Money at 30: How Quarantine Has Impacted Our Spending (So Far)
It’s now been about six weeks since I’ve left my home for anything other than 1) near-nightly walks, 2) a couple of drive-thru pick-ups, and 3) one trip to the store. Thankfully, my wife and I are both among those who have been able to do our jobs from home during this time, with only minor disruptions to our income. Of course, this doesn’t mean that our finances haven’t had to adjust to the current circumstances.
A few weeks ago, I discussed some of the ways I think this crisis could affect my finances for the better in the long term. But, how is it impacting our spending right now? Here’s a look at some of the ways our spending has changed (or not changed) during this time of quarantine.
COVID Spending Changes
Travel and Entertainment
The most obvious source of savings over these past couple of months has been the lack of travel. Not only were scheduled to take a business trip to France just as all of this was ramping up but were also supposed to be in Las Vegas *checks watch* right now. Contrary to some nightmare stories I’ve seen online, all our booking cancellations and refunds were nearly hassle-free, so we aren’t really out any money (although I did elect to leave our canceled plane ticket funds in the form of Allegiant credit instead of pushing for a cash refund). Additionally, being home instead of staying in a hotel means we’ve saved hundreds of dollars that would have gone towards meals, transit, and other daily expenses.
Meanwhile, on a similar note, a lack of driving also means even less gas consumption. Of course, gasoline is extremely cheap right now so maybe we should go fill up just for the heck of it…
For the past two months, our grocery shopping habits have changed significantly. First, just before the lockdown orders took effect, we hit up our local Sam’s Club for what amounted to an oversized but not outrageous shopping trip for us. Looking at the $200+ we dropped on that trip, it would seem that our grocery spending had shot up. However, in reality, that trip lasted us more than a month whereas we typically go shopping once a week — and shop across multiple stores. So, even though we again spent nearly $200 on our first return trip to Sam’s Club since all of this started, I think we’ve still come out on top.
On the other hand, we’ve also started experimenting with grocery delivery. After a full month of living off our Sam’s Club haul, we decided to top off our supply of a couple of key items by using the service Instacart to order from Aldi. Welp, the experience was so nice and refreshing that we gave in and did it again this past weekend. Of course, for as convenient as Instacart and other such services are, they do come at a price. In our case, we ended up spending about $20 extra on $75 worth of groceries between the applicable fees and a tip. Granted, this is partially offset by the fact that Aldi has great prices, but there’s no denying that our grocery spending has inflated some thanks to this new obsession.
Prior to the lockdown, my wife and I would make an effort to go out every Tuesday night. We’ve actually kept up this tradition during quarantine… although the “going out” has been replaced with “ordering in.” Just like with our groceries, this often includes paying handsomely to have someone deliver the food to our door.
Despite the delivery and service fees that DoorDash, Uber Eats, and other platforms charge, we’ve actually done fairly well at keeping our spending in check. That’s partially because we’ve been making use of the $15 Uber credits I get from my American Express Platinum card each month while combining them with the remaining credits I have from my revamped Uber Credit Card. On that note, Uber Eats was waiving delivery fees from local eateries for a while, which helped during the time it was available. Elsewhere, we’ve also been able to find good deals when ordering directly through certain restaurants (shout out to Little Caesars in particular, which offered truly free delivery — just the cost of the pizza and the tip) and by taking advantage of the 20% SoFi Money is currently offering on Door Dash orders.
Ultimately, when comparing the total spent after fees, tips, and discounts, it probably works out to be just a bit more than doing table service each week. That said, we’ve also made an effort to be smart with our orders, adding a little extra that would help pad our grocery supply. With that element in the mix, I think we’ve pretty much leveled out here as well.
For most people, the extra time at home has likely meant an increase in demand for utilities, such as water and electricity (not to mention potentially hitting data caps on your WiFi plan). However, considering that we work at home anyway and since our Internet is included in our rent, we haven’t seen too much of a change in our utility bills. In fact, thanks to a streak of fairly nice weather throughout April, our electric bill was a totally reasonable $40 last month — compared to up to $120 during some winter months.
Finally, one area where we have seen an increase in spending is the dreaded “miscellaneous” category. This includes the purchase of novel essentials, such as masks, along with less important pick-me-up presents to ourselves such as a $70 Kusmi Tea order. Admittedly, the temptation to give in to “e-retail therapy” has been strong during this quarantine period, but I think we’ve faired pretty commendably considering. A possible exception could be the new phone I felt the need to purchase recently — although my defense is that I got an article idea out of that!
As we continue to search for silver linings and bright spots amid this pandemic, looking at my spending would suggest that we’ve actually been able to save money during all of this. Sadly, I realize this isn’t the case for millions of Americans who have found themselves unemployed, or worse, facing medical emergencies due to the virus. With that in mind, I’m wishing the best for you and your families as we all continue to navigate this new reality together.