Five Budgeting Strategies We Learned from the Pandemic ::

Five Budgeting Strategies We Learned from the Pandemic

How to cut down on expenses and keep money in the bank

It was the best of years, it was the worst of years. 

The year 2020, that is. 

Our family of six put our two-bedroom condo on the market and moved into our dream home... in the last week of February. 

While forever grateful to have moved somewhere with enough bedrooms for everyone and a backyard before the entire country shut down, realizing we would likely be carrying two mortgages much longer than we’d anticipated was… terrifying.

I think we all learned a lot in 2020—like the importance of toilet paper—but my husband and I also learned to budget like we meant it. And to put up with each other in the same space for far more hours, days and weeks than ever before in our 15 years as a couple; but that’s ANOTHER story.

The complexities of managing money can be overwhelming, even without a pandemic. We all need to borrow sometimes—mortgage, car loans, lines of credit—but when you’re paying interest on a variety of loans all in different accounts, it can add up fast. 

I recently learned about the Manulife One account, which not only helps you keep track of your finances all in one place, but can also give you the benefit of substantial interest savings. With Manulife One, your debt (mortgage, line of credit, car loans) and your bank accounts (chequing and savings) are all rolled into one. Having all your money in one place is key. Interest is calculated on the balance of your Manulife One account daily and charged monthly. So each time your pay is deposited into the account, your debt goes down, reducing the amount of interest you pay

Here are some other ways we’ve been cutting down on expenses and keeping more of our money in the bank. 

Plan meals and use a shopping list

I have spent years thinking I cannot repeat meals too frequently. But guess what? Kids do not care if you eat the same thing on a weekly rotation—in fact, they love it! 

I made a weekly schedule (for more variety you can do a bi-weekly or monthly one), and now I don’t panic about what’s for dinner every night, or buy ingredients that go to waste. 
Doing all my food shopping using a supermarket app, with my meal plan in hand, eliminates all the impulse purchases I am prone to make when in the store!

Cut out unnecessary expenses 

This might seem obvious, but I approach every household expense with skepticism: is this something we can do without or do ourselves? 

Guess who knows how to replace the air filters in her minivan thanks to YouTube? This girl! 

Twins need haircuts? My dad will gleefully do it at the family rate of 100% off. 

My son reads a book a day. The library is free, and we can do curbside pickup!

Renegotiate services to reduce fees 

I am saving $70 a month since changing cell phone providers and bundling our phones with our internet. I wish I’d done it sooner!

It can be such a hassle to contact your service providers to make sure you’re getting the best price, but it pays off. You can leave that extra cash in your Manulife One, pay less interest and be debt-free sooner!

Flip your second-hand goods

I run a tight merchandising operation out of my house.

Basically, I always look for what we need second-hand on Facebook Marketplace, and I sell off everything we no longer need in the same manner. Kids go through their gear so quickly. All our winter gear is purchased at probably 75% off the retail price, then I go on to sell it again when we are done with it. 

Take advantage of assistance

Thank goodness I’ve always run my business by the book, because it allowed us to benefit from CERB this year and keep our heads above water.

We also deferred payment on our traditional mortgage for a few months to give us time to get our finances back on track. This can be an expensive option in the long run, but when your cash flow is really tight, it can be helpful.

With a Manulife One, you don’t need to worry about payment deferral. You can reduce your monthly payment or make interest-only payments until your situation improves. Flexible monthly payments can be a lifesaver when money’s tight. Manulife One also lets you easily access the equity in your home when you need it most. 

Necessity becomes habit

We finally did sell our condo—and our finances are getting back on track—but we will maintain the habits we formed to make ends meet in 2020, since they will help us save up for our future! 

Choosing a Manulife One is a concrete step to reducing household debt, while reaping the benefits of home ownership. With interest savings, flexible payments and easy access to your home equity, you can be ready for the next bump in the road, which I think we all hope will be significantly smaller than the roadblocks 2020 put up for us all.


Lindsay Gallimore is a parenting blogger and mom of four based in Calgary, Alberta. She is passionate about sustainability and pursues a zero-waste-adjacent lifestyle. She is also a Child Passenger Safety Technician and loves to teach caregivers about car seat safety.