Daydreaming of “life after covid” has become one of my favorite pastimes of late. I don’t like to think of anything from this weird time in life lingering once we’re back to normal, but with that said, American savings rates are at an all-time high. As a financial wellness expert, I can’t help but think maybe there are a few lessons from the pandemic we’ll need to carry forward into the future.
7 Pandemic Cuts to Keep Once Lockdown Ends
Let’s be real: do you really need Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+, AND HBO Go? If you have all of these subscription services, it’s literally impossible for you to go through all of the material even just one of them has, let alone more than one. (Trust me, being at home for over a year has proven that digital television content is never in short supply.)
If there’s one you truly can’t part with, that’s understandable. However, your local library has millions of materials available for borrowing. YouTube is also another great resource for entertainment and has content for just about any topic you can imagine. Or, you could try a no-TV challenge as I did back in 2015.
Most families have drastically cut their entertainment budget. For the most part, this is because a majority of live events and travel got canceled in order to stop the spread of the virus.
While some entertainment spending might be necessary to keep you and your family sane (because who hasn’t felt stir-crazy during this pandemic), re-evaluate this when the time comes. Once things get “back to normal”, you’ll want to take another look at how much you need to go out.
Consider looking around for free, or cheaper, entertainment sources around your city before dropping major dough on that concert you weren’t even that excited for in the first place.
70% of Americans now prepare most of their meals at home. Many of them are learning to cook for the first time and developing some vital adulting skills. (Here’s a piece on how I tested out three different meal kit delivery services to determine which was the best!)
While cooking your own meals may not be your favorite past-time, it saves you a ton of money. Plus, it’s a great way to bond with your family, friends, and roommates.
Cooking just one meal at home that you’d normally buy from a restaurant can save you $16 per meal. Let’s say you only replaced one traditionally restaurant meal with a home-cooked one. That’ll save you more than $800 a year.
You might be tired of seeing advice telling you to stop buying $5 cups of coffee and just make it yourself. While it’s not going to literally save your finances, you can still save a good chunk of change by brewing your own coffee.
Depending on where you are, some coffee shops are open with restrictions. However, many people are still making coffee from home. Even if you drink a latte daily, getting your own equipment and making it yourself can save you up to $1,200 a year. That’s enough to pay for your groceries for several months, or one month of rent, depending on where you live.
Going to a bar can add up fast. Even drinking moderately and going out a couple of nights a week can cost you $650 a month just on alcohol. That doesn’t factor in any costs of getting a babysitter, or the amount you’re spending on food.
If you stop drinking altogether, you’d save $7,800 a year from the amount you’d normally spend on booze. Plus, your waistline will thank you. Drinking uses up a LOT of empty calories. Just by cutting alcohol, you’ll eat less, sleep better, and possibly lose 2 pounds a week for a couple of weeks.
However, if you simply can’t live without a glass of wine a few nights a week, consider buying from the liquor store. Once COVID restrictions lift, you can socialize with friends at home, and save several hundred dollars for everyone combined.
Clothing and Apparel
While the fashion industry would have you think you need to replace your wardrobe every season, it simply isn’t true. If you’re gaining or losing weight and your clothes don’t fit you anymore, that’s one thing.
If the style is a major concern, consider purchasing a few things that never go out of style like plain tees, blazers, and jeans. (And here’s how much you should be spending each year on clothes.)
One of the most liberating things you can do, for yourself and for your wallet, is to develop your own sense of style. Stop letting other people tell you what to wear, and figure out what you like based on your preferences. You’ll be surprised at how much of a confidence boost this gives you.
You’ll still want to budget a small amount to replace clothes that need to be tossed due to wear and tear. But when you do go clothes shopping, consider shopping at your local thrift stores or through used clothing sites. You’ll save up to hundreds of dollars each trip.
Even before the pandemic happened, Americans spent $1.8 billion a year on memberships they didn’t even use.
If before the pandemic you didn’t get to the gym at least twice a week, then it’s time to cut the expense. Seriously, why are we even maintaining the charade at this point.
Even if you did go to the gym often, consider if you can move your workout to home. There are hundreds of thousands of workout videos on YouTube and Instagram that’ll help you get, or stay, in shape just as well as going to the gym.
For me, the COVID outbreak holds a few silver linings: lots of time for my husband to be at home with our new baby, having his extra support while he works from home, and reinforcing how little I actually need to get by and be happy.
Like all transformational experiences (and for better or worse, this pandemic has been transformational) we’ll keep the good lessons, forget the bad, and move ahead better, smarter, and stronger.