Written by Maria Hyde
Tuesday, February 9th, 2021
At the beginning of COVID-19, I was feeling pretty good about the money I was saving. No more commuting, travelling or meeting friends for happy hour meant it was easier for me to save money.
With those savings, I was able to bump up contributions to my kids' RESPs, pay down some debt and even spend a little on creating a comfier work-from-home situation.
Fast forward a few months, I was no longer feeling the same way. I was still saving some money, but much less compared to the start of the pandemic. I was confused.
Why Wasn't I Saving as Much as I Wanted, Even Though I Was Spending Most of My Time at Home?
I reviewed my bank statements and realized that I was still doing a lot of unnecessary spending—while being confined at home. Here are some of the money mistakes I was making:
1) I Was Spending Too Much Time Online
Like many Canadians, I found myself spending more time in front of a screen, and especially online. My use of social media and email increased, and it's no coincidence that so did my online shopping.
It would often start in my inbox: An enticing email offer would lead to some "harmless" online window shopping, and before I knew it, I was "adding to cart." My increased spending was most evident in my Black Friday purchases, which were almost double what they were the year before.
2) Out of Boredom, I Was Spending to Fill Up the Time
In the summer, it was easy for our family to fill our days with activities that didn't cost much—trips to different parks, walking trails and lounging in our backyard.
When the weather got colder, my husband and I started spending money on things to do indoors. Puzzles, board games, colouring books and more toys for the kids. And for us, it was indulging in expensive wine, cheese and charcuterie boards several times a month.
There's no doubt that with everything going on, spending a bit of money to treat yourself and your family is warranted. However, for us, some of these expenses caused us to lose sight of our savings goals. They were taking away from how much we were normally able stash away for the future every month.
3) I Was Spending More Every Grocery Run to Avoid Doing Multiple Trips
With province-wide restrictions in Ontario, I was trying to limit the number of times I was going out for essentials. I usually plan a week's worth of meals, but I tried to see if I could stretch the days in between grocery runs by buying extra non-perishables (like chicken broth and pasta) and snacks for the kids. I figured that I would eventually find ways for us to make use of them.
But the truth is, this strategy wasn't saving me any trips, since I'd have to go back every week for fresh produce and perishable food. With every grocery visit, I was still buying extra items that I thought we could use, which always resulted in a bigger bill and more stuff in our pantry that would go uneaten for weeks.
What I'm Doing to Curb My Spending From Home
It was getting a little too easy for me to justify my spending, because I was stuck at home and still saving a little bit of money. To help me get back on track to saving as much as I was before, I started taking the following steps to reduce unnecessary expenses.
1. I'm being more mindful about how much time I spend online, and I've unsubscribed to emails from my favourite retailers to avoid the temptation of spending.
2. As a family, we've cut back on buying more things and have found ways to spend more time outdoors again, whether it's taking the kids sledding or skating on the small outdoor rink my husband built in our backyard.
3. I'm still working on lowering my grocery bill, but so far I've been able to save $20-$30 each trip by not purchasing anything that I wouldn't use within a two-week window.