After what has been a long 16 months for many of us, it seems as though we may be close to putting the Covid-19 pandemic behind us. Some provinces, including our prairie neighbours of Alberta and Saskatchewan, have significantly reduced the health restrictions, and Manitoba is following suit.
This has many of us eagerly looking forward to making the most of our post-pandemic lives. At the same time, a lot of people are concerned about how their current financial circumstances will limit their future. While this “reopening” will allow us to get back to more of the things that we love doing, it is likely to cause financial difficulties for some.
Throughout the pandemic, there were countless articles written about how people were taking up new hobbies. We were spending money on new things in order to try and squeeze some enjoyment out of life despite the limiting public health restrictions we all had to live with.
Some of us redecorated or renovated our homes, others adopted new pets, and many got involved in new areas of interest and a variety of recreational endeavors. Some people used the time to improve their knowledge and credentials, and enrolled in on-line courses for the first time.
Post Pandemic Decisions
Now that many pre-pandemic activities are again open and trying to recapture lost consumer spending, we are going to have to make difficult decisions regarding where to spend our money. Do we keep spending money on our newfound pursuits, revert back to previous spending habits, or spend on both? What if the new commitments are not easily abandoned, such as higher mortgages on a new “work-from-home” residence, or payment plans for things like camping trailers and boats? These are some of the questions that Manitobans are asking themselves.
Government Assistance Programs Wind Down
There is also the fact that the emergency benefits, such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), that the government has made available are now being tapered off as things begin to reopen and more wage-paying jobs become available.
For many people, CERB and its replacement, the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), actually increased their income to a level above what was previously available to them in thIeir pre-pandemic line of work. That means that returning to employment once things reopen and the CRB is discontinued could actually result in a decrease in their income. This seems counter-intuitive, but it is a real concern for some.
Beyond the reduction and eventual elimination of the CRB, people in other lines of work that were booming during the pandemic, such as delivery drivers and home improvement contractors, may also see their incomes decline as spending on these services revert to more traditional levels.
Consider Your Financial Commitments
These changes are going to result in difficult choices for many Manitobans. Some will see their expenses increase, others will see their incomes decrease, and more than a few will find their finances stretched by both factors.
These issues will particularly impact people with significant fixed financial commitments, such as debt. Unlike those with low fixed monthly costs who can adjust their monthly spending to meet changing needs, those with high debt commitments are stuck paying for the expenses from their past. They don’t have the ability to quickly change their budget to meet their new post-pandemic circumstances.
Review Your Priorities
If you believe that you are, or might soon be, in a situation where your income is exceeded by your expenses, the first step is to evaluate your priorities and the changes you can make to work toward them. If you prefer living life the way you have been during the pandemic and don’t want to eliminate some of your newfound expenses, you will have to resist the temptation to resume spending on previously unavailable things such as eating out and attending live events.
On the other hand, if you have been longing to get back to your pre-Covid life, you will have to make sure that you start to cut back on your pandemic spending habits in order to free up the funds to spend on the things that you did prior to March 2020.
Take a Hard Look at Your Debt Situation
Of course, it’s not always going to be that easy. For many people, the changes that they made to their lifestyle during the pandemic came with financial responsibilities that aren’t easily unwound. In order to quickly start new hobbies and activities without having to wait to save up funds, some Manitobans paid for things by incurring debt, either through putting the purchases on a credit card or arranging dealer financing or other fixed-term loans.
These debts will continue to exist regardless of the state of the pandemic or the status of Manitoba’s reopening, and could severely restrict the ability to adjust your budget. Are you therefore stuck, forced to continue living a pandemic lifestyle in a post-pandemic world? Is it possible to put your debts in the past along with Covid?
Explore Your Options
If you believe that your debts are too high to fully enjoy the exciting post-Covid future, either because of debts that you had before the pandemic or those that accumulated during it, we suggest that you look at the options available to get a fresh start.
It may be something as simple as closely examining your budget and realigning it with your new priorities. If you have good credit and a steady income, debt consolidation via a consolidation loan might be a possibility.
If neither of these are feasible and you need an overall reduction in your debt to make it manageable, a Consumer Proposal may be the best solution. In some cases, it may be prudent to “start over” with a Bankruptcy, so that you can re-emerge financially at the same time as society re-emerges from the period of lockdowns and restrictions. As Manitoba re-emerges from the pandemic, let’s put the Covid and debt behind us for a fresh start.
Reach Out for Help
If this sounds appealing, why not book a free, no-obligation consultation with one of the knowledgeable staff at LCTaylor. There may be several options available to you. We will discuss each of them with you, answer any debt management questions that you may have, and help to facilitate whichever course of action you decide.