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Last sync:2024-06-25 16:45
In this video, one woman tells us how quarantine has changed her financial life forever.

Based on an article by Domunique Lashay:

Through weekly video essays, "Making It Work" showcases how *real* people have upgraded their personal or financial lives in some meaningful way. Making your life work for you doesn't mean getting rich just for the sake of it. It means making the most of what you have to build a life you love, both in your present and in your future. And while managing money is a crucial life skill for everyone, there's no one "right way" to go about it — you have to figure out what works best for *you,* full stop.

Video narration by Cathy B

Video by Grace Lee

The Financial Diet site:

This week's video is sponsored by Fidelity Investments.

I started getting serious about my financial situation in the summer of 2019. I read everything I could get my hands on about financial planning.

I worked on unraveling my many negative beliefs about money, and I set up all the right bank accounts. But even though I was taking steps in the right direction, I struggled to fully adopt good money habits and practice them consistently in my everyday life. I lived under the dangerous assumption that because I was still young, I was allowed to be irresponsible with my money.

I told myself it was OK to slack off on my savings goals or disregard my spending budgets in favor of this idea of being young and carefree. I thought I had all the time in the world to figure it out and that one day I would just wake up and be ready to start taking my money seriously. March 2020 was a rude awakening.

I realized how wrong I'd been, thinking I had so much time to improve my financial situation. I quickly learned the importance of making responsible financial decisions all the time and every day because you never know when there might be an emergency. I'm incredibly fortunate and privileged to still be working full time during the pandemic.

I feel immensely grateful that I've not been laid off or let go, although I did receive a significant pay cut. In order to manage this and other COVID-related life changes, I've had to get honest with myself about my financial habits and make some serious adjustments for the better. Here are five good money habits I only adopted because of quarantine.

Number one, I started building an emergency fund. A while ago, I'd set up a high yield savings account with the intention of building an emergency fund. Each month, I would aim to put $500 into the account until I had three to four months of expenses saved.

But when it came time to start actually putting money into the account, I always seemed to find an excuse not to. I always promised myself that I would make up for the missed amount saved by putting more money in the following period, but it never happened. I just kept falling further and further behind on my savings goals.

So by the beginning of quarantine, I did not yet have my emergency fund. I have since stop treating saving money as optional and started making it a priority. I set up biweekly automatic transfers to my savings account in order to not give myself the opportunity to be irresponsible.

I've since managed to save three months of expenses in my high yield savings account. Number two, I started looking for some other streams of income. When my boss first phoned me to let me know my salary would be cut, I realized the importance of not keeping all your eggs in one basket.

I always thought that working as a freelance writer would be fun, but I never seriously pursued it. Since quarantine, I decide to give it a try and have since managed to secure multiple writing gigs for different platforms, publications, and small businesses. Not only has writing helped me feel more financially secure, build my emergency fund, and pay down my debt, it's proven to be a much-needed stress reliever and creative outlet for me during these times and greatly improved my mental health.

Number three, I cut out unnecessary spending. I never realized how much I spent unnecessarily until I quarantined. Expensive lattes, impulse trips to the mall, ordering food when I had groceries in the fridge, and unused memberships were all part of my daily and weekly spending habits.

With everything closed, I started brewing my coffee at home, taking lists to the grocery store and making all my meals at home, and going for socially distant walks or park visits with friends instead of going to restaurants. Although I was technically forced to make these spending changes, I'm generally enjoying many of them and wondering why I hadn't made them sooner. Once restrictions are lifted, things start returning to almost normal, I will definitely continue with most if not all of them.

Collectively, these changes have saved me anywhere from $600 to $800 a month. Number four, I reduced my credit card limit. A bad financial habit I've always struggled with is viewing credit cards as an extension of my income.

In the past, I used credit cards for any large purchases I couldn't necessarily afford and to fund an overall lifestyle beyond my means. Because I was able to cut down on unnecessary spending during quarantine, I've been able to pay down half of my total debt. To deter myself from using credit cards, I reduce my credit card limit periodically as I make debt repayments so that I'm not able to spend more.

Although I may be missing out on an opportunity to improve my credit score by not keeping a wide gap between my total credit available and amount owed, a credit scoring factor called credit utilization, this strategy of reducing my limit has ultimately helped me get and stay out of debt. Number five, I'm building my financial literacy in my spare time. I've been using my extra free time to learn more about finances and good financial planning.

I intentionally set a few hours aside every week to read, listen, and watch a wide array of content about money in order to improve my overall financial literacy. I also try to implement one new positive financial change in my life-- tracking all my expenses, challenging myself to not order food for an entire week, and checking my credit score for the first time, for example. It doesn't matter who you are or how invincible you think you might be.

An emergency can strike at any time, and you have to be prepared. The importance of financial planning cannot be overstated. And thinking you have time to get your finances in order does not delay the inevitable but instead worsen your situation when the inevitable happens.

Although it took a global pandemic for me to learn this seemingly easy lesson, my financial life has been forever changed for the better. As I mentioned, this video is sponsored by Fidelity Investments. They are here to help you reach your savings goals.

And if you're looking for an easy way to finally start investing what you save, check out Fidelity.