Three weeks of lockdown means plenty of time for reading, binge-watching your favourites series and spending time with family. You may also want to consider tightening up your finances and taking steps to organise your financial life. Here are some ideas:
Have a financial date night
With time on your hands, schedule a financial date night at home with your spouse or partner. Ensure that you are armed with your latest bank statements, salary slips, home loan and vehicle statements, credit card and retail account statements, and investment reports. Remember, open and transparent communication is important to make this meeting work.
Go through your budget
You may have experienced a cut in pay or income as a result of the pandemic, and now is the time to undertake a ruthless budgeting exercise. While in lockdown, it is likely you will save costs on expenses such as fuel, parking, coffee-on-the-run, convenience spend, entertainment and eating out. You may also have put certain expenses on hold such as gym membership, subscriptions and RA contributions, so take this into account when revising your budget.
Go through your bank statements carefully
Go through your last three months’ bank statements line-by-line paying careful attention to bank charges and transaction fees. Double-check all your debit orders to ensure that they are correctly accounted for. At the same time, clean up your online banking by deleting old beneficiaries, linking cards, updating your profile and securing your passwords.
Have a strategy for your emergency fund
It’s at times like these that you will appreciate the real value of your emergency fund, but it is important to put a strategy in place for this money. We do not know how long this pandemic will affect us and it is therefore advisable to adopt a cautious approach when setting up your strategy. At the very least, prepare for three to six-months of a pandemic-affected life and think carefully about how your emergency funding will be employed to see you through these tough times.
Re-evaluate your goals
Together with your spouse or partner, revisit your medium- and long-term financial goals. In times of crisis, we tend to reconsider our goals, give thought as to what is important to us, and give careful thought to our future dreams and goals. Now is a good time to take stock of where you are, where you want to be, and what needs to change in order for you to get there.
Talk to your bank
If your income has been or is likely to be affected by the pandemic, talk to your bank and/or creditors today. Most banks have announced measures to assist customers with loans and debt, so be proactive about contacting your bank to make arrangements.
Tidy up your filing system
Use this time to re-organise your financial filing system by throwing out unnecessary documents that have accumulated, scanning and archiving important documents, and employing technology to better manage your filing going forward.
Pull out your will and read it
Find your Will, read it and determine whether it still reflects your wishes. If not, make contact with your financial adviser and arrange for him/her to update your Will as matter of priority, bearing in mind that most financial advisers are working remotely during the lockdown and will be able to assist. If your Will does not need to be updated, make sure your loved ones know about it and where it is kept.
Figure out how to use and benefit from your loyalty programmes
Many of us swipe our loyalty cards, earn points and accumulate miles without really paying attention to how these programmes work. Use your extra time to figure out the mechanisms of your various loyalty programmes, how you can maximise your benefits, and how you can use your rewards.
Understand your payslip and group benefits
If you’ve never taken the time to figure out your pay slip, now is an opportune time. Ensure you understand and can account for every deduction, and check for any errors or anomalies. At the same time, take time to review your group benefits and understand exactly how they work.
Ignore the stock markets
With local and international markets in turmoil, now is the worst time to become fixated on the stock market. As the pandemic spreads through the Western world, there is simply no way of knowing how the markets are going to react. If nothing else, at a later stage this period will make an excellent case study for economists to comment and provide opinion on.
Sign a living will
The purpose of a Living Will is to guide your family and doctors should you be in a medical state from which you cannot recover, or if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. It is effectively a declaration of your non-consent to artificial life support in the event that there is no hope of you recovering and can give your loved ones peace of mind that they are indeed respecting your wishes in a time of tragedy.
Become an organ donor
If you are not already an organ donor, go online at https://www.odf.org.za/ and register yourself as one. The site is filled with useful information about organ donation in South Africa and provides opportunities for you to donate via monthly debit order or by sending an sms.
Although not finance-related, please consider giving blood. The SA National Blood Services will be open during the lock down and travelling to donate blood is considered an essential service. While donor centres will be open during the lockdown, it is advisable to schedule an appointment. SANBS has extended their hours from 08h00 – 19h00 on weekdays, and 08h00 – 14h00 on weekends. To find your closest donor centre, please visit https://sanbs.org.za/.
Create an ICE file
Most people never have time to put an ‘In Case of Emergency’ file together, but now is the perfect time. Over and above your Will and Living Will, draw up a ‘digital will’ which includes all your online accounts and subscriptions, passwords, PINs, login details and user names. Your ICE files should also include the details of your next of kin, your medical aid number and plan option, the codes to any safes you may have on your property, title deeds, vehicle registration documents, birth certificates, ID, passport, marriage certificates, divorce certificates and maintenance agreements.
Take some time to enhance your financial education. Subscribe to a financial blog, listen to a financial podcast, watch a YouTube video on investing, read a book on personal finance or enrol in an online course.
Plan your festive season budget
Christmas may be nine months away and probably the last thing on your mind right now. But this is a good opportunity to do careful festive season budgeting, plan and make DIY Christmas gifts and cards, or use your loyalty points and rewards to buy Christmas gifts or treats. It’ll also create an opportunity to focus on something pleasant and positive.
Support a local business
Major retailers are struggling to keep up with their online shopping orders, with the first available delivery slots for many online sites being 3 weeks away. Now is the perfect opportunity to find local businesses in your area that provide food delivery services. There are loads of small businesses providing fresh meat and poultry, fruit and vegetables, pantry goods, dairy products and so on.
Keep a list of things you’ve realised you can live without
Staying at home means you won’t be popping to the shops regularly and will probably just make do with what you have at home until you absolutely need to go shopping. While you’re in lockdown, make a list of all the things you realise you can actually live without. Whether it’s flavoured mineral water, Woolies ready-made meals or your favourite brand of muesli, it’s likely that we will learn to make do with less, be more creative, learn to improvise, and ultimately save money.
Find ways to give
In a country with so many impoverished and immuno-compromised people, it is difficult to imagine how the vast majority of South Africans are going to manage during this lockdown period. There are hundreds of charities and NGOs who are doing incredible work supporting homeless shelters, soup kitchens, animal shelters and poor communities. Find a charity that is aligned with your values and find ways to support them.
Make plans for a life after Coronavirus
Although it will get worse before it gets better, bear in mind that this too shall pass. Spend time during lockdown making plans – financial and otherwise – for when the crisis is over. Register for a half marathon, plan a holiday, make arrangements for a get-together with friends and family, or schedule a weekend getaway for later in the year.
Stay home and stay safe.