By Kristi De Rycke, Registered Assistant
We were all moving along in our daily lives until everything came to a screeching halt. Depending on your industry, your workload may have multiplied or slowed down significantly. Regardless of your personal situation, life changed and at breakneck speed. The day that I heard they were closing schools I was convinced that they would send another email in a week or so and restart sooner. What parent could imagine 4 weeks off or what turned into a 5 ½ month summer break? I also can vividly recall the “last trip to the grocery store until this thing is over”. Which turned into another last trip and another as the weeks continued. Time appeared to stand still, and each day ran into the next. Did anyone else have trouble remembering what day it was? I lost track of how many times I heard that our peak was 2-3 weeks away. As the clock ticked on our lives continued to change as we adjusted in whatever way possible.
When we look back over the last few months, hopefully we can see the worst of this disaster in our rearview mirror. The tragedies that we lived through, heard about, or watched on the news will forever be engrained in our memories. Every generation that has survived a difficult time has come out of it with lessons to live by. Many of our parents or grandparents reminded us not to be wasteful after living through the Great Depression. Personally, it was hard to see how throwing away an occasional plastic spoon or not reusing tinfoil was that bad of a decision. Well it makes a lot more sense now after facing high unemployment numbers, limited food and supplies at the stores and weeks of the unknown. What will be the lessons that we individually learned during this crisis that we could carry through with us to improve our future lives? Here are some to get you started.
PLAN FOR THE WORST: One of the lessons that slapped us in the face with this virus is that we never can really see when an emergency or huge life change will happen. Complete industries that were humming along came to a complete stand still overnight when our world shut down. This led to unexpected closures, furloughs, or layoffs. Even healthcare which was directly associated with the Coronavirus and expected a huge hospital surge ended up doing mass furloughs as many voluntary procedures were ceased. The lesson from this is that we cannot anticipate a sudden change in our income or the need to quit working with enough time to put aside money to get through it. The time to prepare for that unexpected change is now while we have income coming in. Consider putting aside 3-6 months of your living expenses into an emergency fund in a safe account that you can access when you need it. It was surprising how even though the days felt like they were standing still that when we look back months had passed of living in the world with Coronavirus and mass closures.
REDUCE YOUR GROCERY BILL: It became important very quickly during this time to stretch our groceries. Did you find yourself doing a better job of preserving the food you bought, meal planning or other things to prevent food waste? As things let up and we no longer fear trips to the grocery store, could you continue some of these practices to reduce the amount you spend on food monthly?
STRETCH YOUR HOUSEHOLD SUPPLIES: How many of you found yourselves counting squares of toilet paper secondary to each roll suddenly becoming the equivalent of a bar of gold? Did you tear Clorox wipes in half to preserve? Maybe you used more washable towels versus paper towels? All those little changes can help save money over time without much downside.
CONSIDER GENERIC: When standing at a nearly empty shelf while wearing a mask and trying to finish the shopping trip as soon as possible, did you find yourself having to choose a generic that you typically would not have bought. Did any of those work out for you? Did you use the cheaper product and not notice a difference? Could you continue to use the less expensive option as we move forward?
REDUCE EATING OUT: Restaurants were closed allowing only take out food. Did this encourage you to pack your lunch instead of leaving work to grab food? Did you find yourself cooking more versus restaurant food? This does not mean that you need to give up the pleasure of having someone else cook for you. Would you consider just reducing the number of times you eat out?
BREW COFFEE AT HOME: Did you find yourself making your own cup of coffee versus grabbing it at a coffee shop out of fear of extra exposure? Did you miss your coffee from your favorite coffee shop? Maybe you did and cannot wait to get back to getting it as it brings joy to your day. But if you did not miss it, consider keeping that change.
REDUCE RECREATION SHOPPING: How many times do you go just to walk the mall and end up buying something that maybe you did not need? With all the stores closed, we had to find other means of entertainment. Did you replace some of your old activities with cheaper and still enjoyable ones? Maybe you went for bike rides as a family or played games more. Consider if this is something that you would want to continue.
Even though it is more important than ever to stimulate the economy right now, it is also important to save for another rainy day for you and your family. We may have run through any emergency fund that we had, and it needs rebuilt. We also cannot know for sure that there will not be a second round of this. We cannot continue to live under a rock with no socialization and no entertainment in our lives. We all know how miserable that felt. It is time to experience a little joy in our lives. I am not asking you to continue doing the habits that truly were painful. I am just asking that you look back over what you just came through and think about the changes that had such a small impact to your joy that you could make it a permanent change. Most likely we will not be continuing some of the practices like trying to cut our own hair. We have all seen enough Facebook posts to know that is not always the best idea unless you have those skills. Personally, I will not choose again the generic brand of lasagna noodles that stuck together so bad in the pot that I could not separate but there were items that did work out great. What were some of the changes that you implemented that would be worth hanging onto?
By Greg Johnson
So many lessons learned throughout the last few months. In addition to all the craziness Kristi’s refers to above we also saw the market go down by almost 35% and then recover by another 25% or so. Many people freaked out about how quickly things went down, but those who held on and rode through find themselves still down for the year, but no where near where they were a few months ago. The lesson learned here is we cannot make emotional or rash decisions when it comes to our money. If we have our dollars invested for the long-term we must let the market continue to do it’s thing and in the long run we will be rewarded. The daily lessons like Kristi shared above are great ways to help you generate more money to invest for your long-term future. Working with a qualified advisor will help you put those dollars to great use. Hopefully, we do not have to experience another situation like this for quite some time, but if we do, we should all be better prepared.