Have you got a post-Covid money plan? As in, a strategy for how to use your cash as the world reopens?
If you don’t, I offer some food for thought:
How much damage can you do to your finances in one year? 💸
My coaching client Marline* was about to find out.
Marline came to me early this year to help her learn how to manage her money and draft up a plan for the future. She wanted to ensure that all the money she saved during Covid-19 didn’t just evaporate in a post-pandemic frenzy.
She is a salaried employee with a good income and because of the pandemic, her usual spending dropped significantly.
As a solo woman with no dependents, she managed to save thousands of dollars which were just sitting in her chequing account doing nothing. (Actually, that money wasn’t doing nothing; it was losing value thanks to inflation.)
She’d never had a problem with debt, but she’d never figured out how to use money strategically either. What now?
It was time to level up and do something smart with her money.
I thought it might be helpful to share a bit of Marline’s story as well as my personal strategy for my money over the next year to give you some ideas about how to create a conscious plan for your finances.
Here’s why this is important right now of all times:
There is a lot of pent-up demand to go out and spendspendspend after the worldwide shutdown. And that’s exactly what most people will do as the economic flood gates start to open.
The tricky thing about money, though, is that if you don’t intentionally give it a job to do, it won’t serve you well. And by that, I mean that it will be frittered away on meaningless things.
Not because you’re a bad or wasteful person.
But because you’re not paying attention.
If you’re not careful, you can inflict a lot of damage on your finances after experiencing fifteen months of lockdowns and social isolation.
Good money management requires your attention and your intention.
Let’s see how creating a post-Covid spending plan can work to your advantage over the coming year and prevent frustration down the road as life gets closer to normal.
After Marline and I identified her list of core values, created meaningful goals, and established a money management system, I asked her to create a list of the ways she would like to spend her money in the coming year, once pandemic-related restrictions are eased or removed.
“Write them out in bullet points, then put a price tag beside each item,” I said.
That took no time. She already had her dream list at the ready and all the reasons for each selection.
There’s an international trip she was supposed to take in 2020. That was definitely on there. ✈️
A weekend away with girlfriends. Loooooooong overdue. ❤️
Another trip down south during the winter. This was an annual thing for her before Covid. She was due for another for sure. 🏖️
There were various renos too. 🔨
Some new clothes to celebrate right after a mani-pedi. 💅🏿
And on went the list.
When I asked her to tally it up and tell me if that total was in line with her values and her goals, she blinked at me.
“That’s a pretty big number,” she said. “That would use up a lot of my savings.”
Yes it would.
We weren’t done.
And now the rest of it
The surprise for her lay in what came next.
Before we started our most recent coaching session, I asked her what she most looks forward to as restrictions ease.
Off she went in an enthusiastic stream:
- Going out with friends for dinner and drinks.
- There are “so many weekend adventures” waiting to be had!
- And concerts. Boy does she miss those.
Here’s the thing: None of the above showed up on the list I’d asked her to create of things to plan for financially.
It’s only when I pointed that out to her and asked her to plug every last one of those adventures onto the list, along with the frequency with which she expects to engage in them and their approximate cost, that the lightbulb went on.
All those dinners and drinks out? That would amount to a lot of dollars over the course of a year.
Ditto for the weekend adventures.
And that’s OK!
Money is meant to be enjoyed as along as it’s part of her conscious, intentional plan for her money.
If the activities are in line with her core values and her priorities are taken care of, then have at it with the rest of the dollars!
Money is meant to serve you, not the other way around.
But it turns out that all that spending wasn’t in line with her bigger goals.
I had Marline work through the financial consequences of all her “plans” and see if she was OK with the result.
Her assessment: “Oh hell no!”
Marline is now in the process of creating a new list, allocating a specific dollar amount to various activities, and creating strategies to ensure she stays on track with her goals.
They get first dibs on the dollars saved. She’s cranking those up.
The activities she chooses to fund will get their own account so that she never dips into the money reserved for Essentials and investing.
The net effect? “This feels SO good!!! It’s freeing.”
And that’s because she’s using her money on purpose to have fun and to create great options for the future.
My post-Covid money plan
My husband and I recently sat down to do this exercise for our finances. We’re feeling the same desire to get back to normal life, but we recognize that if we don’t create a conscious plan, we probably won’t make the highest, best choices for our dollars.
We had a lot of big-ticket items on the first draft of our list, so it was time to figure out what we would fund, what we would ditch, and what we would change about our current spending.
When the WHO declared the pandemic on March 11th, 2020, my husband’s business hit a brick wall. Within two weeks, he issued six figures of refunds for cancelled events and his business income dropped by roughly 85%.
It was brutal.
Thankfully, we had a plan in place and strong cash reserves, so we weathered that storm well.
