The pandemic has changed our American way of life. More people work from home now. Kids go online to complete their schooling. Many of us are wearing masks now. And, our month or two quarantined at home has given us time to reflect on what are life used to be like. . .and whether or not we want to fully go back to that life. I’ve spent some time considering what the pandemic has taught me about our spending.
What the Pandemic Has Taught Me About Our Spending
Sometimes you get complacent in life and just do things the way that you’ve always done them. This pandemic has allowed me to look at our finances with fresh eyes to discover what we did well and what needs improvement.
My Bargain Shopping Was a Boon to the Family
I used to drop by the grocery store three or four times a week, scouring the store for clearance mark downs. I bought probably 1/3 to ½ of our weekly food this way. I used to worry that I was spending too much money shopping this way, but now I see how much I was really saving us.
Since the pandemic, I’ve relied on grocery store pick up, which means paying full price for everything. Our grocery bill has shot up by 30%. When the pandemic is over, you can bet I’ll be back to stopping by the store a few times a week to pick up the bargains.
We Drove Around Way Too Much
Before the pandemic, we were a busy family with three kids. We spent our time, like many American families, in the car driving from activity to activity. Gas was a large line item in our budget, especially since our town is very spread out. We easily spent 2 to 2.5 hours in the car a day, dropping off and picking up a child from school, taking another child to therapy, going to horseback riding lessons, gymnastics lessons, religious education lessons. On and on.
Since the pandemic, our gas consumption has dropped to nearly nothing. I’ve bought gas for my vehicle twice in three months; my husband hasn’t had to buy gas at all. We find we’re happier with more time at home. Whenever things are more normal, we don’t plan to be as busy, which means less gas consumption.
Our Emergency Fund Is Not Large Enough
We’ve been working on building our emergency fund from a tiny $1,000 to a six-month emergency fund. When the pandemic hit in mid-March, we had a two-month emergency fund. While that’s certainly better than a $1,000 emergency fund, I really wish it was larger.
We’re lucky that my husband was able to keep his job and work from home, but he did get a pay cut. While we have rearranged the budget to accommodate the pay cut, we won’t be able to grow our emergency fund like we had previously. And, depending on the way this pandemic rides out, we’re both aware that he could lose his job next year. I’d feel much more confident if we had a bigger cushion.
These three are what the pandemic has taught me about our spending. I’m quite sure when this pandemic is over, our family won’t go back to the way things were. I think we’ll drive a little less and try to save even more.
How has the pandemic changed the way you look at and spend money?