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Pandemic Life: Now What?

By Anne McFarland, CFP (R) Davis Financial Planning, Asheville, NC

At the start of the pandemic, there was a rush to purchase critical items (I think many of us recall the toilet paper craze of 2020). Those who maintained employment started to shift their spending to things like take-out meals, exercise equipment, and other forms of entertainment. Now, as we look ahead to fall, how will our spending shift yet again?

Take a look at the last year and ask -- What shifted for you? Some of the shifts we heard about where a slower paced life, eating dinner as a family, playing games, and just being quiet. Ask yourself what of those shifts do you want to maintain? From a financial perspective – did your savings increase? How did your spending change? What did you gain from these life and financial shifts?

As you look ahead to the rest of 2021 and beyond, make decisions about your lifestyle and your spending based on your values. These are your guideposts to maintain the benefits of your financial and life changes from the last year. Keeping values front and center in our budgets can provide surprising benefits:

Focusing on spending in ways which align with our values and within our means can sometimes increase our savings.

Awareness of when we are spending on wants versus needs

This does not mean we only spend on needs. It means being conscious of the decisions we are making in our everyday spending. Sometimes this may mean reflecting on why a particular want or desire exists. As we have started to emerge back to more in-person shopping instead of delivery, we start to see and potentially buy things which are wants.

PRACTICAL TIPS TO ALIGN SPENDING WITH VALUES

  • Put a photo of the want or need that best aligns with our values and wrap it around our credit or debit card with a rubber band. This gives us a visual reminder each time we go to use our card and may allow us the space to put some of the more immediate wants back on the shelf.
  • Do you use Apple wallet (or similar service)where it is easy to swipe your phone to make a purchase? Consider deleting this option.
  • Perhaps explore whether your bank will round up purchases and put the extra into a savings account for you – this is like the jar of coins that used to sit on your dresser accumulating over time and was truly painless.

ONLINE SHOPPING TIPS

Online shopping became for many of us a way of life as we stayed at home. The companies we buy from – Amazon, Target, Walmart – are great at marketing. It is easy to look at the “people who bought this, also bought these items” or “items bought together” and think that we too need these additional items.

How can we curb this new impulse buying habit we had before the pandemic and perfected during it? Consider putting items in your cart, closing the application, sleeping on it, and then deciding to make the purchase or not. You may find you delete some items from your cart. Also, consider deleting any saved credit card information, again, simply to have a pause before purchasing.

As we ride out the ups and downs of the pandemic in the coming months, keep your goals and values in mind and make decisions for your life and your finances that align with what matters most to you.

We are here to help as you think about career changes, retirement, and personal goals which may have changed over the course of the past year. Feel free to contact us, if we can support you.