October 26, 2020

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I couldn’t leave my house, so how’d I manage to spend so much money during the COVID-19 lockdown?

I didn’t leave my house for about five months because of the COVID-19 lockdown. The amount of money I spent does not reflect that.

I started my new position with Chron about a month into the pandemic. A new job in a much bigger state meant more income compared to my previous salary in Mississippi. At first, I was doing a wonderful job at saving. I won’t detail exactly how much I was putting away monthly, but it was more than I was ever able to save during the two years I spent with my previous employer.

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But when the summer months officially hit, I got bored.

I know, that’s not a good reason to start spending an excessive amount of money, but that’s really what happened. As someone who would constantly stress about the amount of money I didn’t have, it felt great not having to worry so much about how much things cost. I still consider myself to be a frugal person, mainly because you can’t spend money you don’t have, but I definitely overdid it during the pandemic.

In addition to books, self-help journals and news subscriptions, I found myself purchasing a lot of things I didn’t need, including tons of clothes. While clothes are a necessity, I already owned more than enough to get me through the pandemic.

I couldn’t leave my house, after all.

Not only was I irresponsible, but I feel like if I was going to “waste” money, I could have done so by donating more to charities or various Black-owned organizations that I support.

After reading about how other people spent their funds during the lockdown, I wished I would have put it toward paying down debts and investing.

Lauren Leatherby and David Gelles with The New York Times reported in April that “the coronavirus has profoundly altered daily life in America, ushering in sweeping upheavals to the U.S. economy.” While grocery stores received an obvious surge in demand, restaurants and online travel sales experienced a deep plunge.

That’s another reason I feel horrible about the money I spent — because while I am grateful I was able to remain employed and bring in income during such a bizarre time for the entire country, it’s a luxury not everyone has.

I did find a little peace in knowing I was not the only person who automatically assumed I’d be saving a lot of money during the pandemic, ultimately leading to internal disappointment.

“At the beginning of a pandemic, I think there were a lot of assumptions that people are going to save a lot of money because they’re home and not doing anything,” said Shannon McLay, finance expert and founder of the Financial Gym, as reported by CNBC’s Megan Leonhardt. “If you’re forced to do something and you don’t really embrace it from a mindset shift, then the second you have the ability to do the other things, you’re going to go back to that behavior because you didn’t really embrace the change.”

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What this means is, it’s likely I was saving money because at the time, I had no other choice. Unfortunately, I wasn’t saving because it was the right thing to do, but rather because the pandemic was new in the beginning and it prompted me to want to do things differently.

Once I began to adjust to the pandemic, so did my spending habits.

Even though I bought a lot of items I didn’t need (I refuse to call them pointless since I actually use the items), I did make a very good investment. I bought an air fryer, which has been my favorite purchase thus far. If you haven’t invested in one and used it to cook every single item in your kitchen, I highly recommend doing so.

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