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Family Finances: How I'm Saving and Spending During COVID-19

Written by Dominique Jarry Shore

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

Living with the threat of COVID-19 and the effects of social distancing have meant changes to how families manage their money. Like so many others, my family has had to make adjustments to the "new normal" to try to make the best of a difficult situation.

It's easy to feel guilty as parents, especially when we lose some of the structure, social supports and income sources we had in place to help us out, like jobs, schools, daycares and extended family. During this difficult time, I think it's important to just try our best but also treat ourselves a little.

In that spirit, here are some of the things I'm doing with my family:

I'm Spending More on Food

"Mom, what can I eat?"

My 7-year-old son asks this question about a gazillion times a day – at least that's how it feels to me. Ever since we've been mostly confined to the house, I feel more and more like a short order cook in charge of a canteen than a mom with a life of her own. I have three kids in shared custody, ages 4, 7 and 15. Preparing their favourite meals and snacks is one way to keep them happy. Baking and cooking together are also great ways to keep everyone occupied for a little while.

So like a lot of families, I've been spending more on groceries and have had to adjust my budget accordingly.

I'm not travelling as far to the cheaper grocery store anymore either. Instead I'm opting for the more expensive grocery store that's a short walk away. With all the restrictions on our lives, it feels like food is one way we can enjoy ourselves. I'll admit I'm reaching for the more expensive coffee and better quality chocolate these days. But I figure I probably make up for it with the money I'm saving on take-out coffees and muffins.

I'm Applying for Government Benefits

Like so many other Canadians I was laid-off because of the pandemic. I've been told it's a temporary layoff but I'm not sure when I'll be back at work full time. In the meantime, I'm receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). It's a pay cut, but I have some savings as backup if needed.

I'm Prioritizing Bills

I decided not to defer my mortgage payments for the time being, but I have postponed paying the second installment of my property taxes. The city I live in is giving homeowners an extension on that one.

I'm saving on some expenses, like daycare and after school care, but I still need to pay some bills like my home insurance. The bill payments that absolutely can't be delayed are taking priority, and I'm taking advantage of any extensions given on other bills.

I'm Not Obsessing Over Investments

My retirement savings have gone down quite a bit. After a few days of obsessively checking the damage to my RSPs, I decided to let go and trust that the markets will eventually go back up. Luckily, I'm still about 20 years away from retirement, so I have time.

We're Treating Ourselves

My kids had been anxiously waiting for the movie Trolls World Tour to come out in theatres for months. Since going to the movies isn't possible right now, I rented the movie through Apple TV. It cost $20 for 48 hours but it was the best $20 I've spent in a long time. I'm kind of embarrassed to say how many times my kids watched the movie in those 48 hours, but they were so happy and entertained that I don't really care!

These days, that's priceless.

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