COVID-19 has caused a lot of suffering, increased the velocity of change, and been stressful for everyone. Spending months in lockdown affects all of us differently but one thing I think we would all agree on is this is a period of profound self-reflection, especially in terms of financial values. Who and what truly matters? How do I spend my money? We’ve all had to re-examine our values, including our financial ones—and rethink our spending.
In the last few months, I have done three 180° pivots. Flipping what I did before to the opposite. And two double downs—taking something I was already leaning towards and stomping on the gas! Here’s what I did:
Like many people, my income suddenly took a 50% hit as some of my research contracts were either put on hold or cancelled. I had always made it a priority to pay down my mortgage aggressively. But with no idea how long the pandemic would last or when business spending would return, I opted to reduce my financial stress and cut my monthly payments in half by moving to a seven-year fixed-rate mortgage. The weight off my mind was enormous: I am now sleeping like a baby!
As an independent contractor, my strategy has been to set aside half of what I earned to cover future tax payments. With greater uncertainty about my future work, I decided to optimize my available money by trading stocks. Important note: this is not a strategy for the faint of heart and I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t have other sources of cash for worst-case scenarios. It’s going well so far: not only are my taxes covered but I have extra money for pampering myself (see point five, below.)
When I moved out in 1984 and had to clean my apartment, I decided that I would never do it again. I vowed I would always earn enough money to be able to afford a cleaning service. Thirty-six years later, a pandemic meant no cleaning service. I was thrown into the proverbial vacuum (as it were) and I realized three things: 1) cleaning didn’t take that much time; 2) it wasn’t that hard and, 3) I kind of enjoyed it. Now that cleaners are able to come to my house…I’ve decided not to use them.
Pre-pandemic I had already decided to spend less on social and business lunches, dinners and coffees (see Financial Regrets?) but the lockdown accelerated it as it pushed my entertaining budget to zero. Zoom offered me new ways to engage in productive discussions without the need for restaurants or cafes. I think, moving forward, I will likely go out to eat and drink with clients and prospects 80 per cent less.
I was already shifting some spending to hair, nails and massages pre-pandemic. Not only were none of these available during lockdown, but I was running more, and I despised having to cut my own nails, buff my own feet, and my hair was out of control. Although my husband kept offering me ‘massages’, I suspected him of ulterior motives.
All that money I’m saving from cleaning my own house is now funding my now much larger “guilt-free” pampering budget.
How has COVID-19 changed your financial values?