Ease the Financial Stress of COVID-19 with an Emergency Budget

April 8, 2020 Erin Kann


KEY TAKEAWAYS

✔ COVID-19 is creating financial hardship that demands Canadians reassess their spending 

✔ Download our emergency budget worksheet to identify what costs you can cut or defer, and prioritize what’s most urgent

✔ Under our new normal with this virus, there are savings you can find, from transportation to personal spending


According to a recent poll by Angus Reid, 44% of Canadian households say they’ve lost work or seen layoffs and another 18% anticipate work loss because of the COVID-19 epidemic. Of those who have lost work, 37% said they aren’t equipped to handle even an extra $100 in expenses over the next 30 days. That’s a lot of people who have been put into a jam.

If you’re among the thousands of hardworking Canadians whose income is affected by the spread of COVID-19, creating an emergency budget can help you gain control as you navigate these uncertain financial times. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Identify what money you have or have coming (such as savings, government aid etc.),
  2. Identify what essentials you must spend on to survive (such as food and housing)
  3. Identify what you can save on or cut out to minimize your expenses.

You might need to revisit this budget as often as every week, depending on how the situation unfolds and how your expenses change during these crucial weeks. Later, you’ll need to have a post-emergency budget to get you back on track.

The good news is that there is a lot of help that is becoming available from both, different levels of governments, and private businesses. Stay informed about all the options available to you – see our article on government aid and get updated information on the Government of Canada’s website frequently. See what your province and municipality have to offer as well.

Determine Your New Income

Before you can budget for expenses, determine how much money is coming in from all income sources, includingyour regular paycheque, government aid, support from your employer  and other sources. You may be able to tap into other income sources as well to bridge the gap such as emergency savings, or available credit if it comes to it. Taking on a short-term side gig at one of the essential businesses staying open, such as grocery stores or delivery services.

If your income is cut in half because of the crisis, the goal is to cut at least 50% of your expenses from your budget. The important thing to remember is this crisis has put into better perspective what necessary expenses are – the things you truly need to live, such as shelter, water, electricity and food.


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Group your expenses by urgency and importance

Without an action plan, you may begin to feel overwhelmed as bills come due while you're unemployed or underemployed due to COVID-19. Determining which expenses are urgent, which can wait, and which expenses you can temporarily cut will help you manage your personal finances, as well as financial stress during this time. 

Download our free emergency budget worksheet to help you manage your expenses while you're managing the impact of COVID-19. We have included an example of a completed worksheet to help you organize your expenses. 

An Emergency Budget can help you prioritize this by putting your expenses into four categories: 

Urgent/Important

These are the things you and your family need to make it through this crisis. They are things like paying for shelter, through rent or mortgage payments, utilities such as water, electricity and heat, food and medicine. Because these things are vital for survival, the government and businesses are doing what they can so Canadians can keep the lights on and have enough to eat.

Also urgent are debts you have that you don’t have the option to defer or restructure. You don’t want to face penalties or damage your credit score by not making payments. It’s important to talk to every one of your lenders to see what they can offer.Many are lenders and service providers are offering payment deferrals, extensions and partial payment options, or flexible payment plans. You might spend a lot of time on the phone and on hold, but it’s important to know what you are eligible for. Talk to your landlord (there are rent freezes or deferrals) or mortgage lender. If deferrals are possible, even though you’ll pay in interest down the line, this might be necessary to get you through.

If food security is a pressing concern, there are food banks available. Rogers is donating one million meals to food banks and is helping to raise awareness through a national campaign.

Not Urgent/Important

This is a category that will become more important as time goes on, such as the need to build up savings or replenish savings that might have gotten depleted, paying down debt (which you might have had to incur more of during the crisis), and the purchase of items or services you’ve had to defer, such as car or home repairs. Although saving is important, COVID-19 has forced many Canadians to think about their finances one day at a time, and that’s okay. Use this section to keep track of the important things that, when you can, you want to focus on—but not right now.

Urgent/Not Important

These are things you want to concentrate on as being non-essential for now but that you need to tend to quickly, so that you can save money. These can be things like subscriptions, gym memberships, auto insurance and other automatic payments you’ve set up for services you’re not paying for right now. Make a list of all of these and get them cancelled or put on hold, so that you’re not paying for things you can’t use right now.

Not Urgent/Not Important 

These are expenditures that normally take up a chunk of your budget that you can just not worry about for now, and take the money you would have spent on them for other essentials. These would include any entertainment costs such as dining out, dry cleaning, or transportation costs if you’re at home.

Set up your spending needs into a grid that measures urgency and importance. Some things, like food, are urgent and important needs. Buying new clothes or getting a haircut are not urgent and not important right now (and generally, with all the closures during the lockdowns, not even available to you.)

The important thing is to be proactive – take charge of your emergency budget and talk to all your service providers and lenders to see what they are offering to help you get through this time. If you need support, remember that we are all in this together. We are here to help too: contact easyfinancial.com with questions.

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