The last couple of years has been a struggle for everyone. The global pandemic has stretched the finances of many families. During the first lockdown, I found myself investing in two children’s tablets for school work alongside a printer and a monthly ink subscription. As the months continued, the money saved on petrol was redirected to bills, apps, entertainment, and of course, the all-important toilet roll and hand sanitizer.
Before long, our family found ourselves knee-deep in a multitude of subscriptions. Tesco delivery saver delivered our weekly food, Amazon Prime delivered our myriad products. Disney+ was for the kids, Netflix was for the adults and one child had Minecraft Realms (so they could play with their friends online) and the other had Barbie’s dream house.
Additional costs came in the form of hobbies and clubs, from weekly piano lessons to zoom-based girl guides. Whilst we tried to tighten our belts where we could, we couldn’t help but feel guilty about leaving others in the lurch by reducing our spending. Shopping local was honorable but expensive and takeaway was a common welcome treat.
Losing track of our spending, we found that free trials of Apple TV, Xbox Game Pass, and Audible soon started billing us and adding to the financial strain.
As family members were struck down with the virus, It was commonplace to do their shopping as well, with only sporadic repayments. In a heroic move to keep everyone at work, my company at the time reduced everyone’s salary by 30% in order to reduce overheads and avoid any layoffs. I was happy to still have a job to go to, but the monthly reduction to my salary was felt quickly.
This story is by no means the worst tale of the time. I appreciated the fact I had a job, I had enough money to keep my family educated, entertained, and well-fed, but it was a testing time.
Wherever I turned, someone or something needed money. Do you want to store your photos in the cloud? That will be $3 a month. A good broadband provider $60, pension $100, phone bills, window cleaner, and union membership all added to the growing pile of debt.
However, as finances became more of an issue, we had to face our spending and look for options. We looked at debt consolidation plans like the one here which helped us realize and account for all the things that we spent money on. From being scared ostriches with our heads in the sand, we became more financially aware and faced up to our growing debt. We could see quick fixes, such as the fact that both I and my wife had Amazon Prime accounts (This was soon merged into one ‘household’ account) and that Audible halve their price for 3 months when you say you’re leaving. Before long, we started to pay our way out of debt and become acutely aware of what we were spending money on.
Being forced to come face-to-face with your finances and deal with them is scary at first, but is a HUGE weight off your mind in the big scheme of things and we’ll worth doing. Especially if you are having an Ostrich moment as we had.
The key takeaways we learned included:
- Keep a spreadsheet of your monthly spend
- Set a reminder to look at it every month
- Look for ways to double up tasks (Dog Walk + Exercise = Gym Cancelation)
- Try switching entertainment platforms every few months instead of having all at the same time
- Educate yourself on financial management (Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Increase your financial IQ)
What was your experience of the lockdowns? Did you save money or spend more, leave your tales in the comments below.