During these past few months many of us have had to manage on less income, some on substantially less. Yet whilst we may have been earning less we may have also found that we're spending less due to reduced opportunities to get out and spend.
Yes, for many overheads have increased; some will have lost their jobs, been furloughed from work or have had no orders or requests for work coming through, so have been restricted to spending more time at home. They may have set up a home office or supported children being home-schooled.
Some will have saved on travel, clothing, going out and haircuts, but have had to pay for more food, fuel and home entertainment. Interestingly 9/10 people who have worked from home have stated a preference for continuing to do so. It's become a comfortable, safe way to live.
So, how has it been for you; are you managing well on less or are you anticipating vulnerable times ahead?
Shopping online has become the norm for many people, and home delivery companies have thrived. But equally, since the beginning of lockdown many of us have discovered how much less is needed for us to live satisfactorily. Our homes may have been thoroughly cleaned and improved and that investment enables us to feel comfortably settled there. We've nested with lovely colours, textures, improved decor and maybe even some homemade masterpieces from the children.
Let's look at ways to continue managing well on less:
Lots of people have lost their jobs or face uncertain futures post-furlough. The result is perhaps working part-time, fewer hours or moving from staff to contract work. Managing on less has become a stark reality.
- Many people have found ways to cut back and economise and have been amazed to discover how their priorities have changed. Concerns at leaving the house or arranging online food orders have meant they've become more imaginative about using what's in stock, have learned to cook, make ingredients go further, share surpluses with neighbours or have grown produce themselves. Batch-cooking, freezing and exchanging with other households has made a lot of economic sense.
- Those who shop online have found that by using a list or repeating their regular order they've reduced the temptation to make impulse purchases. But equally when visiting stores in person many people don't want to browse, instead knowing exactly what they want, quickly sourcing those items and leaving.
- And shopping for clothes or shoes in person has largely lost its appeal due to queuing, one-way systems, no trying on or being offered only one shoe each time. It's become a strange and unfriendly way to shop, a great inducement to spend less!
Moving forward, as restrictions start to relax might there be positive lessons to carry forward.
- Working from home and conducting meetings or networking online has resulted in dressing down, so the requirement for business clothes has lessened. After the initial outlay for kit, tech, training and setup there's probably an allowance needed for extra heating, electricity, online capacity and incidentals, but less spent on travelling and office space.
- As many items of clothing may now be deemed unnecessary, why not organise ways to exchange your unwanted, nearly new clothes with friends? Maybe organise a social and perhaps even charge a small fee for charity, allowing people to meet and recycle their clothes, shoes and accessories.
- When you've less income it's good to reflect on other ways to live well. You may already unofficially use skill exchanges, doing book-keeping in return for handyman repairs, or cooking or baking in exchange for gardening, decorating, childcare, tuition or other support. Be resourceful and find ways to trade without needing money to change hands.
- Socialising has been much reduced, with many relationships being maintained online. Having less income means that we need to rethink how to move forward. Safari suppers are a fun way to inexpensively connect in person over dinner parties, with one course held at each house, sharing the expense whilst moving from home to home. For variety you could introduce a theme, like fancy dress, murder mystery or elegant chic.
- Maintaining contact with one's family and social group is important and finding imaginative ways to do that is not always easy. Online book clubs, quiz nights, music events, dance parties have come into their own. In person, walks, treasure hunts, games evenings, picnics, amateur dramatics can all play their part.
- Moving forward, pamper evenings could replace more expensive salon visits, where a few friends share products and exchange treatments over snacks. Card evenings, board games, discussion groups can also be inexpensive, fun ways to socialise, especially as the autumn and winter evenings arrive.
- Get the children involved with their own chores and responsibilities, where they earn credits perhaps towards a reward. Encourage them to come off their devices with crafts, outdoor games and maybe let them plan an event, like a picnic or day out.
Some practical ways to manage on less include learning to cook, being more vigilant about switching off lights, being sure to use what you have in stock, checking your bank statements to ensure that your direct debits are correct and you're not paying for out of date memberships or insurances. If you're travelling to work might a car share be viable? And if you're really struggling look into joining a Credit Union, an initiative set up to help with advice on managing your money.