Hello my dear readers! I have talked at-length about my personal reflection on the pandemic and provided some tips on how to navigate through the crisis, so no more of those this time. Today, I am going to be more forward-looking. I’d like to talk about all the money-saving habits that I have inadvertently cultivated during COVID-19 that I plan to continue even after the world goes back to normal.
First of all, I have to acknowledge that I am one of the lucky ones who are still able to keep their jobs. Ironically, without the ability to go out and spend, I have found that my savings rate has gone up.
In order to fill the void of not being able to hang out with friends or go to events, I have come up with some alternatives that have surprisingly delivered the same amount of fun with a much less financial impact on my wallet. I plan to incorporate these habits into my daily lives even after the pandemic is over.
1. Mix my own drinks
Mixing drinks is easier than I thought.
Because all the bars and restaurants have been ordered by the government to close, there is no way for me to buy cocktails that I enjoy. However, I still like to have a nice drink once in a while. So I resorted to Google to see if there would be anything that I could try with my limited talent in making beverages. Lo and behold, I found a plethora of cocktails recipes, many of which I can easily create with common ingredients that I already have in my pantry. A splash of orange juice, cranberry juice, or Sprite? Not a problem! A pinch of fresh lemon zest and some olives? Let me just open my fridge to find some!
Tasting flights for the win!
Mixing my own drinks has also been a lot of fun: it has almost become one of my creative outlets. Instead of having one full drink like I normally do at a bar, I can now create three or four different drinks with smaller portions, and make a tasting flight for myself. How fancy is that! I do have to admit though that I do not have a fancy cocktail shaker, which makes the experience a bit less upscale. However, with my not-so-sensitive palate, I am happy with just a regular glass and a stir stick or a coffee spoon.
I have also learned a lot about the art of cocktails.
Researching recipes online has taught me a lot about mixology, and has also introduced me to different types of alcohol beverages and brands. This experience has made me appreciate the craftsmanship of the distillers so much more. I even learned that instead of hard liquor, you could also mix wine and soda drinks to make wine spritzers, or mix beer and soda drinks for a beer cocktail. The possibilities seem endless.
While it is probably true that I will still order a cocktail at a restaurant or a bar when they are open, I will more likely spend a bigger portion of my drinks budget on inviting my friends over and mixing drinks ourselves at home. It will be less expensive and more fun, so what’s not to like about it?
2. Leverage YouTube fitness classes
This one might be a bit controversial, because I know that some people swear by their gym memberships. Personally though, I have not found any significant difference. I am just as likely to complete a workout session, whether it is in a gym with a small group of people, or at home following a YouTube fitness instructor alone in my room.
Here is a summary of the pros and cons of YouTube fitness classes.
Advantages of YouTube fitness classes
- They are free (well, except ads)!
- YouTube fitness classes are just as fun, engaging, and challenging as the ones available at my local gyms. My arms, legs and stomach are just as sore the day after a 45-minute YouTube HIIT workout as they are after an in-person session.
- Many channels offer group class videos with multiple people working out alongside the main instructor, so if I ever find it boring to just be looking at the instructor, I can always resort to one of those videos.
- With so many fitness instructors online, it is nearly impossible not to find a program you like, or switch to a new one if you need a new challenge.
- It saves you so much time commuting to the gym, which makes it easier to convince yourself to work out. You can do it whenever and wherever, though I do recommend that in order to maintain a good workout routine, you should still schedule the sessions in your calendar.
- You are less likely to over-exert yourself since you have no peer pressure not to do something when you physically can’t.
- It can be the go-to for all your fitness needs. YouTube offers a variety of classes, ranging from yoga to HIIT to regular weight lifting, so you don’t have to go to different specialized fitness studios for what they offer.
Disadvantages of YouTube fitness classes
- They lack the real group environment and the peer support/pressure that may be conducive to a productive workout session.
- It may require a very high level of natural self-discipline for you to stick to your schedule.
- You do not have a professional instructor who is there to help correct your postures.
