The year 2020 will go down in the history books as the rise of the pandemic and the effects of this global event will be felt for years to come. While COVID-19 first took a physical toll, the extended lockdown has led to secondary psychological and emotional effects for many South Africans too.
This is particularly true when it comes to those who have been directly affected financially. From retrenchment notices to being placed on compulsory leave, or even having to sacrifice commissions, increases, bonuses or complete salaries – things have been tough. For others, the novelty of skipping the daily commute or staying in pyjamas 24/7 eventually wears off and the stress sets in.
Even at reduced lockdown levels, lockdown restrictions are taking a toll on all South Africans. Being separated from loved ones and juggling financial concerns can be overwhelming. While we can’t get rid of this stress entirely during these truly challenging times, here are three tips to help you cope with the lockdown money blues.
1. Take Control of Your Budget
A budget is a list of your income and expenses. It helps you understand what you’re earning each month and where you’re spending it. After all, you need to know what your current cash flow is before you can make any decisions about protecting your financial future. It’s important not to avoid this process because you’re worried your financial situation might be worse than you thought. This simple but critical exercise will help you to determine where you need to cut your expenses and where you could potentially save. Simply draw up a budget using your bank statement or use our handy budgeting template.
Drawing up a budget is the first step in tackling your finances. It can help to improve your options and alleviate some of your stress. Sticking your head in the sand and ignoring payment notices or skipping instalments will only make you feel worse and create bigger problems.
2. Get an Independent Status Update
Once you’ve evaluated where you stand in terms of your income and expenses, it’s time to get an independent view of your financial reliability. How? By checking your credit score. By law South Africans can get a free credit report annually from one of the credit bureaus. However, you can check your credit score rating for free, and as often as you like, by registering with DirectAxis Pulse. This useful information will also help you improve your credit status over lockdown, if necessary.
Trust us, there are few things more satisfying than tracking your successful financial progress from your first report onwards.
3. Set Yourself Some New Financial Goals
Once you’ve got an understanding of your financial status via your detailed credit report, you’ll be able to work on some ideas for improving any weaknesses. For example, redirecting money to pay off short-term debt or settling debts earlier than planned can give you financial flexibility in the future. If your financial situation is looking healthy, then you can begin to set goals to further increase your savings and investments. Also consider saving money in an emergency fund. It’s always a good idea when economies are unpredictable.
When planning your new financial goals, try to set attainable, short-term and longer-term objectives. This will help keep you motivated with smaller wins along the way to greater success.
Finding the Balance
Life is about balance. Unfortunately, this has been disrupted during lockdown for many families around the country. To ensure that you look after your mental health and wellbeing, it’s important to seek out that balance in the midst of all the chaos. The most difficult part is getting started, but taking control of your finances will give you peace of mind and help you to address your general wellbeing and health. The first step towards taking control of your finances is the most powerful. Take this step today!