Written by: Katie Fischer
Over the past few months, most of us have been spending the majority of our time at home, cooking our own meals, figuring out how to work remotely, finding new forms of entertainment, or picking up new hobbies. These unprecedented times (how many times have we heard that now?) have left us with an unprecedented opportunity as we prepare to move forward – the opportunity to rebuild how we spend our time and how we spend our money.
Shifts in Spending & Time
While staying at home, many people have likely noticed some shifts in their spending. For example, we immediately canceled our gym membership, which we kept primarily for the pool in the summer. We have eaten very few meals not cooked at home, the kids are no longer eating lunch and snacks at daycare, and I no longer get my fancy coffee once per week. While these items are relatively small expenses, they have made an impact on our monthly budget.
We have also shifted how we spend our time. Evenings and weekends are no longer scheduled in advance with meetings and social gatherings. We are able to be outside when the weather is nice, or inside when we have an unseasonably cold May day. I have walked every street in our neighborhood multiple times, and family bike rides have been a highlight of our weekends.
What Do We Want to Do?
Now, as we see steps being taken to reopen businesses and allow people to start doing the things they haven’t in the past few months the question is, “What do we want to do?” What expenses do we want to add back to our lives? How do we want to spend our time, now that we know what it feels like to not be allowed to explore the world freely?
Our family has been regularly saving money to improve our home. Our house was built in the early 1950s, and while we are only the third owners, there have been additions and remodels over the years that have led to a layout that is not always ideal. Spending so much time at home has highlighted the areas that need to be prioritized versus the areas that would be fine with a few cosmetic improvements. For example, our kitchen is spacious, but with the increased snacking going on our pantry needs to be changed to allow a more organized and accessible storage space – we are moving that up the list of priorities.
What We’re Leaving in The Past
An expense that will not be returning to our budget anytime soon is a gym membership. While we enjoy physical activity and using the pool on nice days, we have found alternative options that are working for us right now. I have been doing daily workouts at home using an app while my husband prefers outdoor workouts. We also decided to invest in a small above ground pool for outdoor summer entertainment for the kids which eliminates the main reason we had the gym membership in the first place. The total cost of the change is less than 4 months of membership and we have no intention of adding it back anytime soon.
What We Miss
With two small children, we have greatly missed The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. It’s an easy place for our family to find a few hours of entertainment on slow weekends. When it reopens and we feel comfortable doing so, we will be returning for the exhibits, education, and socialization that it adds to our family’s life.
While we have had our fair share of family time over the course of the lockdown, we don’t want to lose all of it just because things are back to the “normal” that we knew a few months ago. We will take small steps back into the things we used to fill our time with, and if we find we miss some of our lockdown life, we can eliminate the unnecessary.
At this time, we are presented with a unique opportunity that allows us to add items back into our lives and our budgets. Reducing things from our lives has been a challenge for many, but we now have an opportunity to be intentional about what we do, and do not, want to add back. Not all of the spending and busyness in our lives prior to this disruption actually provided happiness and value to us.
I urge you to be intentional about transitioning back to “normal” and take some time to deeply consider the things that you really want to add back, those that you’re happy leaving in the past, and the new habits that you’ve formed during social distancing that you’d like to carry with you into the future.