As I write this article, we are now seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases presenting at hospitals and rising workplace absenteeism. The media is now discussing mandates, working from home, vaccine boosters and support measures. It is almost as if we have progressed back three years. Is it a case of Déjà vu?
The world has changed since 2019 and economic conditions globally are now very different. We are seeing global inflationary pressure driving up interest rates and the ability of governments to prop up economies has diminished following several years of borrowing to cover the costs of managing the pandemic. Rising costs of living has seen the passing of increases to the minimum wage and one-off payments to pensioners, but with inflation likely to exceed this rise, some further belt tightening is going to be needed. For retirees, the markets have taken a hit and the majority of superannuation funds have experienced a negative return over the past 12 months. This can be a scary time when there is no income being generated from employment.
So as I line up for my fourth shot and my free flu vaccine, it is time to reflect on my own budget and where haircuts may be required. What do I need to anticipate and review for my overall goals?
Everyone’s goals are different and prioritising/determining how much to allocate to goals is an individual choice. Let’s look at how you may review some of your goals.
- Retirement – less superannuation may mean reviewing whether you want to work one more year. Could you save enough from your budget for more salary sacrifice, do you downsize or relocate to cheaper housing?
- Buy a house – interest rates are rising, so how much of your budget can you allocate to your loan (how does this compare to rent), will prices in your area come down or rise, do you delay a year to save a bit more for a deposit?
- Holidays – set a budget and maintain it (also, involve the kids). Rising fuel costs and prices may mean some adjustment to expectations.
Needs versus wants
Budgets really are a case of needs and wants.
Needs will consist of fundamental items that are essential – roof over our head, clothing, food and water, essential health. Review your budget, where can savings be made? Have you shopped around on your home loan and general insurances? Challenge them to do better. Do you need the ‘name’ brand clothing or can a basic outfit suffice? Plan your meals and review the catalogues for food savings and plan meals around what is on special, could you grow your own vegetables? Look after your health. Flu vaccines are free so whilst they may not 100 percent guarantee prevention of flu, they will certainly help to prevent it (and with the amount of code reds in Victoria, lessening the load on the hospitals will be a good outcome also).
Wants are items that are great to have, but if they were not there, life will go on. Where can we find savings? With petrol topping $2 per litre, this is a good starting point. Use petrol apps to find the cheapest fuel. Premium versus regular, are you transporting extra weight in the car, could a ride on the pushbike achieve the same goal? Take-away, the morning coffee is the obvious one, but dinners out, take-away foods and pre-prepared meals will cost you more than a family dinner prepared at home. The fitness membership gathering dust, can you sell it or instead of renewing, you could exercise in the park? Streaming services, how many do you have and are they really needed?
At an individual level, we cannot influence the world around us to stop the conflict in Ukraine, improve trade relations with China or halt natural disasters, but we can focus on managing our discretionary spend and on our personal health. The ideas above are just a sample of how you can help yourself to combat costs of living. Do not assume that the government will provide relief as they manage their own debts incurred through the pandemic and sometimes having a budget haircut can provide a sound financial outcome.
Please note this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal, business or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today.