Budgeting in a pandemic

Photo credit: Eli Dial

From losing vacations to adjusting to Zoom meetings, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused problems for people from all walks of life. The pandemic has taken jobs, leaving a negative effect on people’s budgets.

Budgeting does not come easy for many people. For college students, it’s a different difficulty, especially during a pandemic.

“Keeping a budget could be difficult during the pandemic,” shared Aaron Jackman, a sophomore studying virtual design and construction, in an email interview. “This (could) be because of a lack or lessening of income. A lot of work has slowed down or even stopped.”

Many college students aren’t working while going to school full time. This may cause some apprehension about money for the future on top of schoolwork stress.

For many, this pandemic has made it even more difficult to stick to budgets. The era of online shopping contributes to budgeting stress as people spend more money on more items without leaving their homes.

According to repricerexpress.com, Amazon increased its revenue from 2019 to 2020 by $105 billion, smashing the previous revenue record of $55 billion from 2017 to 2018.

Online shopping encourages the use of credit cards, making it difficult for people to maintain their budgets. According to shiftprocessing.com, 73% of Americans use cash less often than before.

Don Campbell, chair of the Accounting Department at BYU-Idaho, pointed out that using credit cards can be challenging and should be used carefully.

“As a rule, we tend to spend more when we use a credit card — whether online or at a physical place,” Campbell wrote in an email interview. “We have to be extra careful using a credit card for our purchases.”

According to shiftprocessing.com, consumers spend 83% more with credit cards than they do with cash. This means people use credit cards to pay for higher-cost expenses rather than using cash.

Keeping a budget doesn’t have a cure-all solution; some things may be more effective for different people. Making and keeping a budget is often a trial-and-error endeavor.

Campbell suggested asking two questions to start a budget: What is my income and what are my expenses? Jobs, scholarships, student loans and parents can all be a source of income for a budget.

Some people then divide their budget into cash in envelopes that can only be used for a specific category. Others keep a spreadsheet.

Jackman suggested primarily one tip for budgeting: be reasonable with how much money you allot yourself.

“Don’t make yourself live on too little but also don’t overspend,” Campbell said. “The key to budgeting is to just do something. Try different things until you find what works the best for you and your family.”