4 common money mistakes to avoid during Covid-19 circuit breaker

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There’s no denying that it can get difficult to stay rational, what with our normal social activities thrown off the radar. The truth is our circumstances aren’t normal either.

But there’s no reason why we should let our sense of disarray (and it is totally normal to feel that way, btw) spill into our finances. 

Watch out for these 4 money mistakes you may be unknowingly committing in these trying Covid-19 times. 

1. Overspending on food delivery

Remember that last-minute mad dash for ‘one last cup’ of bubble tea before they go away until 2 June (or possibly until 5 May)? Yeah, we couldn’t have asked for a better real-life example. For those of you who indulged, how much did you spend on this impulse purchase?

In case you didn’t know, most — if not all — eateries mark up prices on their delivery menu, even for the exact same meal or dish.

That’s because food delivery platforms charge around 30 per cent commission fees, which, to be fair, is pretty tough for the restaurant or eatery to swallow whole.

Then, there are delivery fees, platform fees and, sometimes, if you’re lucky, small order fees that bump up the cost of your meal easily by 20 per cent, if not more. 

This makes it difficult to stick to your budget, as you’ll either have to make do with less food or spend more for the same amount of food. As if having to confine yourself at home isn’t frustrating enough.

So, naturally, we start caring less about how much we are actually spending on that mala hotpot delivery as the unholy trifecta of boredom, deprivation and hunger sets in.

Which starts to throw our budget out of whack, causing us to discover too late that we have overspent at a time when we should be doing the exact opposite. 

If the dish you’re hankering after can be bought at your neighbourhood coffee shop or food centre, then there’s really no point ordering delivery. Having more family members to share the meal may make it slightly more worthwhile, but avoid the urge to splurge as remember you’re still paying marked-up prices. 

2. Not reducing your budget (and saving the difference)

Go to your window and look around you. Hear that silence? See the lack of people? 

We’re certainly living in a surreal time, and experts have warned that we won’t see an end to the pandemic until next year, or beyond. If you’re spending as per your normal budget — even if you’re lucky enough to still be drawing your full salary — you’re making a huge money mistake. 

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Instead of sticking to your pre-Covid-19 budget, you should be reducing your budget in favour of strengthening your financial position. In practical terms, this means saving up cash, investing for the long term, and clearing debt. 

Make a conscious effort to draw up a new budget, taking into account all the savings from not being able to go out drinking, watching movies, having brunches and coffee, and so on.

While you’re at it, evaluate any subscriptions and memberships that are still active — which of these do you really need, even after we make it past the circuit breaker? Then, take all that extra money and stash it into your emergency fund or savings account. 

That last part is pretty important. Any extra money in your budget must be treated differently from the money you have. Otherwise there’s a high chance you’ll simply spend it all, leaving you vulnerable if things should take a bad turn. 

3. Wasting money on unproven supplements and devices 

In a bid to safeguard the health of your loved ones and your own, you may be tempted to start buying supplements and treatments and cures beneficial in fighting Covid-19. However, you may simply be wasting your money on bad science. 

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Let’s talk about supplements first. It’s a thriving global industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Pretty remarkable considering the lack of any proof on the benefits of multivitamin supplementation for the average person. 

Maybe it’s best to be judicious when getting pills and focus on a healthy diet instead. And, let’s be honest, there’s no way that overpriced bottle is a secret miracle cure for the most serious pandemic we’ve ever faced. 

But that doesn’t stop healthcare brands from marketing their products as effective preventions for Covid-19. 

Granted, the most blatant of these false advertisements were found in China, but Singaporeans weren’t immune to falling prey either, wasting good money on “anti-Covid-19” badges that cost tens of dollars each. These, of course, do not work.  

Instead of throwing away your money, let good sense and proven science prevail. Wash your hands with soap and water as often as you can, wear a mask when you need to go out, and practice safe distancing as much as possible.

4. Not reducing your debt interest rates 

The worrying thing about Covid-19 is that the long-term effects on the economy of the pandemic is still as yet unknown — we’d be lucky if we get away with a mild recession. 

The impending uncertainty in the job market could impact your timeline for your personal finances, especially if you are carrying unsecured debt like credit card balances, which you were planning to clear in 2020.

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Depending on your employment circumstances, the most financially prudent choice might be to hold your debt for a longer period, at least until your income stabilises again. While doing so,  make sure to pay the minimum payments on time to avoid additional charges and fees. 

However, if you are able to clear your debt, here’s a method that might make it easier for you. 

As you know, the troublesome thing about credit card debt is compounding interest, which can make tackling your debt feel like you’re trying to climb out of quicksand. The key is to stop the compounding, lower the interest, and stabilise the amount you pay each month. 

The easiest way to do this is to convert your credit card balances into a personal loan. Pay off your high-interest credit debts in full with the loan to stop the compounding interest. Then, you only need to focus on making fixed monthly payments for the duration of your personal loan. 

Most personal loans are available across a wide range of payment periods, and have lower interest rates than credit cards — two features that make it easier to manage your debt repayment. Choose from our range of personal loans and find the best one for you.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.

This article was first published in SingSaver.com.sg.