandemic plan.
Also, consider student loans, if you have any. Payments were paused during the pandemic and are slated to resume on October 1.
Take a break
Once you are ready to spend money, do it on purpose.
“Always think about it when you buy,” said Harris.
If it’s online, leave it in your cart for a day. If it’s in a store or mall, walk away while you continue shopping. If you still want it this is the best thing to do.
She suggests using the Marie Kondo Method, which is about holding onto things that bring you joy.
“Go to your zen place and spend the money on things you enjoy,” said Harris.