I spent almost $600 in April on services I didn't get, but I don't mind because that money keeps my community in tact

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  • I'm normally frugal. I hate being overcharged or paying for something I didn't get. But now I'm willingly paying for services I can't use. I wish I could pay for more.
  • I'm keeping my gym membership active even though the gym is closed, and I'm paying my house cleaner not to come.
  • Unless my financial situation takes a nosedive, I intend to continue paying for things I can't use as long as we are staying at home. It's my way of supporting my local community.
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A city or a neighborhood or a block is a web of interconnected activities. The residents coming and going, the bar on the corner with sound spilling out on trivia night, the row of small businesses that hum with activity during weekdays, the restaurant that fills the street with people waiting for tables at brunchtime on weekends.

My neighborhood web unraveled on March 16, when the Bay Area started to shelter in place. The residents are still here, but the businesses went silent. The routines of my daily life — gym, office, errands, movies, dinner out with friends — stopped.

I soon realized that one simple thing I could do was support the organizations I care about, even if it means paying for services I can't use. It's my small way of trying to knit the web back together.Advertisement

I'm grateful I'm able to give back

I am more fortunate than many in this time of economic crisis. My wife has a steady, union job that she can work from home, so her income hasn't changed. My income as a freelance writer is less secure, and some of my clients aren't using my services right now. However, I have steady clients who continue to have work for me, so my business income hasn't gone down drastically.

If I get sick, I won't be able to work, so I'm okay with staying home. I don't love the drastic changes in my daily life, but, any time I chafe at the restrictions, I imagine myself on a ventilator. That makes my daily sacrifices seem small.

While I stay home, I spend less. I don't go out to movies and plays. I used to eat out two or three times a week, take public transit, buy smoothies, and go shopping for books, clothes, and other items. I'm ordering restaurant takeout several times a week to support my local restaurants, but the rest of these items are off my list right now. That gives me extra money to do something I would normally hate: pay for things I'm not getting.
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How much I've spent on services I haven't received

My dream job would be as a consumer advocate who contacts companies and gets them to pay back customers they have overcharged. I'm willing to spend whatever time it takes to remedy what I perceive as poor consumer treatment.

But, in the way that the coronavirus has flipped so many things on their head, I'm now more than happy to pay for services I don't receive. I'm not even mad at the farm delivery company for charging me for food that wasn't in my box. OK, I'm a little mad, but I'm mostly grateful I was able to get a spot on their delivery route for fresh veggies. If they never refund the overcharge, I'll consider it a coronavirus surcharge. Here's what I paid for in April that I didn't get:Advertisement

House cleaning: $270

Our cleaner comes every other week and she would have cleaned three times in April at $90 each. While I don't enjoy the dust piling up in the corners of my house (I am a poor replacement for her), I'm glad she's staying safe.

It makes me feel good to contribute to that by continuing to pay her to stay at home. And I'll be thrilled when it's safe for her to come back to work.

YMCA membership: $71

My last visit to the gym was in March, the Saturday before the stay at home order was issued. Even then, I felt vaguely guilty about being there. Since then, I've had a crash course in the spread of highly contagious diseases and I don't know when I'll feel comfortable in a locker room again.Advertisement

I could put my Y membership on hold and pay just $17 per month to keep my locker rental. But, as long as I can afford it, I will keep paying for my membership. I love the Y and I know I'll get to swim again someday.

Office rent: $242

I have a lovely little workspace in an arts warehouse near my house. When we were told to shelter in place, I decided to move my work to my home to reduce the number of people I come into contact with. In this case, I am not exactly paying for something I can't use, since much of my office equipment and furniture (plus a shocking amount of other junk) is stored in the space.

Museum membership: $95/year

We had just renewed our membership to the Oakland Museum of California before the pandemic closed the museum. I love being able to pop into the museum and take friends to see special exhibits and I won't be able to do any of that, maybe for months more. I hope our membership helps the museum keep going through the shutdown. Advertisement

These are expenses that were already in my budget, so it isn't hard to keep paying them. I think of these payments as insurance against the world completely falling apart. I just hope it's enough.

I don't expect the rhythms of my daily life to return to what they were before the coronavirus swept them away anytime soon, if ever. But this time has showed me what was precious in my old life. I hope I will be able to pick up many of the familiar strands and weave them into my daily life once again, someday. And I hope my small contributions help them survive until we can all be together again.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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