The COVID pandemic is and continues to be a defining period of our lives. Among its many effects, it caused all of us to take a hard look at how we live our lives, including the way we spend our money.

Quarantine kept many of us at home, preventing us from spending as much as we usually did for things like entertainment and travel. Many people lost their jobs or were furloughed, forcing them to reduce their expenses. One clear effect was that those with emergency funds fared better than those who did not have them.

We all took at least a few moments to evaluate and reassess the things we believed were important to us. For example, many people realized that the things they used to consider “needs” like expensive shoes, eating out every day, or having the latest cellphone, suddenly weren’t as important to them. Those things were simply “wants” or “nice to haves.” We learned we could get by with a less expensive way of life.

If you did manage to save some money, what did you do with the extra cash? Hopefully, you used it to create some financial security, like pay down debt, open a retirement fund, or boost your emergency fund.

There’s a chance that when the pandemic is history, some people may revert to their old spending habits, indulging in all their “wants” again. That would truly be a waste of the lessons we’ve learned. Instead, try to continue spending as mindfully as you have during the pandemic.

1. Make a commitment to save each month. Pay your emergency and retirement funds first. If you haven’t created accounts for either one, then start them now. To make saving easier, use automatic transfers to deposit funds into those accounts after your paycheck is deposited. Try to save 20% of your monthly income.

2. Pay off credit cards. Then make sure you only spend as much as you can comfortably afford — that doesn’t mean your credit limit. Ideally, you want to pay the total in full at the end of each month, so you don’t accrue interest charges.

3. Get clear on what your “needs” and your “wants” are. A lot of people have trouble with this, but it isn’t difficult to figure out. “Needs” are things you need to survive — groceries, housing, utilities, health insurance, transportation. These expenses should amount to 50% of your expenses. Everything else is a “want” — dining out, entertainment, vacations, etc. That should take no more than 30% of your expenses.

Omaha Federal Credit Union is right here with you, ready to help you get your post-pandemic finances in order. If you would like to open a savings or investment account, or need help budgeting, please contact us at 402.399.9001.