The upside is that it caused us both to double down on our businesses, creating more, and other, streams of income. It took several months to implement and wasn’t much fun in the process, but it worked.
During that time, we eliminated all non-essential spending, which wasn’t super hard because the world was shut down.
There was zero take-out and no Amazon purchases to fill the void. We told our girls that we were using our money strategically to pay for things of greater value to our family.
They know the drill. I’ve been talking to them about values-based money management and prioritizing for years. They were all in.
We focused on staying healthy and fit, and diverting all extra cash into a combination of investments (our first priority because it creates better options for us) and planned spending (for fun activities when the world opened up).
Our initial list of planned expenses
Step 1 was to create a list of expenditures above and beyond the Essentials.
Here’s what we had on our first pass at things we’d like to fund as the world opens up:
- A trip to Europe. Travel is part of our core values and we still have a heap of points from one of our credit cards, which will save many $ during the trip. This is also part of what we promised our older daughter during her graduating year, since she missed out on her part of an exchange with a French student.
- A trip to Alberta to spend Christmas with my family. My girls haven’t seen their grandparents in two years. We are eager to spend some quality time together. While we’re there, we want to take advantage of being so close to the Rockies and get a ski trip in.
- A week at a cottage with friends. This is booked and paid for – it was part of our planned expenses.
- First year of university for our older daughter. As per our agreement, she is covering a portion of the costs, but we’re taking on the lion’s share. This is by design. The money is in our RESP, but we’d prefer to use existing cash for year 1 not to cut into the power of compounding for the existing investments.
- Replace our crumbling asphalt and front steps. We have a lovely house, but the asphalt is toast. The steps are literally falling apart under our feet.
- More holiday time for our family. We considered a week away somewhere. We normally take 4-6 weeks of holidays every year, so two weeks already feels like a cutback.
- A weekend away with friends. We’ve been talking about taking a road trip with close friends for ages. It is long overdue.
- Various activities with friends, like Escape Rooms (a passion of ours), ziplining, etc.
- A few nice dinners out. Pre-pandemic, my husband and I would go out for really nice meals a few times a year and we’d take our whole family out roughly once a month.
Step 2 – work out the cost of each item.
We’re pretty good at doing this, since we track our expenses closely. This was done within minutes.
Step 3 – decide what to keep and what to delay or drop
We applied the Values Filter that I teach: Is this in line with our core values?
Here’s what we ended up with.
- Fine dining. Yes, we love eating out, especially when Mr. YFL and I get all dolled up for a date night. But it’s not a core value. We’ll get back to this in good time, but not this year. Other experiences are more valuable to us. Savings: $600
- Meals out with the girls, except for one or two throughout the entire summer. We’ll focus our dining energy on connecting with friends for BBQs and other social gatherings. We’ll have just as much fun at a fraction of the cost. Savings: $1,000
- A second week of holidays away. We agreed to take a week of holidays at home rather than go away somewhere. We’ll do day trips to go hiking, spend a day at the beach, cycling, kayaking, swimming in our friends’ pool, visit the Art Gallery and the Museum of History, and so on. Savings: $5,000
- Replacing the asphalt and crumbling steps. We figure we can patch the steps for next to nothing and limp them along for another year or two, as needed. Is it ideal? No. And it’s butt ugly! But we don’t really care, because fixing the driveway isn’t on our list of core values. We used to drive a 10-year-old Hyundai. We clearly don’t care what the neighbours think. 🙃
- Activities like Room Escapes, ziplining, and the like a couple times a month. Their cost can easily be absorbed by our individual discretionary spending allotments every month and they provide us with a ton of joy and connection with people we love.
- The trip to Europe and the trip to visit my parents are a go. Those are top of the priority list for the coming year. The money saved from not going away for a week this summer will go toward these trips. The funny thing is that we had saved money – planned expenses – for the European trip, but when it looked like it could be years before we could travel again, we decided to make better use of those funds and we invested them instead. 🤷♀️ So now we’re back to saving on a monthly basis to rebuild the travel fund. We’ve allotted funds for that purpose and we’re on track to meet our targets by the time the trips happen.
- Funding a good chunk of our older daughter’s university costs was already planned for, so we’re good to go on this one.
- Investing. Our investing targets are never on the chopping block, unless something wild and crazy happens in our personal world – and even then we have a plan. The investing plan stays.
We know exactly how we’re going to spend our money in the coming year and so does Marline.
By this time next year, we will be on track with our most valuable goals and we will have had fun in the interim.
Now it’s your turn. What’s your plan? Drop me a note in the comments below to share one thing you’re choosing to fund.
Reach out if you need some ideas or help with this. You’ll be glad you took the time to think this through when 2022 comes around.
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