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Make the Most of Isolation – 6 Things You Can Do Now to Improve Your Finances Now and Later

It occurred to me lately that with all this extra time many have on their hands, it may make sense to use that extra time to take steps to improve your financial situation either now or in the future.

So, I came up with 6 areas to make the most of isolation that you could focus on.

I recognize that this may be a very challenging time for you financially at the moment, and improving your finances may seem like an impossible task, but trust me. These ideas won’t cost you a penny (not that you could likely find one if you tried).

Ready? Let’s begin!

1. Embrace the no spend challenge

We have all been forced into a no-spend or less-spend challenge to some degree. Aside from online shopping, most of what we spent money on in the past – you know, those indulgences – are not available to us now. So what can you do to make the most of this?

a. Evaluate it – simply pay attention. What are you missing spending money on? What are you not missing? Are you happier? Are you feeling deprived? Simply notice the psychology of spending less. If you are still spending, but differently, notice that too. What are the items that you just can’t live without? I recently ordered a pair of rubber boots online. Why? To avoid going into the stores and because I am walking more and it’s spring, which means, in the Maritimes at least, it’s wet. Really wet! And after I soaked my foot once I had enough. I know. First world problems. Which leads me to the opposite result for those at home with more time on their hands…you may be spending more! If that’s happening simply notice it as well.

b. Calculate the financial outcome – whether you are saving or spending more, calculate how much more we are talking about. Information is power and this figure may fuel your desire to curb your spending in future months when things return to ‘normal’ …whatever that may be for us.

2. Purge, purge and purge

What one thing are many people doing these days? They are going through their homes and cleaning house – organizing closets and junk drawers, basements and attics, pretty much any space that needs it. So, it’s a great time to get rid of the old to make way for … well… space! (That’s not where you thought I was going with that statement, is it?). Trying to encourage y’all to reduce the amount of “stuff” you (we) hang onto. 😉 What are you going to do with all that stuff you are going to purge? Here are some ideas:

a. Box up items you can sell at yard sales – I’m really hoping I can indulge in one of my favourite summer pastime – yard sales. Last year I resisted the urge to “go yard saling” and, instead, had yard sales. We even built a ‘shop’ in our driveway to house the yard sale items to keep ‘em dry and save on packing and unpacking for good-weather weekends. So, get some boxes, or bags, or storage totes, or designate one room or section of a room and start putting items there to be sold.

b. Bag up items for good will – don’t like the above idea. Too much work? Takes too much time? You REALLY want the stuff gone?! Bag it up for goodwill. You can’t actually give it to them at the moment as the collection bins are not being emptied for the time being, but you can set it aside to be given at a later date.

c. Post stuff for free / for sale on place list kijiji and Facebook marketplace – now, this one goes with the public service announcement that you MUST practice safe buying/selling. Both Kijiji and Facebook marketplace have guidelines posted. Money should not exchange hands, items should be cleaned (sanitized), personal contact should meet current standards. Ideally, it makes sense to set these items aside for posting later. You can take the pictures and create the listings on your phone or computer so you are ready to hit “send” when the time is right.

d. Repurpose it – consider new ways to use old items. Do a search online for ideas. That old picture frame still has lots of life in it and can be used for so many things!

e. Toss it – Or simply throw it away. I like to utilize all of the above first before adding to the growing garbage pile in the world, but tossing it is definitely an option.

3. Create a work (or creativity) space in your home

Now that you have decluttered, create a space just for you! A place where you can escape the crazy, think, plan, or simply sit in silence (might need your headphones and some white (brown) noise for that last one) 🡨 my favourite ☺

a. It doesn’t have to be a room – a part of a room works just fine.

b. It can be used long after this crazy is over – Sure man caves and she sheds are great, but if you don’t have the property or cash flow to do something as grand, a man tent or a she corner will still give you a place to call your own.

c. You may find a new use for some of the items we noted above – I’m currently using a table that had no place to go, a ball chair that I bought on kijiji (to help someone else purge) and a shoe box as a laptop holder. Oh, and that coffee carafe that I haven’t had out for a very long time! (Less time interacting with the family, we all need our space) lol

d. Hide the mess with dividers, curtains and anything else you can think of. – oh, I forgot to mention the curtain I found in a closet hanging behind me and the slatted closet door that I was going to repurpose someday both concealing walls that need to be repainted.

