Like everyone else, I’ve been struggling to come to terms with the reality that COVID-19 has disrupted everything. Many of my 2020 plans have been rearranged or simply canceled. And, like everyone else, I’ve felt the spectrum of emotions from frustration and disappointment to guilt over what seems to be a very First World Problem in the grand scheme of things. Then again, those feelings are valid and don’t take anything away from global pain and hardship.
And while staying home means fewer festivities and probably less fun, in a practical sense, it also means I’m saving money. Instead of dwelling on what I won’t get to do, I’m reframing these canceled plans as opportunities to spend my money differently and smarter after all of this is over.
Here’s what I would’ve been spending in 2020.
Trip to Lisbon – £300 ($370)
One of the best things about living in the UK is it’s proximity to Europe, and my boyfriend and I had been looking forward to this cheap and cheerful trip to Portugal since last year. While I’m definitely mourning the opportunity to try my favorite pastel de natas in their native country, I feel lucky that our bargain holiday was still ATOL protected, and that we’ll receive a full refund for the cost of our trip, in addition to what we’ve saved from potential holiday spending.
Monthly gym membership – £75 for three months ($90)
At the risk of sounding like that person, the gym is a huge part of my routine and something I truly miss since freezing it after lockdown. However, I’m choosing to see the bright side, which is the newly freed-up space in my monthly budget.
Celebrations for my birthday – £100 ($130)
Turning 22 in isolation was not quite the celebration I’d planned, and having an entirely ‘no spend’ birthday was certainly a first. Under normal circumstances, I would’ve definitely racked up quite a total on a (sustainable or secondhand) outfit, nail and hair appointments, and various nights both out and in.
Wedding guest outfit – £60 ($75)
Scheduled for early August, this event hasn’t actually been canceled yet, but the uncertainty over whether or not it will go ahead means I’ve held off buying a new dress for the occasion. In fact, having to put my shopping on hold has encouraged me to think more about whether I need a new dress at all, or if there’s something already in my wardrobe that will fit the bill.
And here’s how I’m “spending” this money instead.
Increased payments into my “moving out fund”
When we graduated last July, my boyfriend and I agreed to one year of living with his family while working in order to save to rent our own place. As that deadline looms, and both of us continue to be unable to work during the pandemic, I’m grateful that we can divert the money we would’ve been spending on social activities to bulk up our fund. Granted, it’s not as immediately exciting as a trip abroad or night out, but it’s a real relief to have the strain lessened, even slightly.
Long term investments in my personal health
My teeth are an insecurity I’ve long dreamed of getting fixed, but I’ve pushed it back as an expense my budget can’t handle just yet. However, with my spending changing so drastically, I’ve started to view it as a really good longer-term investment in myself and my happiness. While I obviously won’t be able to undergo any treatment until it’s safe, putting that money aside feels much more valuable than a one-time, material purchase.
Balance is important, so I allowed myself to spend on some small luxuries that have brightened my lockdown experience. These include a coveted sustainably-made workout set, which is keeping me excited about eventually returning to the gym and a monthly subscription to my favorite content website to keep me entertained while at home.
While canceled plans are less than ideal, the small upside is that I now feel like I have more control over where my money goes — which is always a good thing.
Amy is a writer living in London. She hopes to do just about everything, including: see her name on the spine of a book, study for a Doctorate, and own twin golden retrievers. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.
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