LIFESTYLE | What I Learned About Myself and Money in Quarantine and My Plans for 2020

Remember at the beginning of this year when 2020 still seemed like it was going to be ok? We can all agree that every month this year has been intense with all of us having to do some major self-reflection and serious thinking about our futures and how we plan on conducting ourselves. Bad things happen in the world all the time, but COVID-19 shut down THE GLOBE. Every single person on the planet has been united and affected by this incredibly contagious disease and I count my blessings every day that myself and those closest to me are still healthy. While I have been back at work for the last 2 months, being without work for 7 weeks gave me some much needed clarity and I know I am not alone in that. I never thought in my working life that I would have this amount of time off and after freaking out for about a week, I pulled a Carrie Underwood and basically said "Jesus, Take the Wheel". Whatever will be, will be and if I'm going to be at home with nowhere to go, I may as well do what I want on my own terms and in my own time.

The biggest lesson for me was to be financially prepared for the future whether it'd be a global disaster that puts me out of a job or if something were to happen to my husband or myself. Going on EI and ONLY spending on essentials the last couple of months made me truly realize how much more aggressively I needed to save instead of spend. At the beginning of this year, I made a 2020 Motivations Post with one of my goals being to max out my TFSA and RRSP contributions. I said that I had started a visual financial tracker and was looking forward to colouring in the boxes as I saved. Then COVID came and I stopped working at the end of March so no more boxes got coloured in as EI went towards rent, groceries and basic utilities. I also kept in mind that the $500 I was getting each week would be taxable next year so I needed to look at that $500 as more like $400.

I am used to organizing and managing clients and projects at work so being at home meant my mental powers were going to be used somewhere else which became budgeting groceries and really keeping tabs on what we were spending. My husband was able to work from home so that alleviated much of the stress. We also do not have kids which I am aware makes a huge difference in stress levels and finances and that is a decision we have both made for ourselves. With the amount of press samples I have received in my time blogging and what I have purchased, I truly do not need to buy a single thing for at least a year. A lot of the products I was blogging about in April and May were self-purchases and things that I had wanted to talk about but never got a chance to. I was truly talking about beauty in a way that was quite freeing and it felt AMAZING. Yes, I did still a buy a little bit of beauty, but only using the $100 Sephora gift card I had from Christmas which, for a big beauty purchaser like myself, was the least I had EVER spent on beauty in 2 months. It quite often would have been at least $100/week!

When I realized how little I had spent on beauty during Quarantine AND how completely okay I felt (I wasn't twitching with withdrawal), I knew I could definitely meet my financial goals (hopefully by June 2021).

Have a fully funded emergency fund of 3-6 months

This fund is the FIRST thing I want to fully fund before anything else. I've always had some savings in one account (my TFSA and RRSP are with another financial institution) as they have a higher interest rate than my current bank and it's easy to transfer funds back and forth. What I hadn't done before, which a number of budgeting videos and books recommend, is to have an Emergency Fund of 3-6 months of your absolutely essential expenses like rent, mortgage, car insurance, groceries, utilities etc. I had never sat down to do a real budget and once I listed it all out and added $1000 for possible vet emergencies for the cats, I realized that with how COVID has played out, 6 months would be better to save towards which gave me an Emergency Fund of $12,000 so pretty much what the CERB was paying out. Since starting this fund in May, I am about 56% of the way there as I had a bit of a boost from my tax refund. Once this is fully funded, the idea is to NEVER touch it except for, you guessed it, EMERGENCIES. If I do need to use it, I need to top it back up once I can.

Using a visual tracker to see savings progress

I didn't think I would share what my tracker looks like because it feel like a diary entry, but I started this late last year when I cut myself off from Sephora for a bit. I have been lukewarm about my RRSP and TFSA contributions in recent years and though I would only advise the RRSP contributions once you start making money consistently, the TFSA is something that every Canadian should take advantage of as it you do not have to pay taxes on the interest made. There is a limit to your TFSA contributions so check your CRA account to see what it is! The government gives a contribution limit each year (everyone has the same limit) so since its inception in 2009, if you have NEVER contributed to a TFSA, you will have $69,500 of contribution room available! Many TFSAs have competitive interest rates depending on the financial institution you choose, but imagine not having to pay tax on the interest earned from $69,500!

My tracker for both my RRSP and TFSA is pretty simple as I am not incredibly artistic. Each box represents $100 and I colour it in once I have set that money aside. I tend to do a lump sum contribution for my RRSP though I believe I can also adjust my paycheck so that less tax is taken off at the source. It is so incredibly satisfying to colour off multiple boxes and even more so to hit a milestone. The high from saving is real!

Having separate savings accounts for each long-term financial goal

After I have my emergency fund and more of my RRSP taken care of, I will move into these goals. This system of organization is not for everyone and might be seen as stressful to keep track of, but I have in total 2 additional savings accounts for: House and Travel. We don't know if we would like to buy a place as we really love the place we are renting from, but it's something we want to consider for later. The "House fund" also includes large items like furniture as we plan on buying a new couch and lighting. These savings accounts are meant for movement so I do not stop myself from dipping into these funds, but ONLY for house and travel needs (with COVID, I don't plan on traveling anytime soon). 

Using some of the money I have saved to donate monthly to charity

Every month since the beginning of 2020, I have chosen a charity to donate to and received some great suggestions on Facebook with regards to things I should be aware of when it comes to funds allocation and "who needs it more". I have been focused on smaller foundations or charities that are in Canada and Vancouver and though it's not like I have the income to donate hundreds each month, I try to do whatever I can or the equivalent of a shopping trip at Sephora that could be put to better use. Some people have told me to give my time, but now with COVID, I'd rather not do that and with my job, I barely have time for myself and family so donating money is what works best for me.

Use what beauty products you have

This is a pretty easy one and something I've always told myself to do, but only in lockdown did I focus on products I had as it didn't make financial sense to buy more AND no stores were open. Now, I don't even leave my office to to go the mall or browse. I stay indoors (there are too many people downtown now without masks) and watch Netflix. That's not to say that I don't shop online, but I have definitely become much more mindful of what I have been buying by writing down what I have been spending in my bullet journal. I have only given myself a few lines so I can't go past 5 and after knowing that I can indeed survive without spending hundreds of dollars on clothes and beauty products, I am going to try SO HARD to keep my beauty spending to a minimum. I will use guilt if necessary which usually involves going into my beauty room and just "taking inventory". That generally cures me of making a purchase!

If you have made it to the end, thank you for reading! How do you organize your finances? Did you learn something new during the lockdown? Please share as I am still relatively new to all of this as I have very little to take care of in the way of assets so the way I organize is fairly basic, but I love seeing how people organize themselves!

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