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Some old-school personal finance might just help you get through the rough months ahead.

Budgeting is in right now. We would all benefit from having a better understanding of how much we’re making, how much we’re spending and how we will handle the shortfall or surplus.

Drafting a budget from scratch is like baking a cake without a recipe. Most people end up floundering or not bothering. An online budgeting tool can help, but there are dozens to choose from. One that stands out as useful in today’s environment is the free Budget Planner offered by RazorPlan, which is a software company serving advisers.

The Budget Planner isn’t the most detailed budgeting tool, and that’s its strength. You can complete it in fairly short order, with just a bit of prep time spent looking at your paystub, chequing account and credit-card statements.

What makes the Budget Planner well-suited to the current situation is the way it lets you compare your current financial picture with a proposed budget to reflect changed circumstances. If you, for example, got a six-month mortgage deferral from your bank, would that be enough to take the pressure off? You’re probably not spending as much on leisure because of physical distancing – how much will that help your overall budget? What about parking one of your cars and saving a bit on your vehicle insurance?

RazorPlan is making the Budget Planner available for free along with 11 other online financial-planning tools covering things like mortgages, taxes and saving/investing. If you have some time, these tools are a useful way to spend it on household financial planning.

One more budgeting tool to try out is QuickBudget, which was developed to help people compare their spending against guidelines from a credit counselling agency.​

Are you worried paying your bills? Struggling to set up your finances?

Are you a recent graduate? Someone who has been working for only a few years? Are you struggling with how to get your financial house in order? If so, we’d like to hear from you for Stress Test, a Globe podcast Roma Luciw and I are working on. Please send us an email.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

The Canada Pension Plan is safe

CBC’s Matt Galloway discusses the recent stock market decline with the head of the CPP Investment Board, Mark Machin. “The fund is in strong shape,” Mr. Machin said. “It was designed to weather these types of significant market downturns once in a while."

Will COVID-19 douse the F.I.R.E. movement?

F.I.R.E. stands for financial independence, retire early. The playbook goes like this: Work hard, invest hard and build up an investment portfolio that pays enough income for you to be financially independent. How does F.I.R.E. hold up in a pandemic-driven recession? Answers here from a F.I.R.E. blogger and from the New York Times.

Investing in a stock market crash

While stocks were strong in early April, they’re still well down from their peak earlier in the year. Here’s some encouragement to seize the moment and buy low.

In case anyone’s still worried about toilet paper

A big story early on in the pandemic was a run on toilet paper. In Ottawa, where I live, the supply seems ample these days. If we do run out, check out this emergency solution – a DIY bidet. Here’s an argument that water is a better choice than paper, anyway.

Ask Rob

Q: The deadline for individual tax filing has been extended to June 1, and the deadline for payment of balances owing has been extended to Sept. 1. Will interest be charged during the three-month period?

A: “Penalties and interest will not be charged if the deferred payment requirements are met by Sept. 1, 2020,” the federal government says.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Today’s financial tool

A thorough guide to financial supports offered by governments and banks from Melissa Leong, author of the book Happy Go Money: Spend Smart, Save Right and Enjoy Life. Organized with headings for parents, seniors, students, businesses and more.

In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance-related stories

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