The most fruitful periods of growth often happen when they are the least expected. Teachers and parents call them teachable moments. By reflecting on how you handle the situation, you can learn a lot about yourself. The disruption caused by this year’s pandemic is a massive teachable moment for all of us regarding money. Here are three ways you can take advantage of our recent stay-at-home orders to improve your spending and saving habits.
Take a different approach to tracking your spending. No matter who you are, your spending habits have changed during the pandemic. For example, more money is being spent at the grocery store and less on eating out and entertainment. And if you own a home, odds are you’re investing more in your house projects than you have in the past.
By taking away the ability to spend on things we normally would, stay-at-home orders offer the opportunity to learn about the things that bring us joy. Look at your purchases over the last month and note which ones were worth the money. Then think about the things you miss the most. Maybe it’s going out to eat with friends or attending a concert or a sporting event. This exercise will give you a snapshot of what type of spending is the most satisfying for you and will help your decision making in the future.
Save, save, and save some more. If you learn one thing from this pandemic, it’s that nothing is certain. Circumstances can change in an instant and even the best plans can be tossed to the side at any moment. If you are fortunate enough to have consistent income, now is the time to start building your emergency and retirement funds. Instead of diverting funds to your entertainment budget, put it in savings. You never know when the next income-altering event will arise, so stuff that financial cushion while you have the chance.
Create a habit of giving. With unemployment rates in some places as high as we’ve seen since the Great Depression, there are plenty of opportunities to help those in need. If you have some extra cash, now is a great time to increase your giving. Beyond the positive impact to others and your community, studies show that giving can make you feel happier, provide greater life satisfaction, and even activate reward centers in the brain (according to the University of Oregon). On top of all that, you may be able to deduct your contributions on your taxes — just make sure to give to qualified 501(c)(3) charities.