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People have a lot of questions these days: When will life return to normal? Will there ever be a "normal" again? When will I be able to travel or visit friends? And how do I make smart decisions about my money? In uncertain times, it can be really hard to know the best strategies to protect and your money.

While everyone’s situation is different, making smart decisions about preserving, borrowing, investing and spending your money is a matter of returning to some financial basics. Below are 5 key steps to keep in mind while making money decisions today.

1. Don’t panic

A great deal of fear and anxiety has been whipped up by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when it comes to our health and our money. Making decisions from a position of fear, however, won’t serve us in the long run. Our ability to see the future effects of our financial decisions can become clouded by panic.

While times are unsettled right now, and you may feel like you’ve got to do ‘something,’ it’s wise to take a breath, review all your financial options, and consider how any action you take today may affect your long-term goals and priorities.

2. Look closely at your budget

If money is tight right now, see if you can find areas within your budget that can be adjusted to give you some breathing room. (Note: This is not a suggestion to cut out all matter of indulgence! We still need a bit of fun in our lives, especially now — even if it’s just a specialty coffee once a week because it makes us feel good).

But, are there subscriptions or memberships you might pause for the time being? Can you trim some extras that aren’t important to you right now? Also, think about whether you’re making any pre-authorized contributions to an investment, or if you’re on an accelerated mortgage payment plan. While these are smart financial decisions when your cash flow is stable, if you’re in the middle of a crunch, taking a break from these additional outlays could give you the relief you need today.

Need a hand evaluating your spending? Check in with NOMI on the RBC Mobile app to stay connected to your money and your budget. NOMI will provide insights into your spending habits, helping you make informed financial decisions.

3. Understand your cost of borrowing

If you’ve had to rely on credit to get you through a dip in income, you’re not alone. But if you’re having a hard time paying down your balances, your interest costs may be creeping up — and if that’s the case, it may be time to evaluate how much credit is costing you and evaluate other options.

If you’re a homeowner and have built up equity in your property over the years, you may be able to use that equity to consolidate your debt — either by refinancing your mortgage or by opening a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). If you are able to secure a lower mortgage rate, you could reduce your borrowing costs significantly, say, if you transfer credit card debt that’s currently sitting at 20% interest.

If you don’t have home equity to leverage, consider other credit options that may be cheaper than what you’re currently using. A line of credit, for instance, comes with an interest rate that is considerably lower than a credit card. A consolidation loan, meanwhile, can help you simplify, manage and reduce the carrying costs of your overall debt.

4. Don’t sacrifice your future

Are you tempted to cash in some of your investments in order to infuse some money into your bank account? While using an emergency fund right now may be a great idea (it’s what it’s there for, right?) using funds earmarked for your future may not be the best move — both because you’re reducing your money’s potential to grow over time, and because you could face significant tax implications if withdrawing from a registered plan.

5. Talk to an advisor

If you’re feeling panicked, anxious, scared or just confused about what to do about your finances, the best step you can take is to speak with a professional advisor. An advisor can offer a second opinion on the decisions you’re thinking of making, and show you opportunities to save in your day-to-day life. At the same time, they can help you meet your long-term goals and help you balance both your present and future needs by looking at your complete financial picture.

Just remember, you don’t need to make financial decisions alone. Advisors are here to help you make the most of your money, and guide you through the options that make the most sense for you.

Through MyAdvisor, RBC’s unique online service, you can get personalized advice from an advisor by video conference or phone.

You can also book a Check In with an RBC Advisor. It’s a virtual experience, with no obligation. What you takeaway, in these uncertain times, is answers to your money questions big and small, a better picture of where you are today, and a plan for your tomorrow.