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

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Three new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

The Central zone sits at 849 active cases, with 52 people in hospital and 10 in the ICU.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Kyler Corriveau, of the Eckville area, was found dead on Sunday southeast of Red Deer. Police are investigating his death as a homicide. (Contributed photo).
Young Red Deer homicide victim is remembered as a caring friend

Police are investigating Kyler Corriveau’s untimely death

Sylvan Lake Winter Village. File Photo
3 charged in connection to vandalism at Sylvan Lake Winter Village

Sylvan Lake RCMP were able to identify the suspects thanks to community assistance

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton, Friday, March 20, 2020. Hinshaw says residents in long-term care and supportive living facilities will remain the priority as the province grapples with a looming slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine supply. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta long-term care residents remain priority in looming slowdown of COVID vaccine

There are 119 patients in intensive care and 1,463 people have died

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Black Press File Photo
Maskwacis RCMP lay charges for attempted murder, kidnapping, and flight from police

Female victim remains in hospital in serious condition.

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
‘Gut punch’: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blasts Biden on revoked Keystone XL permit

Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn’t consult with Canada first before acting

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Calgary flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read