Financial literacy and credit counsellor Pamela George is shown in her home office in Ottawa, on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Financial literacy and credit counsellor Pamela George is shown in her home office in Ottawa, on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Planning your 2021 budget a chance to reassess your spending and make changes

Saving a six-month buffer is important to start building that rainy-day cushion

The pandemic put household budgets to the test in 2020.

For millions it meant the loss of a job or a reduction in hours, while for others it meant unexpected expenses as they made the shift to working from home.

So as you build your budget for 2021, financial experts say you need to create a robust plan that’s built on realistic expectations for your income and your spending.

Financial literacy and credit counsellor Pamela George says if you tapped your emergency fund to help deal with the financial stress of the pandemic last year, topping it back up should be a priority.

And for those that still don’t have at least some money put aside in an emergency fund, creating one should be at the top of the list.

George says it can be overwhelming to think about saving a six-month buffer, but even if it means starting small, it is important to start building that cushion.

“Start with $500, when you get to $500, go for $1,000,” she says.

“Do it in $500 increments and motivate yourself like that.”

George says many may have been spending less on coffees and lunches out while they were working from home last year, but that didn’t mean they were socking that money away in savings.

She says based on what she’s seen the spending for many shifted during the pandemic to takeout orders for dinner or online shopping, but that setting up your budget for 2021 is a chance to change that and use that money to reduce debt or increase savings.

It is also important to account for the rising costs for things like transit, groceries and property taxes, George says, even if your salary may not have kept pace.

“If you’re a homeowner and you’re budgeting for property taxes, you need to know that’s gone up,” she says.

“And while it’s not a whole lot per month, if you pay it every six months or once a year. depending on how you pay your taxes you need to have that extra money.”

Stacy Yanchuk Oleksy, director of education and community awareness at the Credit Counselling Society, says it is important to understand where you’re spent your money in 2020 when planning for 2021, but that this year likely won’t look like last year.

“I don’t think you can take a 2020 budget and select all and copy it and make your 2021 budget, I think that there will be some changes,” she said.

“Some people might go back to work, some people might stay working from home permanently and others might have to go back into the office at some point.”

The difficulty in planning a budget for 2021 comes with the uncertainty. COVID-19 vaccinations have started, but as the latest rise in cases and lockdowns have shown, we’re not out of the woods yet.

Yanchuk Oleksy says if you’re dreaming of a vacation later in the year if things improve, you should set money aside for it in your plan because you don’t want to get to Christmas next year and realize that while restrictions may be loosening that you can’t afford to that trip to see family.

“The beauty about planning for it is that even if you can’t travel in 2021, you can use that money elsewhere,” she said.

Should the pandemic situation improve you may also need to plan for expenses that you haven’t had to account for while working from home, such as commuting, coffees, lunches and child care.

“They’ll have to get reinserted into the budget, we just don’t know when that will be,” Yanchuk Oleksy said.

George says don’t worry if you don’t follow your budget all of the time because we are in the middle of a global pandemic.

“We need to understand that we’re in a pandemic and that means that we’re stressed about many things and if you have a budget and you fall off they budget sometimes, that’s OK,” she says.

“It doesn’t mean you throw everything in the fire and you walk way. What it means is you slipped up and you get up the next morning and start afresh.”

Craig Wong, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Finances

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tofino expects to elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6. (Westerly file photo)
Nomination period begins for Tofino byelection

Tofino is set to replace former mayor Josie Osborne, who is now the Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA.

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Quebec’s BEI completes investigation into Chantel Moore’s fatal shooting by Edmundston police officer

New Brunswick’s public prosecutions services and chief coroner to conduct public hearing

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is reminding visitors that all dogs must be leashed at all times. (Westerly file photo)
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve urges dog owners to show respect by leashing their pets

“As Coastal Stewards, we appreciate seeing you with your pets on leashes.”

West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni received some good news about an expansion to its emergency department on Jan. 15, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
B.C. health ministry commits $6.25M to hospital expansion in Port Alberni

Plans for larger emergency department have been on hold since 2015

A Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation guardian took this photo of dozens of vehicles parked along a forest service road in the Kennedy watershed. (Submitted photo)
Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District looks at enforcement of illegal camping

ACRD currently does not have an existing bylaw service to tackle the issue

B.C. Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth (Black Press files)
B.C. watchdog says mentally ill children and youth retraumatized in hospital

The number of children held under the Mental Health Act has increased an alarming 162 per cent in past decade

Cranbrook Food Bank coordinator Deanna Kemperman, Potluck Cafe Society executive director Naved Noorani and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society executive director Catherine Leach join B.C.’s new Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on a video call about B.C. gaming grants, Jan. 19, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. gaming grants reorganized for COVID-19 priorities

Minister highlights community kitchens, food banks

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

A new video from NCCIH and BC Northern Health titled ‘Healing in Pandemic Times: Indigenous Peoples, Stigma and COVID-19’ was animated by Joanne Gervais. (Photo Provided By: NCCIH Archives)
VIDEO: Stigma against Indigenous people is a ‘social sickness’

A new short animated video is aiming to educate the public on the stigmatization

Nanaimo RCMP are investigating after a threat was made at Woodgrove Centre on Tuesday, Jan. 19. (News Bulletin file photo)
Threat directed at Nanaimo mall, RCMP investigating

Police have searched areas of Woodgrove Centre accessible to shoppers and have deemed it safe

A pinniped was attacked by an unseen predator off the shores of Dallas Road Monday night. (Courtesy of Steffani Cameron)
VIDEO: Seal hunting, not being hunted in video shot off Victoria waterfront

Victoria woman captures footage of pinniped activity off Dallas Road

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

The British Columbia Hotel Association (BCHA) sent out a sharply worded release late last week, in which it noted that the Tourism Industry Association of BC recently obtained a ‘legal opinion’ on the matter (Alex Passini photo)
Hotel associations push back against any potential ban on inter-provincial, non-essential travel restrictions

B.C. Premier John Horgan is seeking legal advice on banning non-essential travel

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
COVID rapid tests in long-term care key during vaccine rollout: B.C. care providers

‘Getting kits into the hands of care providers should be a top priority,’ says former Health Minister

Most Read