- You most likely won’t have all the fancy equipment that a typical gym provides.
Personally, the advantages significantly outweigh the disadvantages, and I will for sure continue relying on YouTube for a good workout session going forward.
3. Balance between consumption and savings
Social distancing measures have put a hard stop on my discretionary spending. Although it has been difficult at times not to be able to go to concerts and try new restaurants, this forced inaction is also a blessing in disguise. It has given me an opportunity to thoroughly think through my spending habits and take a critical look at what my needs and wants are. Standing here more than two months into the pandemic, I have a much better understanding of my must-haves and my nice-to-haves, and have prioritized my nice-to-haves.
Although I will probably resume some of my spending habits when the pandemic is over (come on, who doesn’t like trying a new activity once in a while), I will be more conscious of my spending decisions, and I will always have the balance at the back of my mind.
Of course, this did not come without some thorough reflection on the importance of balancing consumptions and savings. You can find my personal reflections here.
4. Have fun without spending a lot of money
Again due to social distancing, I have been forced to find alternative ways other than going out to entertain myself. Since the beginning of the work-from-home policy, I have discovered the joy of baking and cooking. I have tried my hands on making different kinds of bread, cakes and pastries, and have made a few dishes here and there armed with recipes I found on Google. I have even started growing my own little spice garden, and has been able to harvest some fresh mint and basil leaves.
Furthermore, I have also become a much closer observer to nature. My heart is filled with joy looking at the little bunnies hopping on the grass, the birds that fly by, the squirrels that jump from one tree to another, and the trees that wave in the wind. These animals and plants do not have Internet, nice clothes or expensive watches, and they probably live in holes made of dirt, yet they still seem so content and happy. Should we incorporate some of the animals’ attitudes into our modern lives, and be more content with what we have and less anxious about what we don’t have?
5. Review my finance regularly
Because I have more time on hand compared to pre-COVID, I have found myself scrutinizing every aspect of my life, including my personal finance. I have been pretty religiously reviewing my finance, and I have found that it has given me so much more clarity into my spending habits and my bank accounts. I now have a much better understanding of where and how I spend my money, how much exactly I am able to put aside for savings, and how much time it will take to reach a certain financial goal.
Reviewing personal finance regularly is definitely a habit that I will continue even post-COVID, because I find that it helps me stay on track and keep me motivated on my money journey.
6. Travel for the sake of experience, not for the sake of Instagram
One of the hardest-hit FOMO category is travel. I love traveling and I have already had all my 2020 travel destinations planned out before the pandemic hit. While I am sad that I wouldn’t be able to travel this year, the pause has given me a chance to scrutinize my list of travel destinations and to thoroughly research them and think about their merits.
Watching a lot more travel videos has helped me realize that certain travel destinations are just not for me. For example, I am not a beach person, so a resort on a remote island surrounded by white sandy beaches is probably not for me, even though it looks fantastic on Instagram. I have since scratched out a few destinations that do not bring me joy, and reprioritized my travel list for the ones that pull my heart string, even if they may not be the most idyllic or popular places.
Of course, I am not against traveling. I love it very much. However, since it is quite an expensive hobby, I do think we should think more critically about where we are going, and only spend the money where we think are worth it. Everybody is different, and everybody derives different levels of joy from the same thing. Going forward, I will make sure that I go to a place because I am truly excited about the destination, not because Instagram tells me so.
The above are some of the money-savings habits that I have inadvertently developed because of COVID-19. I have derived unexpected benefits from them all, and will keep them in my personal finance toolkit going forward. I hope they help you, too. Leave me a comment below to let me know what you think!
Bella Wanana is a freelance writer. She is the owner of bellawanana.com, a personal finance and lifestyle blog. She loves sharing with her readers the best tips and tricks on personal finance and how to live a balanced but fulfilling life. She has been featured on sites like MSN.com, Reader’s Digest, The Financial Diet, Yahoo Finance, and GOBankingRates.