Here’s how to keep your spending in check when everything starts to reopen

  • When the pandemic shuttered businesses everywhere, people were forced to reevaluate their spending habits and stick to a tighter budget.  
  • Now as the economy gradually reopens, it’s more critical than ever to be intentional about maintaining those frugal habits to keep your finances in check. 
  • Determine how, where, and why you want to spend money, and allow yourself to enjoy things that you believe are worthwhile purchases. 
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COVID-19 prompted a budget vibe check for millions of us. “During the pandemic, people were forced to reckon with the questions: What is really a necessity? What really matters? What do I need to spend my money on?”  said Jesse Mecham, CEO and founder of You Need A Budget. “I wouldn’t want people to lose that clarity.”

We don’t want you to lose that clarity, either. 

When it comes to best budgeting practices moving forward, Mecham advises asking yourself: When everything was shut down, how was it? “A lot of people had an eye-opening experience. For example, maybe they enjoyed cooking more than they thought. Learning took place, and people realized their money could go further than they thought.”

How you may have saved

The pandemic forced millions of us to eat at home more than we’d been accustomed to, which requires groceries.  

“Because food shopping was inconvenient and unsafe, nobody wanted to be in stores for long. So we were forced to be more mindful, efficient, and intentional about food shopping,” said Tiffany Aliche, financial educator and founder of The Budgetnista. “We had to say, ‘Here’s my list, I’m going in and out.'” 

Aliche explained, “Most people overspend when they go food shopping because they often buy things they had no intention of buying. Sometimes you go without any clear intention and find yourself roaming from aisle to aisle, getting things you don’t necessarily need.”

But if you know you’re not going back to the supermarket for a month, you focus on buying larger quantities of what you for sure need. This makes you more mindful of your budget. 

Another area in which you may have saved and can continue to is beauty and grooming. Salons were closed, so perhaps you learned how to cut or dye your own hair. You may not always have money to spend on things like salon care, but once you learn these skills (the University of Youtube is a great place to go), it’s not like you unlearn them.

“Learning how to do your own basic grooming so you look neat is something we all need to know how to do, and it’s a great place to save money,” said Aliche. 

People also saved on entertainment. “We learned to have fun at home because we couldn’t go outside,” explained Aliche. “It really showed us that there are a lot of fun things that cost minimal or zero money that you can do at home whenever you want. That was a money-saving tool I will continue to use.”

Maybe you and your family grew fond of having movie or game nights. Let the realization stick that fun doesn’t have to cost money. 

Our savings rate is at an all time high of 33%. “Everyone proved to themselves that they can save money, that they are capable of living on less. I hope they take that to heart and say ‘Look at me… that was pretty amazing,” said Mecham.  

So you’ve been saving. Pat yourself on the back! But how can you maintain these delightfully frugal habits now that the world is opening up and you may be inclined to spend more? The simple answer is intentionality.

Continuing to save

According to Mecham, the message to send yourself isn’t don’t spend, rather it’s asking yourself how and where you do want to spend. “Be really clear on what you DO want to spend your money on. How much do you want to spend and why? Go after that versus shaming yourself for what you think you’re not supposed to do.” If you love it, spend money on it, he said. 

It’s possible you will eat out more — now that you can — because you love it, but you can and should still remember how you survived without it. 

Ask yourself: What was I doing — that worked and allowed me to save — that I can keep doing. 

Commit to being as intentional about food shopping as the pandemic forced you to be. Still make that shopping list, stick to it, and refrain from dawdling in-store.

Continue practicing those DIY beauty skills you honed during quarantine.

And even if you’re now having more fun outside the home, you can still dedicate one or two weekends a month for strictly freebie fun, recommends Aliche. Create a schedule for yourself and ask, what things are we going to do this weekend for, say, $10 or less?

“The bright side of learning habits is that maybe you don’t employ them all the time, but they won’t be forgotten and can be activated when need be,” noted Aliche. 

It’s really about choosing to integrate pandemic takeaways into your (not quite) post-pandemic life. “You don’t know until you know, and you have that realization: Wait, I do spend too much on that, I could be saving more,” said Aliche. “In order to maintain the habits, you have to be intentional.”

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