Subscribe to Money & Life

Budgeting & saving

Aussies focus on saving, budgeting to cope with COVID-19 pandemic

06 October 2021

Money & Life team

Money & Life contributors draw on their diverse range of experience to present you with insights and guidance that will help you manage your financial wellbeing, achieve your lifestyle goals and plan for your financial future.

Aussies are more focused on saving money than going on holiday, after enduring a challenging second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s one of the findings from this year’s Money and Life Tracker: Freedom Edition, which provides an insight into how Aussies are faring in the 18-months since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

The survey revealed that many of the healthy financial habits adopted early in the COVID-19 pandemic have picked up pace this year. It found a growing number of Australians are focused on saving, budgeting and paying down debt, rather than splurging or going on holiday, as the country prepares to emerge from months of lockdowns.

Of those surveyed, 35 per cent of people said lockdowns had affected their income and ability to work. And, worryingly, 19 per cent didn’t have enough savings to get through lockdowns, or didn’t know if they did.

The research marks the start of the 21st annual Financial Planning Week in Australia (4-9 October), which aims to encourage people to put a financial plan in place for greater peace of mind.

FPA CEO Dante De Gori CFP® says the pandemic has been a unique opportunity for Australians to take control of their financial future.

“This year’s edition of the Money & Life Tracker has shown us almost a quarter of Australians didn’t have enough in savings to support themselves through the lockdown period,” he said.

“However, the value of financial advice has clearly risen in the eyes of those facing significant challenges and uncertainty. In light of this, we encourage as many Australians as possible to take stock of their circumstances and explore how a qualified financial planner could help them.”

Healthy financial habits pick up pace

For many Australians, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a time to take stock and adopt healthy financial habits. The trend continued throughout the year, as many people endured a second year of lockdowns.

The biggest change people reported making this year was being ‘more frugal about their lifestyle choices’. Close to 45 per cent of people say they cut back in 2021, compared with just over a third last year.

Other changes included increasing their savings (44 per cent) and paying down debt (41 per cent in 2021 vs 23 per cent in 2020). Creating a budget was also high on the list, with 39 per cent of people taking the initiative, compared with 23 per cent last year.

Encouragingly, 26 per cent of people say they’ve made changes to their financial situation since the beginning of the pandemic, while 11 per cent reported being in a stronger financial position.

Cautious optimism when setting goals

While Australians are more confident about the future than they were 12 months ago, uncertainty remains. This was reflected in the top financial goals of the respondents, with more than half prioritising hitting a savings goal, while going on holiday and paying off their mortgage were next in line.

Financial planning regrets

Among those who didn’t make any major changes, many felt that in hindsight, some basic financial planning could have helped. Eighteen per cent of people regretted splashing their cash on take-aways and non-essential items, while nine per cent wished they had put a financial plan in place.

“Coming out on the other side of the pandemic, there are lots of key learnings for Australians on how to better manage their financial situations,” Mr De Gori says.

A majority of people maintained a DIY approach to their financial health, with 88 per cent feeling they could trust only themselves or their spouse with their financial accountability. Nearly 12 per cent are holding back from engaging a financial planner because they think that they don’t have enough assets or investments to engage one.

“Just as you would seek legal advice from a lawyer, or get regular health checks from a doctor, we recommend seeking professional advice on your financial situation from a qualified financial planner.”

Three tips for financial wellbeing

As vaccination rates rise and the country starts to reopen, it’s a good time to double down on those healthy financial habits. Here are three things you can do to be more financially savvy:

  1. Do a financial health check

Get a handle on your current financial situation with a quick financial health check. Once you’ve got an idea of your income and expenses, look for areas where you can negotiate a better deal or cut back to make some savings.

  1. Imagine your future

Work out where you want to be financially in five, or even 10 years’ time. Then work backwards, thinking about important milestones along the way. Create a timeline for when you’ll need to hit those goals in order to achieve financial freedom.

  1. Make an appointment with a financial planner

If you’ve been thinking about getting financial advice, don’t delay. Having a financial plan in place means you can better ride out the unexpected ups and downs that come with everyday life, while knowing that you’re headed for a comfortable financial future.

Related: Financial planning: how the process works

Financial Planning Week runs from Monday, October 4 to Friday, October 9. It’s the perfect time to think about creating a plan to improve your financial wellbeing, now and into the future.

If you’d like advice on developing a financial plan, why not speak to a CERTIFIED FINANICAL PLANNER® or CFP® professional. You can use the FPA’s Match My Planner service to reach a CFP® professional, or search the online Find a Planner directory.

You may also be interested in