If we really zoom in on our household spending, most of us can find differences in our pre-pandemic versus pandemic budgets. Many families have seen a higher grocery bill, but lower expenses in many other categories due to the closure of so many businesses. Now that the world is back open, it seems people are excited to "get back to normal," but what does that mean for their budget? While some people are proceeding with caution, others are so excited that they're rushing back out into the world in order to enjoy all of the activities they feel they've been missing.
A Question of Values
It almost seems like the pandemic put us all on a massive timeout. It was actually pretty effective. I mean, I certainly thought about things, didn't you? I really tuned in to my own values and had a lot of time to communicate with my partner about them. There are some things that enrich my life that historically haven't been given enough of my time. That needs to change. There are also some things that didn't make the cut. There are some things in life that I might need to break up with. I know I'm not alone in this rediscovery of my personal values, but these discoveries are meaningless if they don't result in real change. The kind of change that comes from inspired action. The kind of change that comes from laser focus on the vision for your life. You can have anything you so desire if you have unwavering belief in it (The Universal Law of Belief). What is behind the curtain of this vision for your life, the one you have complete confidence in obtaining, is really a question of values. What are you carrying into your future, and what are you leaving behind? If you look closely at your schedule and your budget, you will see your values. If the values you see between the lines of your schedule and your budget are in discord with the values you are holding in your heart, you are in a place of resistance, and it's time for a change.
If you are using the 50/30/20 Budget, like I do, you should reevaluate the 30% Flexible Spending (Lifestyle) category. What is truly available for you to spend? It's time to get extremely deliberate here. We've all had more than a year to think and we've focused in on our values, and our communities are reopening! It's time to allow our inner selves to come through the things we value and have a respected place in our budget. I am so excited that my friend is returning to the wellness center she so loves. She also greatly misses her yoga class and plans to return to that as well. There are other things that took up space in her pre-pandemic budget that no longer align with her values. She used to consume a lot of fast food out of sheer exhaustion and lack of preparation. Now, she's gotten into a groove with meal prep and physically feels a million times better. I'm sure she'll pull into a drive-through once in a while, but she's really reigned in her food spending (both groceries and dining out) and wants to keep it at its newfound level. If you were spending time and money doing things that no longer align for you, let's cut them out and make space for the things you are truly excited to be doing again! You get to choose which things make the cut, no one else! If you align your desires with the flexible spending portion of your budget (and in some instances the goals section), you can also stay on track financially. If we're reactive rather than proactive, we run the risk of spending mindlessly out of excitement and running ourselves into unnecessary debt. We all deserve better than that, don't we?
If there are places you used to frequent, and they survived the pandemic, they might also be different than they were before. My friend found that her prepaid treatments couldn't be cashed in for this recent visit because they were changing their system. Some businesses have taken the opportunity to make changes, and others might have made them because they felt their hands were tied. You might find that prices have increased, offerings have changed, hours have changed; even the staff may have changed. While no one can blame business owners for making the changes necessary for their business, consumers need to be aware of how these changes impact their own personal budgets. If a dinner out costs 20% more due to price adjustments, we need to make appropriate choices for ourselves. This could mean cutting in another area, dine out less, or choose a different establishment. There are no wrong choices here, but doing our homework will give us the opportunity to make a mindful choice rather than one by accident.
If you've been working at home for a year, like I have, yoga pants may have become the norm. I still get dressed for work, but it really does look different when I'm literally not going anywhere. Also, with masks, I haven't really worn any makeup in a year. In fact, I just had to buy a tube of lipstick, realizing that when I ran out, I didn't re-up it because I wasn't going anywhere. There are a number of little things like this. I know that when I physically return to my workplace, I need to make sure I'm prepared. I am going to need to reevaluate my wardrobe among other things. If I don't have the things I need for returning to the workplace, I will need to budget appropriately for that. This cannot be an excuse to overspend. The truth is that I don't anticipate needing much but in my world makeup, footwear, and slacks may need to be purchased. Consider this for all members of your household. If you have children that will return to a physical classroom after being remote all year, this could impact your budget. Take stock now, so you can replace items little by little as needed.
I am genuinely excited about seeing businesses around me opening back up. I can't wait to attend a Broadway play or book a massage. Honestly, it all sounds wonderful. What also sounds wonderful is operating at the speed of my budget and continuing to be mindful with my money.