As South Africa plans to lift pandemic restrictions – at least in part – there will be more calls to return to the office. This could take the form of 8-5 at the workplace, staggered staff hours, or a hybrid model involving both the office and home.

Whatever your employment options may be, this is an appropriate time to take financial stock, revisit your budget, and examine where you can save, says JustMoney.co.za. This handy website provides articles and tools to inform yourself and make optimal decisions for your financial future.

“Virtually everyone has been affected in some way by the pandemic, and their personal finances are no exception,” says JustMoney Operations Manager Sarah Nicholson. “For example, child care and fuel costs have been partially avoided by many employees over the past two years, but additional expenses have come into play, such as medical bills for long Covid, and IT purchases enabling the family to work and study from home.”

In preparation for a return to the office, whether on a full- or part-time basis, it’s worth considering JustMoney’s financial planning checklist.

1: Budget review: Make a list of your current household essentials, such as bond payments, electricity and food, along with additional expenses such as car payments and school fees. The basics may stay the same, but you will need to be more aware of where your money goes. A budget will clarify where you need to allocate more funds, and where you can continue to make Covid-related savings, such as eating out less.

2: Emergency savings: The pandemic has reminded us of how the unexpected can happen. Retrenchments are a reality. Aim to build up sufficient savings to cover your expenses for three to six months. Channel any additional funds into investments.

3: Investment allocation: If you have not yet spoken to a financial advisor and considered their professional perspective, this is a good time to book a meeting or call. You may have taken for granted that your monthly company deductions are taking care of your retirement. It’s wise to re-examine your asset allocation in terms of your age and life stage.

4: Commuter costs: Fuel costs have gone up dramatically, and your petrol bill could be a headache when you commute to the office. Vehicle maintenance and careful driving will pay off in the long run. Adhere to your car’s recommended service intervals, and go through a checklist to ensure items such as tyres, brake pads and windscreen wipers function optimally. Consider car-pooling with a co-worker as vehicle insurance costs may increase due to mileage-based premiums.

5: Office gear: If your office attire has been sweatpants and t-shirts for the past two years, you may need to revise your wardrobe. Before heading to the mall with your credit card, make a clothing inventory. You may rediscover items you haven’t worn for years. Revamp before you discard, donate items you no longer need, have a swap party with friends, and invest in quality basics that will last for years.

6: Lunch money: Your company may have an on-site café, which is probably convenient but expensive. Packing your own coffee capsules and lunch for work will save hundreds of rands a month, which could be allocated to building your emergency fund.

7: Child care: If you have family nearby, enlisting their help, while offering compensation, is the easiest way to reduce child care costs. You can also trade babysitting services with friends.

8: Online shopping: The pandemic has encouraged many people to try online shopping. Continue comparing prices and tracking down deals. Online shopping will not only help you maximise your leisure time, but will also cut your fuel expenditure.

9: Employee benefits: Your company probably made compensation changes during the pandemic, and will be reviewing these as staff return to the workplace. Ensure that you are informed about, and take advantage of, company benefits, such as your employer matching your medical aid and retirement saving contributions.

  • Read a JustMoney article on what type of benefits a company may offer.

10: Debt help: The pandemic has made us more aware of the importance of mental health. Being unable to keep up with debt is extremely stressful. The good news is that there is professional help available to support you in tackling debt.

“Many people have mixed feelings about returning to the office,” says Nicholson. “Some employees look forward to workplace camaraderie, but they also have concerns about less flexibility and greater exposure to the Covid-19 virus.

“Whatever your circumstances, much has probably changed since the start of the pandemic. This is an appropriate time to review your budget and make adjustments. It should pay off in the long run, giving you greater control of your finances and more peace of mind.”

JustMoney.co.za, established 14 years ago, is a trusted voice within the personal finance sector. The JustMoney website offers articles, money management tools and a wide range of financial products and services. Over 200,000 South Africans subscribe to the newsletter to stay informed and become financially savvy. Find the website here.

Submitted by Meropa