Not all bad news: one story of saving money during the pandemic

The global pandemic of Covid-19 has caused financial hardship for many. Loss of job and income due to restrictions and lockdowns has been incredibly tough.

For some however, this season has been one of opportunity. It has been a chance to slow down and find time for things we’ve thought and dreamed about for years. A time for being creative and productive, and no longer putting off the things we’ve wanted to do.

I am one of those people. I have wanted to write for years but there always seemed to be an excuse. I was just too busy.

For me, the year of 2020 forced me to slow down. I missed the chance to go out and socialise but it was also an excuse to stay in and do things that I desperately wanted to do.

Saving money

* I found I wasn’t driving as much. We saved hundreds on reduced petrol costs and wear and tear on our car. This was at least $40 a week for both our cars, or more than $1000 altogether.

* No entry fees. We didn’t have our normal playgroups, kindergyms, Mainly Music, mums group, play cafes etc. I didn’t quite realise how much these add up to until I stopped going! This equated to an average of $20 a week, or over $520 throughout lockdown and tight restrictions .

* No swimming lessons. This alone saved us $18 a week for our eldest. Whilst it is an important skill to learn, it does get expensive! This saved at least $270 during lockdown.

* Mending clothes. I found I had more time to fix up what we had and enjoyed being able to breathe new life into the clothes and items that needed it. Rather than throwing out or outsourcing the job to someone else, I took the time to do it myself. I estimate this to be around $50 of savings, along with less sent to landfill.

* Health insurance. Our company paused our premiums for 3 months because we were able to prove that Covid reduced our take home pay. This saved us $780 on our hospital and extras cover.

* No organised sport. This was disappointing when my netball was cancelled (on the day of semi finals) but it did save $170 for a season.

* Not shopping for non essentials. I found I wasn’t browsing the shops or coming home with random items. I only bought groceries that we needed. This alone averaged to $40 a week, or over $1000.

* Got better deals on utilities. This took just a few phone calls and I was able to negotiate cheaper rates. This saves us around $300.

* Less birthday presents. During lockdown we weren’t able to attend parties and celebrations. Whilst we still bought for close family members, we weren’t going to friends or extended family birthday parties. This is normally a big expense for us so saved around $20 a week, or over $500.

* No travel. As much as this was difficult to miss out on, we did save money on going away with our family and friends. There were no caravan park fees, camping supplies, hotel rooms, air bnb, or extra petrol allowances. We normally go away twice a year for a trip and then 4 weekends or nights away. This saved us $2000-3000.

Earning money

* Refinanced mortgage. Doing so, meant that we got a lower interest rate and received $4000 to switch lenders. By the time you factor in the fees and charges, as well as the savings in interest payable, we would be ahead just over $4200.

* Finders fee. I told my friend about our mortgage broker and she decided to refinance to. I received $150 for referring her.

* Decluttering and selling items. I took the opportunity to minimise our possessions (thanks Marie Kondo). When restrictions allowed, I sold hundreds of toys, clothes, shoes, baby gear and items from the shed. I finally accepted that I wouldn’t go surfing again so sold my board and wetsuit. As an estimate, I earned $2000 from this.

* Cash back apps. I signed up for Cash Rewards and Shop Back to earn money from shopping for this I needed and would otherwise have bought, but simply made sure I did it through their app. I’ve earned $300 so far including referral codes from others.

* Winning prizes. I’m a sucker for competitions and have had more time to enter. I’ve won vouchers, movie tickets, craft kits and a pool table during the pandemic, adding up to around $5500.

* I finally began writing a blog. It’s still very small and not monetised yet, but I’m excited that it’s started! It’s a wonderful way to get down my thoughts and ideas, learn a new skill and connect with an audience.

* I started a business Instagram account which has opened a range of doors. It’s been so exciting to have new opportunities (content creating for an app, referral codes and affiliate links etc) and I can’t wait to see what will happen next. I’ve earned about $2500 so far from my page.

I’ve tried to bank the savings and earnings rather than letting it disappear into bills and groceries. I put this money towards our emergency fund which sits against our mortgage in an offset account, adding to my superannuation and investing in shares.

For some who have been in extended lockdown and harsh restrictions, you may have saved much more money (unless it went on takeaway food and online shopping!). It has definitely looked different depending on our location, work circumstances, family stage and expenses.

I know for us, it has meant slowing down. We have enjoyed a simpler way of life. More time to spend as a family, going for walks, doing free things together.

Our home is free of unnecessary stuff, better organised and feels calmer. We have tried hard not to fill our schedule as much, as we enjoyed having slower weekends during lockdown. We’ve done some planting in our yard and added a sandpit for the kids.

My sore hand improved because I wasn’t putting children in and out car seats constantly. We’ve organised the shed and adding a man cave. We talk to our neighbours and write more letters.

It hasn’t been all rainbows and roses but I’m grateful for these positive changes to our family life during Covid. I love that we’ve been able to save some money and use it wisely. I’m excited for my side hustles and blog and the opportunities that are opening up.

What about you? Has Covid been an opportunity for you to save money as well?