As a financial advisor, I always tell my clients to track their monthly spending. Needless to say, I didn’t take my own advice…until COVID-19 caused me to turn off the spending taps for shopping, dining out, lattes, hair colouring, cleaning services and so on. I am not alone. In 2020, Canadians collectively saved an amount equivalent to almost 7% of our GDP, higher than the US or UK, and nearly triple what those in France, Italy or Germany managed!
After 15 months of lockdown, I ‘discovered’ so many savings that my “rainy day investment account” grew, and the investment returns on it were a huge boon to my overall portfolio! As I pat myself on the back for my newfound saving and investing strategy, I am spotting three broad trends:
Spending that was just a bad idea: I was never someone who ordered food for delivery, but I used to eat meals out all the time. I have realised the cost of food, wine plus markup, tax and then tip on top of all of that is just too high for the pleasure I get. I will still go out occasionally, but going forward I will take people out less, have dinners out with friends or family less, and even when travelling will book apartments with kitchens so we can eat dinners at home. Throw in lattes and lunches on top of dinners, and this could save me more than $15,000 annually.
Spending where the pandemic forced me to use a substitute…that is just as good or better: I used to have a personal trainer at a gym. In order to stay fit, I bought weights, mats, a bench, and a spin-bike, and am fitter than ever. I used to go to a salon for my hair roots. Desperate, I turned to my husband and a roots touch up kit from the drugstore. Hubs is my new permanent colourist – my hair has never looked better! Another five grand or so right there.
Spending where I will choose to save money: I used to have weekly cleaners. Doing it myself wasn’t a “substitute” exactly…but I discovered that I didn’t mind cleaning as much as I thought, and also that the process of saving was addictive. The more I saved, the more willing I was to shift my spending patterns. Similarly, I loved buying pretty dresses in boutiques, both here in Toronto but also when we travelled on business. Now, we (my husband has a good eye!) have found some amazing online stores and brands. Don’t get me wrong: they are not nearly the quality of what we used to purchase, but they are actually really attractive and feminine and give me that “pretty new dress” thrill on date nights. That’s gotta be another $10,000 annually between the two.
What does all this have to do with investing, aside from having more money to invest?
I discovered not only how much I was spending, but I also discovered that the money I saved made me a better investor. I have RSPs and so on but tend to invest those in a standard S&P 500 kind of way. But the money I saved through pandemic savings was invested differently. It felt to me like “bonus money”, that I was more able to afford to lose, which allowed me to trade more frequently, more aggressively, and in riskier asset classes such as tech, gold, and crypto. I’m not turning into a Bitcoin bro day-trader…but I do think I will push my investing comfort envelope more from now on. Combined with $25,000 or more of annual savings, that may just turbocharge my retirement planning.