How to budget in a pandemic

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There are times when budgeting is easier, and times when it’s harder. On that spectrum, a global pandemic is probably not one of the easiest times. Record unemployment, constant fear and uncertainty have become regular feelings for the past year.

The pandemic has also laid bare the inequalities in society, and how important having savings can be. There are ways to save, even during a pandemic. These tips might not make up for a lost job, but they should help you start your saving journey.

Aggressively examine your recurring expenses

No matter what your current situation is, your day-to-day life has undoubtedly changed as a result of lockdowns and work-from-home orders. If you’re not working in an essential job, you’re likely not commuting anymore, and many of us are no longer going to the gym, if we were before.

It’s worth taking a look at all your recurring expenses and seeing which ones aren’t useful for you anymore. Are you not going to the gym but still have a membership? It might be worth cancelling or pausing that membership. Do you have a Bahncard in Germany or a Carte Liberte in France? It might be coming up for renewal soon, which is a good opportunity to ask yourself if you’re really going to be traveling enough for it to pay off.

Vivid’s subscription control feature can help you here: it will recognize monthly recurring expenses and let you block the charges right in the app. But take an even deeper look, and see if you can find quarterly or yearly charges that you don’t need anymore.

Keep an Eye on your Food Budget

An unlikely result of my own lockdown life has been that I’m spending more on food, despite not going to restaurants. I didn’t even notice it until I got my monthly breakdown in the Vivid app and saw how big the Dining Out and Grocery segments were. I realized I was doubling up: working from home was making me buy more groceries — I had more time now to duck out at lunch and take a trip to the grocery store instead of buying lunch at the office. But I was also still getting a lot of takeout and delivery. The result was a stockpile of food in my pantry and fridge, food going bad, and more expenses for me.

You might be in a similar situation, or you might be doing something completely different, but it’s worth taking a look at your grocery and takeout expenses. Fight the urge to stockpile food unless you’re ready to commit to cooking without ordering delivery for a few weeks.

Put money into a Savings Pocket on Payday

There are different philosophies on how and when to portion out savings. Some people like to take whatever they have left at the end of the month and move it to a savings account or pocket.

Try doing it the other way around. Commit to an amount you think is realistic. Even €50 or €100 can make a difference, and as soon as you get your paycheck, put it into a separate pocket that you don’t touch unless it’s an emergency. Psychologically, it helps you see the amount that’s left and work with that, instead of keeping it as an imaginary goal for the end of the month.

Most of all, be gentle with yourself. It’s a cliche to say these are extraordinary times, but they really are, and it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together.