Pandemic Finance

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All 3 cats sleeping on me while watching a DVD. My reason for life.

If you are one of the people who are lucky enough to still have a job in America, that does not make you immune to pandemic financial devastation. Not only are people losing their lives and their jobs, but those who are still working are losing savings and spending unprecedented amounts for just the basic necessities.

I am one of the fortunate ones that still has a job. Even though I’m working, the pandemic has completely drained my savings, caused me to go into debt, and make drastic changes to my behavior to try to reduce expenses. 

Why? Well, first look at food shortages. If you can obtain food, we are often paying 3-4x more for the same item compared to before the pandemic. Second, any item you obtain means that someone literally risked their life to either obtain it for you or make it for you. It’s time we started paying our essential workers for what they are – essential. That means tipping well for any services you may be receiving in the pandemic when other people are risking their life to keep you safe.

Some people (and I am one of them) are privileged enough to work from home to reduce exposure to the virus. It’s a great thing, especially for those of us in the high risk group. However, that does not mean that people should sit at home aimlessly clicking and buying things from the internet. You may think that internet shopping is just a few clicks, but think of how many people are putting their life at risk just so you can have that new gadget or toy right now.

Given the current situation, I know that I need a major overhaul of my finances if I am going to survive this pandemic. I went from living paycheck to paycheck to living on a shoestring. Now that President Biden has been elected, there is hope that America is going to actually survive the pandemic instead of just being a country of dead people. It’s time to make a plan for how to survive this time.

Here is my 5 point pandemic finance plan to try to survive until this is all over (whenever that may be). 

  1. Decrease spending. I will be instituting a No Spend 2021. There is more to come on that later in a future post. Basically, a no spend plan is an experiment that people typically do short term. Some people try a no spend week or a no spend month. For me, 2021 is going to be a no spend year. I’m hoping that it will help me to reach my financial goals of getting some money saved to cover emergencies.
  1. Increase savings. The goal is that by decreasing spending, I will increase the amount of money that I have to save. In order to increase savings, it means making behavioral changes to lower monthly bills so that more money can be saved. Pinch a penny until it screams. It’s only for one year. Increase savings also means any type of windfalls – if we get any more government stimuli – gets saved. 
  1. No more alcohol. I don’t think I drink a whole lot. I have had two, maybe three bottles of wine since my birthday in March (about the past 8 months). Alcohol is extremely difficult to obtain during the pandemic. A bottle of wine is $15-$25 that can be saved to spend on other things. If you figure I spend $100 on 4 bottles of wine a year, that is $100 that can go to something else (like my 2021 race season – more on that later too). There are plenty of more affordable treats that can be substituted for wine. I have been getting a 2-liter bottle of ginger ale every once in a while during the pandemic and putting cherries in it like a shirley temple. Spending $2 on a bottle of ginger ale saves money over a $25 bottle of wine.
  1. One grocery treat per month. In decreasing spending, some people see spending increase in other areas, such as groceries. We all have to find some way to treat yourself, right? I am instituting a one grocery treat per month rule. That way my grocery order does not end up being all Enjoy Life bars and ginger ale. For the record, many of my food treats are unavailable right now anyway due to the food shortages. So this rule is pretty easy to stick to. I have been living in a state of food deprivation for 8 months now waiting for the supply chain to recover.
  1. Speaking of groceries and paying essential workers like what they are – essential. While the Instacart fees are quite low (they have been averaging $2-$3 with my membership), I do tip my Instacart shopper like the essential worker they are. I am happy that the money is going to a local person who needs the job to provide for their family. I am grateful that they are risking their life to keep me safe. However, I cannot afford to support another person. I am limiting my Instacart orders to two per month, which pretty much mimicks my grocery shopping pattern prior to the pandemic when I was able to go to the store myself. I did have one month recently where I had 3 Instacart orders. This was mostly because I was trying to readjust my weeks so that I was not sending an Instacart shopper to the store at the beginning of the month, when the store is more crowded and there is more risk. 

When I Instacart, all of my groceries come from Aldi. This is a change to my pre-pandemic shopping habits, and it is saving me loads of money. Prior to the pandemic, when I was doing my own in-person shopping, I would have to get groceries at three different stores due to my food allergies and because I had some (unfounded) prejudices against certain items at Aldi. Using Aldi 100% as the only store at which I shop is saving me so much money, I wish I had made the switch sooner. I will talk more about one-stop shopping at Aldi in a seperate post. 

There is much uncertainty for the future of this country in the pandemic. While the election of President Biden gives us hope, that does not mean that 100% of the people in this country will be spared. We are still experiencing hardships. The hope is that by having someone calm and intelligent in charge, that America will be able to minimize deaths and financial devastation from the pandemic. While we now have hope for the future, that does not mean we can sit around and wait for a government bailout. It’s time to make changes now in our individual lives so that we can survive the pandemic.

For me, that means trying to get more money saved so it is there for the uncertainty of our future. This house is what is keeping the cats and I together. This house is home. I am a single person with one income, and the economy is highly unstable right now. We all need to be making the best choices possible to try to survive this time.

What pandemic finance tips do you have?

Be on the lookout for future posts on:

  • No Spend 2021
  • One-Stop Shopping at Aldi
  • Running Through A Pandemic
  • My Biggest Life Change for 2021

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