I'm saving money on rideshares and travel right now, but I'm not keeping that cash - I'm spending it at local businesses even if they're closed
- I've had a little extra cash in my pocket since quarantine started - I'm saving money on rideshares, restaurants, travel, and more.
- Instead of keeping that money, though, I'm spending it on businesses I hope will stay open post-COVID. I've bought art, paid for online classes at a local gym, and pre-paid for an appointment with my hair stylist.
- I've decided not to save the extra money because my emergency fund is in good shape.
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As the economy grinds to a halt in the wake of the coronavirus, I've found myself in the strange position of having a little extra cash on hand that I'm not accustomed to.
For a little bit of context: I'm a freelance writer who's worked from home since 2015, and my industry has yet to be heavily affected. My partner also works part-time from our Los Angeles apartment, after being laid off from his full-time position in January, just slightly ahead of the wave of mass unemployment the country is experiencing now.
All of which is to say that we're in the extremely fortunate position of seeing our income levels remain mostly consistent - at least for the moment - while expenses like travel, gym memberships, dining out, and entertainment have been eliminated. The end result being a little unexpected wiggle room in our budget, come the end of March.
In deciding what to do with that extra cash, I wanted to make sure I considered my options carefully. Especially in such uncertain times, it's tempting to save all that money for myself, shunting it straight into my emergency fund. Or to infuse it into the market via my retirement accounts, as it's hard to remember a time when I've seen share prices so low.
But ultimately, I'm planning on putting that money right back into the community services I personally rely on. And that I deeply, selfishly want to see come out on the other side of the pandemic.
Keeping my habits the same
I subscribe to the theory of dollar-cost averaging, which essentially means sticking to the same savings plan no matter the economic climate. And just like I put the same amount into my retirement accounts whether the markets are up or down, I've decided to attempt to keep my expenses roughly the same each month, even as businesses are shuttering.
That means when my big-box gym temporarily shut its doors, freeing up $65 per month in my budget, I put that money toward a subscription to a gym in my neighborhood that's moved its classes online. (Shout out to Training Mate and their no- or low-equipment HIIT workouts!)
At $99 for 30 days of unlimited classes, it costs me a bit more per month, but I'm happy knowing that my funds are going directly to keeping those trainers employed. Plus, I finally have no excuses not to go to the gym - I've only missed one day of classes since I started my membership.
Considering our community
My partner and I don't have a car, so between the two of us, we typically spend between $400 and $500 per month on rideshare services and public transportation. (Eek, I know.) But with everything shut down and nowhere to go, we haven't spent a dime of that for the past four weeks we've been in quarantine.
Instead, I've looked for ways to inject those resources back into our local economy, like subscribing to the Los Angeles Times, looking into fostering a cat from a nearby shelter, contributing to crowdfunding for our recently laid-off friends and colleagues, and tipping the crap out of essential workers who've been delivering our meals or grocery orders.
I've also read about some folks continuing to pay their house cleaners or childcare providers throughout the pandemic, an idea I loved but couldn't implement myself as we clean our own house and don't have kids, so I had to get a little more creative.
I reached out to the woman who cuts my hair, who also happens to live in my neighborhood, and offered to pay her for an appointment in advance. (Tip included, of course.) It's an arrangement that works out well for both of us: she gets floated a little cash during a time when she's unable to meet with clients, and I increase the likelihood that a stylist I really love will make it through this crisis without eating into her savings too much, or having to switch industries.
I highly recommend this option in particular, because it's a direct connection to another human being, which feels priceless in a moment like this. Like adding a link to a safety net that can end up serving all of us.
Supporting more creative ventures
For me, staying indoors for this long is as much a mental and psychological restriction as it is a physical one. So I want to make sure I'm nourishing myself beyond just my essential needs, like food, information, and shelter.
So far, that's meant ordering merchandise and treating myself to a cookbook and a board game from Powell's, a beloved bookstore from my hometown of Portland, Oregon, and ordering a print from Chambers Austelle, a North Carolinian artist I've long been a fan of on Instagram who offered a Stay Home Studio Sale to help encourage purchases. And I'm on the lookout for more opportunities every day.
Part of it feels self-indulgent, to be spending money on anything that seems frivolous during a pandemic. And of course, I don't advise any of this unless your emergency savings are in a good place, with enough funds to cover at least six months of expenses. But if you're at a fairly stable place and have the ability, I highly recommend taking at least some of the extra cash you're finding on hand and paying it forward to the resources that you yourself rely on.
Do you have a personal experience with the coronavirus you'd like to share? Or a tip on how your town or community is handling the pandemic? Please email email@example.com and tell us your story.
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