How to Entrench Positive Changes Necessitated by COVID-19

The pandemic warranted changes such as closing restaurants and banning liquor during the hard lockdown in March last year. It’s been tough; many South Africans’ livelihoods have been …

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The pandemic warranted changes such as closing restaurants and banning liquor during the hard lockdown in March last year. It’s been tough; many South Africans’ livelihoods have been affected.

However, it could be argued that many people made positive changes, such as starting an emergency fund and drawing up budgets. So, the pandemic has taught us some positive financial lessons.

It can be said that many people struggle to stick to goals they set for themselves. COVID-19 has flipped many people’s routines 180-degrees; we’ve had to adapt in a short space of time. On the other hand, habits are likely to have been developed over decades, but the question is, can newly-formed ‘behaviours’ be sustained?

A behaviour change experiment

It seems that even though we’ve dropped to lockdown level one, people are not frequenting physical stores and restaurants as they once did, opting instead to shop online and eat at home, continuing the behaviours that started during the hard lockdown. People may still be cautious by sticking to their adjusted spending patterns.

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Behavioural scientists claim that it can take 66 days to form a habit; we’ve been in lockdown for over 365 days, so there’s been a lot of time for forced habits to be entrenched. However, once population immunity has been reached and all borders opened for travel, are we going to revert to pre-COVID-19 behaviour?

Four tips for entrenching new habits

1.     Entrench habits one at a time

As mentioned earlier, the pandemic has forced changes that can be difficult to maintain. It’s recommended to focus on one at a time. For example, if you have curbed your spending habits to ensure you had some extra money to put into an emergency fund, keep that as your primary focus. The pandemic made it necessary for us to differentiate between wants and needs. Keep this mindset moving forward by sticking to a budget.

2.     Identify your trigger

Pre-COVID-19, your trigger may have been someone who spent money first before considering saving. The onset of the pandemic may have broken the cycle, and now you save before spending. Consider investing in unit trusts (it only requires a minimum contribution of R500 per month, most likely less than the last item of clothing you bought).

3.     Identify the reward

Identify how a particular habit may be making your life better, not what you’re sacrificing. By eliminating unnecessary spending and saving instead, you can achieve a long-term gain. It takes time and dedication to create financial security, but it’s likely to pay off in the end.

4.     Have a contingency plan in place

Life is largely unpredictable, and unforeseen events can occur that put a strain on saving. It’s in your best interest to have a contingency plan in place, e.g. an emergency fund that can prevent you from dipping into your retirement savings should you need money immediately. The pandemic has taught us that we shouldn’t take anything for granted.

If you’re unsure how to start, speak to an independent financial adviser. They can provide you with guidance to help you make informed decisions to suit your financial needs.

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