Cutting Down Household Expenses: Do's and Don'ts During COVID-19 Crisis
As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, many are bracing themselves against the huge socio-economic impact it's sure to bring about. Several sectors such as tourism, travel, retail, and other services are negatively impacted, putting the employment and livelihood of millions at risk. Singapore will not be spared and, despite efforts by the government to address the financial setbacks that many Singaporeans are facing, the future remains uncertain at best.
As Singapore's much talked-about recession dawns upon us, here are some COVID-19 do's and don'ts to help you cut down on household expenses:
1) Cut down on unessential expenses
Prior to COVID-19, you might have had the luxury of eating out every other day, buying the latest cool gadget, or relying on Starbucks for your daily dose of caffeine. However, if there's one lesson that COVID-19 has taught us, it's to prioritise our needs before our wants and to minimise unnecessary spending.
As we settle into this "new normal", we come to realise that our health, safety, and livelihood is much more important than things like having the latest gadgets, or date night meals. It might be easy to keep expenditure down now, while you’re still limiting the time spent outside the home, but even when you're able to go back to work, it's imperative that you remain prudent in your spending habits. Always try to distinguish between what you need (essential) and what you want (non-essential).
As the financial impact caused by COVID-19 may be felt long into the future, these minor lifestyle adjustments will help you stretch your resources for longer.
2) Look for cheaper alternatives for products or services
Assess your current monthly expenses and consider opting for cheaper alternatives to products or services that you use. You might consider going for a cheaper mobile plan or cancelling unused or unnecessary subscriptions altogether. Take a look at what grocery items you typically purchase and see if they can be replaced with cheaper alternatives or house brands. In addition to finding and cutting out any unessential expenses, you should implement a monthly budget to make it easier to track your money.
3) Discounts and cashbacks
If you buy your food or groceries online, you could be saving a significant amount of money through cashbacks and discounts. Before clicking "check out" on the items in your shopping cart, make sure you check for vouchers or coupons that could be available. These vouchers might offer free delivery or a small percentage of discounts for a specified minimum spend.
Another way to help save money while shopping online is to download cashback apps such as Shopback, which offers 2%-10% cashback for goods and services from various merchant partners.
4) Improve cash flow (defer loans, tax)
To ease financial burdens during the pandemic, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced that individuals will be allowed to defer payments of property loans, as well as premium payments for life and health insurance plans. If you’re short of cash and need to give yourself some breathing room, this is one option you can consider, though it’s important to note that these are deferments and your payments will still be due after the deferment period is over.
5) Know what support you are entitled to
The government has launched several budgets, including the Resilience Budget and the Fortitude Budget, in support of Singaporean individuals and businesses. Several schemes, like the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS), which offers support to self-employed Singaporeans who have been affected by the pandemic, have also been launched. Check these budgets and schemes out to know what support you might be entitled to.
6) Look for alternative sources of income
If you find yourself out of a job during the pandemic, consider looking for alternative sources of income. You can take on online freelancing jobs or part-time jobs such as delivery services which have recently increased in demand amid the outbreak. To aid Singaporeans who have been left jobless due to the pandemic, the government has introduced the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package. The package aims to help 100,000 Singaporeans access job opportunities or learn new job-related skills.
1) Fall for scams or suspicious courses/schemes
In your search for ways to learn new skills or get freelancing jobs, you might fall victim to online scams. Avoid applying for freelancing gigs that require you to make a deposit or upfront payment before starting work as many online fraudsters use this to scam unsuspecting freelancers out of their money. If you want to learn something new by enrolling in an online course, make sure you check out reviews from previous enrollees and confirm the course's legitimacy beforehand. For more information on online scams to watch out for, click here.
2) Make big ticket purchases
Naturally, if you're looking to cut back on expenses, you'll want to avoid big ticket purchases altogether. Big ticket purchases include houses, cars, vacations, luxury items, the latest tech devices, and more. This ties back to the previous point of prioritising your needs over your wants. Wait for your income to stabilise before investing in new and expensive items.
3) Cancel your insurance policy
While cancelling your insurance policy might seem like an easy way to reduce your monthly expenses, it should be the last thing you cut out. Without your insurance policy, you are left unprotected in case an illness or accident befalls you or your property. Instead of cancelling your insurance policies altogether, you might want to consider applying for a premium holiday or deferment, or downgrading to a more affordable policy instead. Before making any changes or decisions on your policies, it's best to consult with an insurance advisor beforehand.
4) Try to quit your job
Considering the uncertainty and volatility that's plagued the job market recently, it may not be the best time to switch jobs unless you’ve secured another opportunity already. If you’re considering quitting your job to start a business, you may find yourself in a tough spot as the economy is going into recession. With so many people suddenly left jobless due to the effects of COVID-19, you'll want to be as conservative with your life and career choices as possible and hold onto whatever stable income source you may have.
When things start looking up again, before you rush to spend any windfalls that come your way, you may want to consider taking some of the following steps so that you’re able to cushion the impact of future recessions and emergencies:
1) Prepare an emergency fund
One of the first things you should do once you’re financially able to do so is start building an emergency fund. Ideally, your emergency fund should be enough to cover living expenses for you and your family for 3-6 months. This will help give you some room to breathe should you face unemployment or reduced income in the future.
2) Upskill yourself
Diversifying and upgrading your skills is a good way to improve your chances of finding employment should you lose your job in future downturns or recessions. Once you’re able to afford it, it’s a good idea to start exploring ways to do so.
Some online platforms also offer free online courses, such as Skillshare, Udemy, Coursera, and Lynda. Google and Facebook are also offering free online courses to anyone interested in learning about Google Analytics and Facebook advertising, respectively.
3) Consider developing a side hustle
If you don’t have one already, and if it’s not issue with your current employers, consider developing a side hustle for a little extra income. Depending on your expertise and the amount of time you can pour into your side hustle, the possibilities could be endless. Leverage your existing skills like plant-growing, pottery, or knitting, to make items you can sell on Carousell or Facebook Marketplace. Or, if you have specialized skills in certain areas, sign up as a freelancer on sites like Fiver to do graphic design or copywriting, or as a delivery partner for Grab or Gojek.
While a lot of what's happening around us is out of our control, our finances and personal outlook are two things we can control. Put a prime on financial planning moving forward and brace yourself for the impact of what's to come so you can emerge from this pandemic stronger and more resilient.
This article is meant purely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as financial advice. The precise terms, conditions and exclusions of any Income products mentioned are specified in their respective policy contracts. For customised advice to suit your specific needs, consult an Income insurance advisor.