COVID-19 Report Card – How are Your Spending Habits?

I’ve been reading a lot about how others have been reacting to sheltering at home. Many report eating too much or eating the wrong things, not exercising and even binge buying. Since these all seem to be typical reactions to these unique times, I thought a review of my recent spending habits was in order.

One of the prime habits of the forever frugal folk is how we take responsibility. We own our spending and our budgetary habits. We are keenly aware of what and when we spend and even our triggers.

The easiest way to do a review of your spending is to collect a month’s worth of grocery receipts to start with. This way you can do a quick review to see if the tally is similar to other months. You should also check each item purchased to see if there are any new patterns emerging. When reviewing my receipts, I find that I buy one off items on sale from my local discount grocery store that are dirt cheap, under a dollar mostly. I also cut back on buying items if the cost has gone up as it has with fresh meat. I find many forms of meat frozen perfectly acceptable for simple entrees such as hamburgers, meatballs, etc. And it goes without saying that when we do our “Seafood Sunday” meals, we rely mainly on frozen seafood which is far cheaper than fresh.

Sort of like a report card, it is always helpful to simply collect a few grocery receipts and go over them a few weeks after the fact. Right away feels like buyer’s remorse but a few weeks later is really about checking your buying habits and spending patterns to ensure you are staying on track in the long run. In addition, because we are all staying at home, it makes sense to check to see that you are not coping by over spending. Plus, buying too much junk food is simply not good for you. I checked a receipt recently, and while it was my local grocery discount store and only $78 for a week’s of groceries, I still wanted a reality check on my spending habits. I was pleased to see that my buying habits haven’t changed at all. I did snag a couple of jars of gluten free frosting for the bakes I do for my daughter because she cannot tolerate gluten but those cost $0.48 each. Yes, you heard me, $0.48 each. I am always willing to try something new if the price is right. I also grabbed a bag of frozen bag of broccoli and beef. It’s a stir fry of sorts but for $1.99 and pennies for a side of rice, it represents a total meal for my meat loving partner. I also grabbed some butter because it was on sale. A pound usually goes for $3.99 but was priced at $3.49 so I bought two pounds and stuck them in my freezer for those (more frequent) times that I find myself marathon baking. There was also the stray can of olives and tomato soup (I was out of both) and the usual chicken thighs and ground beef but nothing stuck out as unusual or as an impulse buy which is what we frugal folks are aiming for. Steady goes the ship as it were. Then I checked a month’s worth of on-line shopping (we all know the url I am referring to). I found that there were some DYI supplies that I normally purchase at the DYI store but those were expected, if not entirely expected purchases, I had just bought them on line rather than risking an additional errand outside of my house. But even so, I remain firmly under budget.

My partner is obsessed with the power bill, mostly because he is the one who likes to have the AC cranked up all of the time. With some modest adjustments on his part, we’ve managed to keep the bill under what it was this time last year and that is with the occurrence of a number of days that have been well into the 90s. Because he cannot stand the heat, I’ve done the opposite of what most would do, I actually put him in charge of keeping the power bill under control. He’s taken to the job well and I have to say, done far better than I thought he would.  Power, food, incidentals…these all represent spends that you have a measure of control over. The garbage bill is usually set, not something you can easily impact although many municipalities offer discounts for seniors age 65 and older. Same goes for other expenses such as phone, cable, etc. This is a good time to call up your vendors and try and negotiate a better deal of course but if you have a good deal then you really can’t impact the cost of what you are paying on a monthly basis though it never hurts to take a hard look at all your living expenses.

Meanwhile, continue to stay sheltered in place to help flatten the curve and remain healthy and while you are home, track your expenses closely and find ways to save when ever and where ever you can.




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