The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the world around us. Everything from work life to home life, dining out and ordering in, and so much more, has shifted in an attempt to slow down the spread of the virus.
When the virus first started in early March I, like so many of us, struggled to truly understand the scope of it. I looked forward to better days when things would be back to “normal,” and life would go on as it did before the pandemic. When I first started to understand that there would most likely not be a return to “normal” for the foreseeable future but instead the arrival of a “new normal,” I started to make some adjustments and plan my life differently.
In Vancouver, British Columbia where I live, we have very much moved into a semblance of a new normal. Bars and restaurants, (and even clubs) are open, malls and beaches are packed, people have returned to working in offices, and public transit is running as normal. But health officials throughout the province warn there is a strong possibility that there will be a second wave of COVID-19 in the future that will be deadlier than the first one. COVID- 19 showed me the importance of being as prepared as you can for the future at all times. While I am doing my best to enjoy and find optimism in the new normal that we are all navigating, I am proceeding with caution and ensuring that I will be more prepared for what the future may bring in the way that I wasn’t in the past. Here are five ways I am planning my life and finances around COVID 19:
1. I’m working extra hard at my job.
I am incredibly fortunate that I have been able to continue working throughout the pandemic. While I did receive a significant pay cut, retaining my employment and continuing to receive consistent paychecks is something that I feel incredibly grateful for each day. The company that I work for has been able to financially navigate COVID-19 so far. But they have been clear in their internal communications that the economic impacts of the virus are long-lasting, and we’ll have to make changes as needed. I’ve always been a hard worker, but since the pandemic began, I’ve made sure to go above and beyond the requirements of my job to prove that I am a valuable asset to both my team and to the company, more broadly. I work longer hours, I jump in to help with other projects whenever I can, and I make sure to be overall as efficient and productive as possible. While the final decision regarding my employment is ultimately out of my hands, I’m doing everything in my power to give myself the best possible opportunity to stay.
2. I’m saving as much as possible.
When the pandemic first arrived, I had yet to accumulate any savings and found myself in a dangerous situation, considering our precariousness economy and work. I had set up a high-yield savings account months prior for an emergency fund, but I was never able to actually save a significant amount. I assumed that, because I was still young, it was okay to slack off on my savings goals and just spend money the way I wanted — what are the odds of an emergency coming around? Of course, I was wrong about that one. Since the beginning of quarantine, saving is my number one financial priority, even above paying off lingering credit card debt. I no longer treat saving like an option and make sure that each month I set aside the most amount of money I can and transfer that into my high-yield savings account. I’ve cut down other aspects of my spending, like beauty, clothes, and restaurants which has allowed me to save around an extra $300 per month. I have since managed to accumulate an emergency fund that will cover four months of expenses if I lose my job due to COVID.
3. I’m finding safer, more affordable ways to see my friends.
As part of the cities reopening – most of the bars and restaurants that my friends and I frequented before the pandemic have opened up again. But we don’t all feel completely comfortable visiting them like we used to — the opening of bars and restaurants has resulted in a spike of COVID cases in many cities. Instead, my friends and I have opted to spend time outside, either going to the beach or park or going for walks together. Not only does this allow us to social distance from other groups and avoid closed off indoor spaces, but I’m also saving more money, which helps build my emergency fund. Swapping expensive dinners with store-bought snacks and cheap bottles of wine in the park has cut my spending by approximately $50 to $150 per week.
4. I’m making my ingredients stretch.
I’ve adopted an ideology of more is less. As part of the new normal, grocery stores have increased their capacity, which has created an increase in stock and a decrease in lines. This makes it easier to get what you need when you need it — unlike the beginning of March. But to plan for a potential second wave, I’m still rationing food the best I can and developing new techniques to preserve my groceries and make my ingredients stretch. Each week, I’m diligent about finishing all the food in my fridge and doing my best to make sure nothing goes to waste.
5. I’m trying new money strategies.
I’m attempting to broaden my financial scope so I can be more prepared and avoid potential financial blows in the future. Each week, I set aside a few hours to analyze my personal finances and research new personal finance strategies. For example, I have picked up freelance writing to boost my income, and, for the first time in my life, I’ve made (and stuck to!) a budget that has helped me build my savings and decrease my debt. I’ve also made a plan to try my hand at investing through a robo-advisor in the coming months so that I can start working towards my long-term financial goals.
Adjusting my life and finances around COVID, while difficult and unfortunate, has brought some positive changes into my life. While I’m still looking forward to getting back to the “old normal,” it’s not far off to say that “new normal” has made my life better in some ways.
Domunique is a full-time communications manager and part-time freelance writer who is interested in personal finance, health and wellness, pop-culture, and community building. You can follow her on Instagram @domuniquelashay.
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