Budgets Before and After Social Distancing

It’s been approximately five weeks since the first wave of stay-at-home orders from municipalities and states began in the US.  Although we probably don’t want to hear this, many of us don’t know when restrictions will be lifted and we’ll be able to resume the lives outside of our homes that we were forced to abandon. 

 

The impact that the pandemic continues to have on everyone and everything is extensive. Despite early efforts of the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates, the economy has taken a hit. Americans are losing jobs and small businesses are hurting. According to The Washington Post, 5.2 million people filed unemployment claims in one week, bringing us to a four-week total of 22 million claims filed since a national emergency was declared by the President on March 13, 2020. This isn’t it; our educational, healthcare, and even transportation systems have been impacted. You name it, and it’s been affected. 

 

Most of what is happening is out of our control but there are some responsible decisions we can make to help control how we come out on the other end. Yes, wash your hands and keep your immune systems strong, but beyond that, we can make some financial pivots. The way we do things has changed overnight. Some of the habits we had coming into social distancing are impossible to maintain given the restrictions and this might not be a bad thing. It may have been difficult to identify opportunities for savings before, but chances are that has changed with our current circumstances. Social distancing is helping to reveal what’s essential, and what’s not.

 

 

Coffee runs – $10/wk = $40/mo

I made coffee every morning and worked just as hard without the $2.50 daily charge.

Acorns reports that the average American spends about $1,100 per year on coffee, which breaks down to roughly $92 a month. So if you’re a heavy coffee drinker and you now find yourself making coffee at home as opposed to ballin’ out at your nearest coffee shop, when we get back to “business as usual” reduce the coffee spending budget and slide this cash over to your rainy day fund. 

 

 

Lunch takeout – $30/wk = $120/mo

I didn’t starve or lose my sense of taste from ingredients made from the fridge.

Now that we’ve all learned that second day pasta actually tastes better we’ll be dutifully packing lunch and carrying that with us post-social distancing. Savings potential just increased again.

 

 

Gym memberships – $60/mo

50 pushups, 10 minutes of stretching, 5 mins of meditation every morning costs nothing and it feels amazing.

According to research by Finder.com, roughly 5.1 million Americans waste $1.8 billion on unused gym memberships each year. But for those of us who actually use the memberships, there are those among us who may have realized during this pandemic that our level of fitness doesn’t require the $60 per month investment. Calisthenics, YouTube, or one of the many fitness apps available will get us to where we need to be at this phase in our journey.

 

 

Admittedly, I watched twice as much Netflix during quarantine.  But I also caught a few really good documentaries on free streaming sites like Tubi, Pluto, and Crackle.

According to an article published by Forbes, the average American subscriber watches 3.4 services, paying an average $8.53 per month for each. That’s just under $30 per month. Although it’s less than what you would pay for traditional cable service, do you really need so many streaming services?

 

During this time, cutback where you can, even if it’s temporary (while social distancing), and use that money to start building the rainy day fund that current times have shown us we all desperately need. 

 

Other areas for temporary or permanent savings:

  • Auto insurance
  • Satellite Radio subscriptions
  • Gas
  • Music streaming services

 

These are just a few areas for savings opportunities that have become apparent during this time. The point is, sometimes a change of circumstance can shine a light and force us to examine our behavior. We can all learn from our experience in social distancing helping us emerge better off than when we entered.