4. Let your creativity free!

a. Monetize your hobby – do you knit? Sew? Do woodworking? If you have a hobby, now is the time to get into it. And if it’s marketable, why not consider ways to make money at it?

b. Make things to sell at a later date – you can create stuff to sell at a later time. (I feel like you do need an extra room to keep all these stuff I’m suggesting 😉 … but really, it’s stuff in your house anyway, you’re just organizing and moving it (for now)

c. Donate them to an upcoming fundraiser – not into selling your stuff? Donate it. Help another.

d. Get organized, make a list of what you need to get started, and get started – you know that space you created? Get in it! Take some quiet time and map out a plan for your side hustle.

e. You can still sell online – already talked about this one…follow safe protocol. Or wait. Your choice.

f. Create a virtual store and launch it later – Back to that space your go 😉 … do some research on selling online and create an online store for a later launch. Or set up a website to market your products or service.

g. Create a blog / social media post schedule / bank – who has time to blog these days? Oh wait, lots of people. Start blogging! Or create a schedule (it’s called a blog bank – I think) and create 52 blog post ideas so you are set for an entire year’s worth of posting. Check out Dandelion Digital … Allison can help you put together that schedule ☺

5. Create a system that begs to be created

Each one of these is a blog post in and of itself (stay tuned, I will get some of them online for you). In the meantime, here is a summary ☺

a. A spending plan (aka budget) – I like the word spending plan versus budget. Why? Because it is simply a plan to spend your money! But call it whatever you want. The important thing is to have one, and not just in your head.

b. An expense tracking system – If you are not tracking your expenses you are missing out a very important aspect of money management. It doesn’t have to be difficult. You can simplify with a tracking system such as ones offered by your bank (ie. TD My Spend) or a third-party program such as MINT 🡨 my favourite and it’s FREE!

c. A business record-keeping system – tired of sorting through those receipts at the end of the year, looking for all of your relevant paperwork? Systemize it. Whether it’s a folder that you put paper into a computer file that you scan to or an accounting program that you post to (or a combination of the three), set up a system that works for you.

d. A better filing system for your bills – You know that space you created for yourself, well, your bills want one too … set up a system to keep you daily paperwork organized and at your fingertips.

e. Scan your paperwork – tired of paper!! Scan it! Create folders on your computer and start scanning things that come in versus keeping them in paper form. I began doing this last year. I emptied all of the folders I had in a drawer, scanned what was important, shredded what wasn’t and as things come in (bills, insurance policies, tax slips, etc., I scan them into the appropriate folder). Oh…back up your info!!

f. Organize your computer /emails – Speaking of computers, it may be time to go through all of those files on your computer and clean those out too. Delete what’s no longer needed and organize the rest into categories. Suggestions: To Do, Read, File, Respond, Hobbies, Self-development, and so on…

6. Sit. Relax. Breathe. Listen. Journal. Allow.

Ok, I will admit, I am a little exhausted and overwhelmed by that list but it isn’t about doing everything, it’s about doing something. Not sure where to start? Relax. Seriously, relax! Go sit in your quiet space (oh yeah, do that one first if you don’t already have a space ☺), breathe, release, get quiet and ask…where do I start? What’s the next best thing for me to do? If you’re up for it, grab a pen and paper and write your thoughts. There’s power in putting stuff on paper. Just remember to scan it, save it and back it up when you are done.

Stay healthy my friends!

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Mary-Ann Marriott

Mary Ann has been working in the insolvency industry for 25 years. In 2005 Mary Ann received her Chartered Insolvency & Restructuring Professional (CIRP) designation and attained her license as a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT) in 2014. She is passionate about helping others become financially literate, and has been a guest speaker to various groups and organizations on the topic of Money Management. Mary-Ann also hosts a weekly radio show, as a volunteer in her community. Her tagline is “Helping you have happier, healthier finances”.