Navigating finances during COVID-19 at a time of financial and employment uncertainty can be challenging, so Dr Elizabeth Ooi from The University of Western Australia Business School has put together some tips to help people make the most of their budget.
Dr Ooi said there were five key areas that could help people including having a budget and reviewing it, understanding loan options, keeping track of working from home expenses, looking for deals and reaching out to family and friends for support.
“Now is the time more than ever when it’s important to have a budget and to review it,” Dr Ooi said.
“During this period, everyone will have their budget affected to some extent. Whether it be an increase in grocery costs and household bills from spending more time at home, to spending less on things like gym memberships, petrol and eating at restaurants.
“It’s important to update your budget to reflect the changes and where you need to reallocate resources. If you’re spending less because you’re at home more, you could potentially use the cost savings to pay off debt or create other priorities on where spending should go.”
Dr Ooi said understanding loan options was also important, with many people concerned about how changing circumstances might affect mortgages or loan repayments.
“For those experiencing financial hardship or concerned about financial hardship in the future, it’s important to speak to your bank to understand your options and how this affects your future financial plan before you commit to any changes,” she said.
“Many banks are offering deferred payments and other options to support customers, so speaking to them early will help you understand what kind of support is available.”
Dr Ooi said with many people working from home, keeping track of costs involved in setting up and maintaining a home office would make a difference during tax return time.
“This includes things like mobile phone bills, stationery, new office furniture or Internet costs. Some of these can be claimed at tax time and more information is available on the Australian Taxation Office website to help with this,” she said.
Dr Ooi said while some costs may increase such as grocery-spend, there were also cost savings to be had.
“Many service providers are doing their best to help people out so get in contact with your existing service providers to see if they’re offering any promotions or deals, such as insurance companies or internet providers,” she said.
“And finally support family and friends during this difficult time. Many people are likely going through the same problems and we can all share our ideas or be a shoulder to lean on for each other.”
There are online resources for people affected by COVID-19 financial stress such as https://moneysmart.gov.au/covid-19.