Money lessons from 2020 that could help us in 2021

Last year was a tough one for many households, and many of us have had to learn some important money lessons. The bright side, though, is that these lessons can be valuable in 2021 and beyond.

From creating a sufficient cash cushion or ’emergency fund’, to shopping around for the best suppliers and spending your money mindfully, there are some financial changes that could be handy habits to hang on to – as well as some that may be best left in the past.

Here, Adam Bullock, UK director of TopCashback, looks at five key money lessons learnt from 2020.

1. Bulk buying is often a false economy
As the pandemic initially took hold, so did panic buying as some supermarket shelves were ransacked. If you tend to be a bulk buyer, it may be worth reassessing your habits and looking at other ways to be savvy.

Research from TopCashback in 2020 indicated that despite nine in 10 people using bulk-buying to save money, much of this stockpiled food ends up being wasted.

So, ditch buying in excess in exchange for buying what you actually need and know you will use, and always remember to shop around for the best offers.

2. Keep topping up your emergency savings pot or, if you haven’t got one, start one
The COVID-19 outbreak has underlined the importance of having a separate ‘rainy day’ fund that could sustain your living expenses after a major unforeseen event, such as sudden redundancy or a medical emergency that means you can’t work.

Everyone is different. However, freelancers, contractors or those who depend on commissions and bonuses may want to save more to make up for their income irregularities.

To boost your fund, aim to set aside a reasonable yet manageable percentage of your income each month. This is a good habit to get into, regardless of the pandemic.

3. Leave lazy spending habits in the past
Many of us become complacent with our spending over time and forget there are simple things we can do to save money, if we just put a bit of legwork in. Switching your utility suppliers can be a great place to start, as it’s one of the easiest ways to put cash back into your pocket almost instantly.

The start of the year is also often a time when people renew their insurance, so make sure you shop around to find the best deals for your needs.

Lastly, if you have lots of subscriptions and memberships that you know you just won’t use in 2021, it’s time for a cull. All of these types of savings can be made by going through your bank statement with a fine-tooth comb and by doing a bit of homework.

4. If you’re going to spend, spend well
Some people may have turned to online shopping during lockdowns to give themselves an emotional boost, but ended up buying some items they didn’t really want or need.

There’s no shame in treating ourselves and others now and then, but if we really want to look after the pennies in 2021, it’s important to stay mindful.

In the first instance, working out how much an item costs as a proportion of your usual salary can be a useful way to put your spending into perspective and avoid spending on unnecessary items.

Cashback websites can also give you money back on spending, from clothes to home insurance. This will free up more money that you can earn back in rewards, as a bank transfer or vouchers.

5. Finally, don’t suffer in silence
Unfortunately for many people, 2020 was an extremely troubling year – and their financial prospects may still be looking quite bleak right now.

Some people may have kept quiet about their financial situation out of fear of judgement, or perhaps because they simply don’t know where to start to resolve a financial issue.

As with many other aspects of life, the worst thing you can do if you have significant financial problems is to bury your head in the sand.

If you have money troubles, try and speak up. Confiding in friends and family, or reaching out for free advice from the National Debt Helpline, may feel like a short-term pain, but in the long run, it is sure to be a long-term gain.

Have you adopted any new money habits over the past year? Do you have an emergency savings pot?

– With PA

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