If someone would’ve told me a year ago that I’d spend the bulk of 2020 in my house, social distancing from a deadly pandemic, I would’ve thought they were crazy — but here we are. This year has truly been unprecedented, and if you’re like many people, the chaos has been hard on your wallet.
As a freelance writer, I’ll earn less than ever this year. I lost a big client just a few weeks into the pandemic and another client of mine lost several of their clients, which means less work for me. Thankfully, my husband’s job hasn’t been affected, but since I know firsthand what it’s like to lose work to the pandemic, I have a ton of empathy for everyone struggling right now.
Now that 2020 is almost over, an opportunity to start fresh is right around the corner. Whether you accumulated debt due to the COVID-19 crisis or made unrelated financial blunders, you can bounce back in the new year. Here’s a look at money moves my husband and I are making to set ourselves up for good financial health in 2021.
Last updated: Dec. 22, 2020
Cut Back on Holiday Spending
Let’s face it — the holidays are going to be very different this year. If things were normal, we’d be hosting both family and holiday parties, and maybe even doing a bit of traveling. Since none of that is safe right now, we’ll be staying home, like we always do these days.
We’re still buying gifts for our son and immediate family members, but that’s it. Instead of exchanging gifts ourselves, my husband and I have decided to support a local restaurant by ordering fancy takeout. While this type of dinner costs more than a pizza, we’re still saving a ton of money by not buying gifts for each other, not hosting anything and not traveling.
Year in Review: What We Spent Money on in 2020
Step Up My Retirement Savings
When I shifted from the corporate world to freelance life, I rolled my 401(k) into an IRA. I’m pretty good about depositing money into the account each month, but I rarely reach the annual maximum contribution amount. On the other hand, my husband earns more than me and has his 401(k) deductions automatically taken from his paycheck. We’ve realized a need to even this out, so we’re working on a plan for 2021 to ensure I’m able to save more each month.
Put Aside Money for Taxes
Tax bills can easily creep up on you — especially when you don’t expect them. As a freelancer, I’m responsible for taking taxes out of every paycheck I receive. I’ve been doing this for many years, so it’s become something I do without thinking twice.
However, what my husband and I weren’t expecting was large property tax bills on our new house, which we purchased at the beginning of the year. An honest misunderstanding, we assumed they were rolled into our mortgage, which made for an immediate need to revisit our budget and look for new areas to save. Now that we know better, we’ll definitely start putting money aside each month for property taxes next year, to avoid a last-minute crunch.
Budget For Planned Expenses in 2021
You can’t anticipate every expense you’ll incur in the year ahead, but if you’re like my husband and me, you have a wish list. For us, most of our planned expenses in 2021 involve our new house. Our furniture situation is currently on the sparse side and we also want to do a few home improvements to really make it our own. Therefore, we’re working on a budget that will allow us to put money aside for these purchases we know we want to make in the new year.
Read More: How To Start Budgeting Now for 2021
Keep a Return to Post-Pandemic Life in Mind
As someone who hasn’t even set foot in a grocery store since March, it’s kind of hard to imagine life after the COVID-19 crisis. However, now that the vaccine rollout has begun, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. With that in mind, I’m not losing sight of expenses that could — or definitely will — return post-pandemic.
Costs like getting gas more often, parking fees, happy hours, new clothes — that aren’t sweats — and travel will return, so it’s important to keep that in mind. It’s hard to know when these expenses will become a reality again, making added flexibility a must with this year’s budget.
Pay Off Debt Incurred in 2020
If you lost your job or had to take a pay cut this year, you’re not alone. As of November 2020, 10.7 million Americans were unemployed, which is 4.9 million more than in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A loss of income might’ve forced you to put some of your living expenses on a credit card or pick and choose which bills to pay. Try not to panic, because if you’re not already back on your feet, you will be soon.
When my husband and I incur debt, we make it a point to pay it off before taking on new — unnecessary — expenses. For example, if we have a hefty credit card balance, we won’t go on vacation or make a big-ticket purchase until we’ve paid off the debt.
Continue Searching For Ways To Spend Less
I don’t consider myself frugal, but I’m a naturally budget-conscious person. For example, I almost always buy store brand everything and pretty much never pay full-price for clothes. My husband and I are always on a mission to find ways to save, whether it’s finally cutting the cord on cable or skipping drinks at dinner — pre-COVID, of course.
Personally, I enjoy the challenge of finding ways to stretch a dollar, without feeling like I’m missing out. I will definitely take this strategy into 2021 and beyond, because I firmly believe finding ways to save money should always be an ongoing quest.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Top Money Moves I’m Making Now To Save My Bank Account in 2021