It’s been a long couple of months, but it seems like our time in this third lockdown will be coming to an end in the near future. In England, non-essential shops, hairdressers, beauty salons and gyms, among other things, are slated to open on 12th April, which is great news for those of us with roots down to our elbows and a need to pound the treadmill.
But there’s a growing concern, especially among those of us who have managed to save or improve our spending habits during lockdown, about what the easing of lockdown will mean for our bank balances and relationship with money. It’s natural to feel protective of progress made during lockdown, especially when saving money might have been one of the only silver linings to a really difficult time, but anxiety over the temptation to splurge is not going to help your financial wellbeing in the long run. Here are some ways that you can enjoy the easing of lockdown while maintaining good saving habits and a positive money mindset:
Lockdown has been hard for everyone, particularly working parents, students and people living alone or with flatmates. Giving yourself permission to spend a little more over the next couple of months on things that you’ve missed is absolutely fine – in fact, it could be classed as an act of self-care. Take a look at your budget, or how you’ve been spending and saving in lockdown, and plan in some activities that you’ve been looking forward to doing. Create a savings pot specifically for this, and make sure that money is ring-fenced for guilt-free enjoyment.
Automate your savings
If you’ve been enjoying the feeling of saving during lockdown, make sure it’s something you can keep up without much effort by automating it. Take a look at what you’d like to save each month, and set up a standing order to transfer that amount to a savings account the day after you get paid. This way, the money is out of sight and out of mind, leaving you with a better idea of what you can afford to spend.
Use an app to help you plan
There are so many great apps out there to help you with planning your income, with Emma, Yolt and Money Dashboard giving you a good idea of where your money is going each month. Fintech companies are launching all the time, and some newcomers I’m particularly excited about are Ikigai and Claro. The former allows you to allocate all of your income to spending, savings and investments as soon as it arrives in your account, while the latter has a coaching feature that I haven’t seen anywhere else – perfect for anyone looking for guidance on getting the most out of their money post-lockdown. Keeping a folder of money apps on your phone and checking in regularly is a great habit to get into, because the more engaged you feel with your finances, the less likely you are to indulge in mindless or excessive spending.
Remember what’s most important
When I think about what I’ve missed most during the pandemic, it’s not necessarily trips to the shops or fancy meals out that springs immediately to mind. It’s people – and I’m sure this is the same for most of you reading this article. So make sure that, when you’re planning your post-lockdown livelihood, you still leave plenty of space for free or low-cost activities like walks and picnics in the soon-to-be spring and summer sunshine.
Use mindful spending techniques
Not being able to do some of our regular activities has been frustrating (to say the very least), but it’s also given us the opportunity to reflect on what we actually enjoy and value, and what we don’t. Where we can, it’s a really good idea to try to carry that perspective through into post-lockdown life, and to make sure we’re making spending decisions consciously and mindfully. This could apply to the coffee you habitually buy on the way to work but don’t ever really take the time to enjoy, or weekend shopping trips that only ever result in buyer’s remorse. Give yourself 24 hours to think about purchases that you’d otherwise make on the spot, and always ask yourself where the thing you’re about to buy is likely to be in six or twelve months’ time – this is good practice for both your bank balance and the environment.
Find the right balance for you
It’s absolutely fine to want to make the most of the freedoms we’ve had to live without on and off for the last year, and to safeguard your financial health at the same time – it’s all about finding the right balance for you. It might take a couple of months for you to get your spending to saving ratios and budget to a point where they feel right for you, so don’t put pressure on yourself to get things perfect right away. This is going to be a period of adjustment for us all in so many ways, and money is very much included in that.