Hello, my dear readers! It’s been more than half a year since COVID-19 first showed its menacing teeth to the world. All around the world, there have already been more than 19 million cases, and the number still keeps climbing. I am incredibly grateful that I still have my job and everybody in my family is healthy, but the impact the pandemic has on my life is glaringly visible. As a personal finance writer, today I’d like to share what COVID has done to my wallet.
First of all, I must make a disclaimer. Because I still have my job, my ability to spend has not been drastically decreased to a point where I have to resort to food banks, etc. Fingers crossed that I do not have to face that situation.
I don’t own a car and relied mostly on public transportation before the pandemic hit. Because of COVID-19 and the work-from-home policy my company has implemented since mid-March, the amount I spend on public transportation has taken a nosedive to literally zero.
This is to be expected. I spend the most money on transportation to get to and from work, and that currently is not happening. I also rely on public transportation for grocery shopping if there’s a good deal at a store further away from where I live, for shopping, and for meeting up with friends. Now with social distancing in place, I have lost the incentive to shop around for the best deal. My friends and I have also canceled all the discretionary activities and moved to Zoom chats instead.
- Impact on my wallet: Positive
- Will it continue after COVID-19 is over? No.
Grocery bills, on the other hand, have taken a huge hit. Because I prioritize convenience and minimizing interactions with strangers, I have to acquiesce to shopping at the closest grocery store. It unfortunately happens to be a very expensive one. What has further exacerbated the situation is the fact that prices have been going up while the level of discount has been going down. This is to be expected, and I am not blaming the grocery store. But my wallet cries every time I come back from grocery shopping.
Of course, I can switch to cheaper food and maybe rely more on canned food so I can maintain my spend as much as possible. But at the end of the day, I still prioritize my health. Between fresh vegetables and fruit and spending a bit more money, I choose the former. I am grateful that I still have the financial stability to make the choice.
Although I have a pretty hard stand on consuming fresh food, I find myself moving away from pre-packaged food and drinks, which are usually more expensive. The reason is two-fold:
- I have plenty of time to cook at home
- It provides a bit of a shield against the price increases I can see and feel in the fresh good aisles
I certainly shouldn’t take what I have for granted with everything that’s going on. Even though I have to spend more money, I should be incredibly grateful that I still have easy access to a grocery store nearby and fresh food.
- Impact on my wallet: big negative
- Will it continue after COVID-19 is over? I don’t know what will happen to the food supply chain, but I hope not!
Water and electricity
My water and electricity bills have also seen a sizeable increase. For two reasons:
- I am staying at home almost 24 hours a day, so I am cooking more, flushing toilets more, and having the AC running more.
- I have also significantly upped my washing and cleaning routines. I used to wash my clothes once a week, but because of COVID, every time I come back from outside, I feel the need to wash all the clothes.
Fortunately, my city has also recognized the impact of high water and electricity bills. The government has provided some relief by eliminating peak-hour charges. So this alleviates some of my pain, but not all.
- Impact on my wallet: negative
- Will it continue after COVID-19 is over? Probably not to the same extent, but I have a feeling that the basic and the pay-per-use fees may go up.
In an earlier post of mine, I talked about the importance of trimming your Internet usage. Well, that money-saving tip no longer applies when I am at home almost 24 hours a day and having to rely on the Internet for almost everything and anything. Thankfully, my internet service provider temporarily removed the caps on all plans, so I was cruising on their unlimited plan for a few months. I am incredibly grateful for the generosity of my ISP because otherwise, my wallet would have shed a few more tears.
Unfortunately, my ISP has removed the policy starting this month. Right now, I am just trying my best to stay below the limit, but if that proves to be too difficult, then I may have to switch to a bigger package.
- Impact on my wallet: so far none, but could turn negative
- Will it continue after COVID-19 is over? Probably not, but I hope my ISP doesn’t increase the prices across all packages.
This is the part of my budget that sees the most significant savings. I love food, and I love trying out different restaurants either by myself or with my friends. Of course, with the government ordering restaurants and bars to shut down, dining out has only become a daydream.
Although it is a dream that makes my wallet smile, I have to admit that I miss trying different cuisines and experiencing new flavours with my friends. I am also sad to see many restaurants that I have been to and love are forced to permanently shut down because of COVID. The restaurant scene will look so different by the time this pandemic is over.
- Impact on my wallet: big positive
- Will it continue after COVID-19 is over? Probably not, because I do miss dining out.
Regardless of what people say, I love dropping by a coffee shop, purchasing a cup of coffee or latte, and whiling away a few hours. With social distancing measures and coffee shops either closing or removing all the tables, this simple activity has become an unreachable luxury.
I have mostly switched to making coffee at home. Though there have still been a few times when I can’t resist the urge for a Starbucks, I have, for the most part, saved my coffee expenses.
- Impact on my wallet: small positive this year
- Will it continue after COVID-19 is over: Probably not, though I may reduce the frequency at which I visit coffee shops
Similar to dining out, this one has also taken a nosedive down to nearly zero. I used to go to live concerts and events at least semi-regularly, but with COVID-19, I can only find them on YouTube nowadays. It is a blessing on my wallet, but at the same time, I do miss the atmosphere. I miss being part of hundreds of thousands of people singing at the top of our lungs alongside our favourite bands and musicians, and I miss indulging in the beautiful music by a classical pianist in a concert hall.
- Impact on my wallet: big positive
- Will it continue after COVID-19 is over? Probably not, because I love going to events. But I don’t know how long it will take before these large gatherings open up.
Although I don’t have a gym membership because I use the gym available in my building, I do like to join a class or two here and there. This is obviously not happening either (have you noticed that there are many “not happenings” going on in this post?).
Thankfully we have YouTube. I have been following POPSUGAR’s workout videos pretty religiously in the last few months, and I actually find them to be a pretty good substitute. It is an unexpected money-saving at-home habit that I will continue going forward. But I won’t give up occasionally treating myself to a nice new workout session when the pandemic is over.
- Impact on my wallet: small positive
- Will it continue after COVID-19 is over? Probably not, because dropping by a class here and there is a fun way to burn some calories
I had plans to travel to two places this year, but obviously, I had to cancel both of them. I have some temporary savings for this year because of the cancellation, but I know I will for sure still go to these two places when the pandemic passes. Now I am just letting the money sit in a high yield savings account to accumulate some interest.
- Impact on my wallet: big positive this year, but I will probably still spend it all.
- Will it continue after COVID-19 is over: Probably not, because I do love traveling. It is something I want to have in my life.
All the PPEs
I honestly have never used so many masks my entire life compared to what I have done in the last few months. Same goes for all the Lysol wipes, hand sanitizers, latex gloves, you name it. I do have to say that I am grateful for having these products whenever I need them. My parents were prudent enough to warn me that I needed to purchase a bit more than what a minimalist usually does before the huge waves of out-of-stocks hit.
- Impact on my wallet: negative
- Will it continue after COVID-19 is over: I hope not!
My biggest expense is when I decided to self-host my blog with Bluehost, so that cost some money. But compared to the amount I have probably saved from other discretionary categories like Dining out, Entertainment, and Gym, it is not a huge sum. Additionally, it is something that I have been wanting to do anyway; COVID just accelerated the decision.
- Impact on my wallet: small negative
- Will it continue after COVID-19 is over: I hope so! I love blogging.
Do you see similar patterns in your life? What has COVID done to your wallet that is different from me? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!
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.