Times are tough right now, there’s no denying that. Skyrocketing interest rates and increased living costs, coupled with high unemployment and job cuts across the board – it’s a scary time for many people. Despite all of the uncertainty though, there are ways to create extra cushioning in your budget, and a sense of safety in your habits that will help weather the storm no matter how long it lasts. Here are the 5 ways to survive a recession.
Negotiate absolutely everything.
When times are tough with cash flow, free up as much as you possibly can, and do it before anything else, so that you can re-budget with the most up-to-date picture of your finances available. (That’s the next step).
To help with this, you can print out your last two or three credit card or bank statements and go through every line with a fine tooth comb. Ideally, you’re looking at what’s a non-negotiable spend, like food, housing, or a business subscription or travel, and you’re finding a way to reduce it – even if temporarily.
For example, are you spending on health insurance (a non-negotiable), but potentially on a premium that’s too steep for your needs? In our case, we’ve stayed on a higher tier for a few years as it covers pregnancy, but also includes IVF – which we don’t need – as well as things like joint replacements and cataract surgery, which we don’t need right now. By dropping down a tier, we’ve saved a couple of hundred a month. As we get older, we’ll simply step back up and see out the waiting period again.
Recently I dropped two of my streaming services, and negotiated a couple of business subscriptions I could pare down back to basics on. There’s a lot of family assistance right now, whether it’s rental assistance or financial assistance from your bank, so it’s worth speaking to them and seeing what you’re eligible for if you’re really struggling. Remember that most businesses will offer hardship pauses if the alternative is you cancelling something entirely, and if you can access some cash now, paying upfront on certain membership means a lower price overall (and then you don’t have to worry about it throughout the year).
Hopefully by now you’ve whittled down the non-negotiable expenses a little, so it’s crunch time on the budget side. Here’s where you factor in the new cost of these things, as well as minimise or strip out those you don’t need entirely. But how do you comb through your budget in order to assess what’s important? Well, this might help.
Look at how much you spend on groceries versus takeaway and restaurants. Food is usually the biggest portion of your spending budget, and you’d be surprised at the monthly number. How much would an extra $100 to $200 cash mean to you if someone just dropped it off on your doorstep? With Aussies forking out on some of the highest spending on eating out in recent history, it’s not a stretch to assume that a few changed habits can actually free that amount up.
What subscriptions do you have, and are they all necessary? What can be combined? Where are too many convenience purchases seeping in – one or two daily barista coffees, 7-Eleven snack deals, petrol from the place near your house (but that’s way more expensive than everywhere else), or those really pricey dog treats you get? Can you implement more walking into your routine, therefore minimising gym expenses or travel expenses (even by walking or cycling some of the commute)?
Finally, go plant-based. It’s honestly really, really cheap – don’t listen to the people who say “it’s as expensive as meat, or more expensive!”. It’s not even close. Implementing more legumes, tofu and veggies into your diet is cheap, nutritious and tasty. Bar intolerance issues, these items soak up the flavours of what you cook them in and are easy to store and prepare. Some of my favourite recipes are sticky orange tofu, colourful and fragrant veggie stir fries with basmati rice, roasted chickpea and grilled veggie tacos with plenty of guacamole, and hearty lentil and vegetable bolognaises, stews, and chillies.
Up-skill your life.
Look, no-one has a crystal ball to predict the future, but why not be as prepared as possible? By investing in your future earning potential, you can jump on the rocket ship of some of the industries or fields set to boom in the next decade. And by doing it now (especially if you were considering changing careers anyway), you’re making the biggest shoot-the-lights-out investment of your life: in you.
I think that no type of future education is a bad investment, but if you’re not sure, it’s always good to look into ways that you can up-skill on the cheap with free or low-cost courses, or improve your financial knowledge so that you can at least better your relationship with money in the meantime. Fellow Brit Emma Edwards from The Broke Generation has a good resource here, but there are plenty of platforms (and even formal universities and colleges) offering free and introductory courses on certain topics that can whet your appetite and expand your knowledge base. Personally, I think it’s always a great look to employers (or clients for the self-employed) when you can show that you’re interested in the world around you.
Maintain your insurance.
You know that old saying, peace of mind is priceless? Well, it rings especially true during times of major world flux. Funnily enough, though, maintaining peace of mind on a budget feels counterintuitive when it comes to forking out on a monthly insurance premium that offers no direct physical benefit.
Yes, premiums are a slight pressure on the budget, but the reality is that with mortgage debt and dependents, if anything happened to even one of us we’d be up shit creek without a paddle (and that’s even with a healthy emergency fund attached to the offset account on our mortgage).
Insurance covers us in case one of us is severely impacted with the income we can earn, have a pricey car disaster, need specialist care, or if a large unexpected cost hits us on one of our properties. It means that if something happens to one of us, the other isn’t left servicing everything on their own — with the cost of kids as well — on one income. We hold insurance cover for private health, TPD (total permanent disability), life, trauma and income protection, as well as all of the standard ones around building, contents, landlord and car.
For us, the cost of maintaining these isn’t a burden. In fact, quite the opposite — it takes a tremendous weight off of our shoulders, and gives us comfort that even in the most devastating of circumstances, surviving financially is one less thing we’d have to worry about.
Continue to invest.
I’ll keep this one short and sweet, because it’s fairly self-explanatory. But, if you are in a position where you can invest (and you feel confident to – remember, I’m not a financial planner and am not giving you any advice here!), why wouldn’t you? You have a choice to stay invested in your future, and even a small amount can make a big difference to the end game. I’ve always found uncertain times in the world to be the best time to shop the sales floor.