Published in: Banks | April 1, 2020
By: Maurie Backman
Adjusting my spending has become a necessity as the health crisis changes the way I function.
The COVID-19 outbreak has been wreaking havoc on Americans' finances. Not only are a growing number of workers out of a job, but those who still receive a paycheck have seen their hours reduced substantially -- and they're hurting for it.
Because I work from home, I'm able to retain my usual earnings, in theory. In practice, that's not so easily done, since I'm now juggling job responsibilities with childcare and homeschooling. I've had to put more thought into how I use my money, so here are a few spending changes I've made in the past few weeks.
I live in New Jersey, which, as of this writing, has the second-largest number of COVID-19 cases in the country (New York gets that dubious distinction). And with reports of new cases popping up in my relatively small town, the idea of going to a crowded supermarket hasn't held much appeal. I've started ordering groceries from specialty stores that will do delivery or allow for curbside pickup, where you interact with one person instead of hundreds of shoppers. The downside, however, is that my grocery bills are higher than ever, which is taking a toll on my bank account.
I didn't hoard paper products and cleaning supplies before this ordeal, so I've already had to stock up on a number of hard-to-get products I ran out of, from disinfecting wipes to toilet paper and napkins. Most of our local stores, including the specialty ones I mentioned, have been completely out of these products for weeks, and when they do come in, the only people who get them are the ones willing to line up early and be first into the store. To me, doing that defeats the whole social distancing protocol we're supposed to follow, so I've spent a small fortune buying these products online as I can find them. Case in point: A tub of sanitizing wipes that would normally be $3 just cost me $10, but I need to wipe down deliveries, so I had to pay.
Earlier this year, I owned up to spending more on takeout meals than I should. But it's a convenience that buys me more working time, thereby paying for itself. Because my work schedule is more precarious these days, and I'm spending so much money on the items above, I'm trimming my takeout spending for the time being. I'm still ordering food on occasion in an effort to support local restaurants, but I've definitely cut back a lot.
While I miss the frequency at which I used to enjoy takeout, I've had an opportunity to play around with some new recipes in my own kitchen, which has been a good source of distraction during an otherwise trying time.
Like many people I know, I've been trying to limit contact with outsiders while this crisis plays out. I told the cleaning lady who normally helps me out twice a month to stop for the foreseeable future. Not only did she recently travel abroad, but I can't run the risk of her touching every surface in my house when I know she cleans dozens of homes per month. But what I am doing is continuing to pay her wages. It's not her fault that this situation erupted, and I'm sure she needs the money. I plan to keep paying her as long as I can afford to.
The COVID-19 crisis is unlike any other I've experienced, and it's caused me to set different financial priorities that I'm slowly but surely making my peace with. Though I don't like spending more on basics, I figure protecting my family as best as I can is a good use of my money.
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