The COVID-19 quarantine is, as of this writing, still in effect across the United States, and some parts of the nation have been more heavily affected than others. Whether you and your family live in a hot zone or whether you are far from the nearest confirmed case, it is likely that your daily life has been heavily disrupted. Millions of workers are forced to stay in their residences and practice social distancing, and many small companies may be in trouble. But that is the problem on a large scale; what about your own household, and any family activities you had planned for this year? Some family activities, such as going to a crowded Hawaii beach, may have to wait, while simple family activities like board games are totally an option. There are right ways and wrong ways to spend money during a quarantine like this.
How Not to Spend Money
First, you should take stock of how you should not spend money and put yourself in financial trouble during times like these. Some family activities are great fun, such as vacations, but these are too expensive for a time like this, and they might not be feasible anyway. Under normal circumstances, around 100 million people (and four in 10 American adults) once planned to take a vacation in 2019. Similarly, around 44% of Millennial travelers (aged 25-38 or so) took vacations with their children coming along. Millennials love to travel, as their families represented 15% of all active travelers and 9.5 million households across the nation. Countless popular tourist spots can be found across the U.S. and abroad.
But now is not the time for such extravagant family activities, unfortunately. Many households are facing financial difficulties due to being out of work, and a costly vacation would be a huge blow. And as mentioned earlier, most of, if not all popular tourism spots are shut down right now and would be difficult to visit. Simply put, all vacation plans must be put on hold or canceled, and something similar can be said about buying recreational vehicles.
In a similar vein, now is a poor time to visit motorcycle dealers or ATV dealers, or indeed any PowerSports dealerships. Such vehicles, whether bought new or used, are costly to buy and maintain, so those don’t fit well with a quarantine budget. Fortunately, for practically all Americans, missing out on this is no real loss, other than missing out on some fun. Very few jobs rely on ATVs or motorcycles or speed boats, so you are taking practically no risk in skipping the ATV dealership.
If you are spending a lot of time in your home, is this the right time to get some hard work done on the plumbing and woodwork, and so on? In the case of hiring plumbers, yes, but in terms of whole home renovations, probably not. Normally, the home remodeling industry is a robust and popular one, and Baby Boomer homeowners, in particular, like to spend large sums to have their residences renovated. In fact, one in three home remodeling jobs involves the whole house, rather than just one or two rooms. Such work can be costly, yes, but it also generates a high ROI (return on investment) when that property is sold for a bolstered price. Millennial homeowners lag behind spending-wise, but they are starting to catch up. For now, this is the wrong time to hire workers to remake your kitchen or master bathroom, even if you’ve been meaning to have those rooms remade. It is better to wait until the quarantine is over and your financial life becomes more stable before spending money like this.
Cosmetic surgery is another thing that is best of skipped for now. Ordinarily, Americans like to pay well for the likes of FUE transplants to fill out bald patches of hair, or botox for the lips or similar work. For now, though, this can wait; having a bald spot never harmed anyone, so avoid spending money on this type of medical procedure. The same is true for bigger operations, such as rapid weight loss surgery. You can do some light exercises at home and adjust your diet if weight loss is your goal, but don’t go under the knife for it in this context.
What about hiring legal help for divorce or bankruptcy? This might be worth the trouble, such as hiring divorce mediation, but this should be a matter of discretion. If possible, see if you can delay the divorce process until the quarantine is over, unless there is abuse taking place in the household.
Should you spend money on home security features, such as cameras and sensors? Some Americans have spent good money on smart homes, which can operate themselves and maintain their own security while the owner is away. It is one thing to keep your home secure against intruders during quarantine, but most likely, your finances can’t support the cost of a smart security package right now. Even if you can afford it, you might opt for low-cost methods such as curtains to block people’s view of expensive electronics, or having your locks replaced with tougher ones.
And, of course, very large expenses such as buying a new house, a new car, or a business is likely a bad idea right now, for similar reasons as listed above. The same is likely true of investing, and a common rule is to not invest money without having a few months’ worths of cash saved up in case that investment goes bad. During quarantine and a time of financial uncertainty, it might be downright impossible to have such a cash reserve on hand, making an investment a strictly bad idea. Investments can wait until the quarantine is over, and the same is true of buying rental properties, etc.
Financial Strategies for Quarantine
While a variety of family activities and purchases are risky during quarantine, not all of them have been stricken out. Now is a time for you to reassess how you and your family spend time together, and you may be surprised at how many family activities don’t actually cost anything. Such inexpensive hobbies and activities aren’t necessarily boring or cheap, either; many of these family activities are actually quite fun and enriching, and they are a great alternative for constant electronic screen use.
First, let’s consider which types of healthcare are still a good idea. During this time, it is vital that you keep on top of your dental health and your management of any conditions you may have, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Modern medical techniques and medical software make American healthcare very high quality, and you don’t need an emergency to visit your dentist. Be aware, though, that your dentist’s office may have altered hours due to the crisis and you should check to see if you have to reschedule any upcoming appointments. When you do visit the dentist, try to arrive right on time so you don’t spend any time in the waiting room, and preferably, the other patients have a similar idea. This is especially prudent if you are ill. In any case, though, don’t let COVID-19 discourage you from getting dental work, especially if you have tooth pain or an emergency. A dental health crisis is the last thing you need on top of everything else.
Now, how might you spend your money? Food is a good example. Restaurants are closed, and many fast food places are also closed or have restricted hours of operation, so that’s not much of an option. Besides, going to restaurants too often is costly compared to cooking at home. You may notice this when your monthly spending on food goes down. Instead, you will buy groceries at the local grocer or failing that, you can order food online and have it dropped off at your doorstep (many Americans are indeed doing this). Don’t be afraid to try out some modest luxury items too, such as if you want to order coffee online or some tea packets or gourmet chocolates. So long as you devise and stick to a sensible grocery budget, there should be no problem with that.
If your children are old enough to help, they can assist you with some minor, DIY home improvement projects, too. Hiring contractors to totally remake a room is out of the question, but it’s much easier to repaint a wall or fix a table or have new locks and sliding components fitted into a drawer. Replacing drawer handles or putting in a new shower head is also totally feasible, and you can order any tools online that you need (among other parts) to get the job done. This quarantine may be a good chance to finally fix that stuck drawer or replace your old showerhead with a nicer one. On top of that, you can vacuum the rug and dust off everything.
How about organizing and tidying up the household? These sorts of family activities don’t cost a thing unless you buy new storage units (don’t be afraid to), and they can make your household seem like new. The average American household has over 300,000 items in it, and often, these households are cluttered or disorganized to the point of causing stress and inconvenience. It will cost you little to nothing to tackle that mess, and you may find lost items and clear up some room to make your household flow a little better. Also, consider hiring junk removal services to get rid of larger objects that can’t fit in the regular trash. You can gather up a lot of clothes to give away to charity or recycling centers, and you may also donate old kitchen goods, children’s toys, and books, among other items.
Now, what are some for-fun hobbies that are budget-friendly for just about anyone? You might be surprised by how much time per day you can spend without spending very much money, or any money at all. For example, why not catch up on all the books in your household, and if need be, buy some cheap used paperback books online? Books don’t need electricity or an internet connection and they can be taken anywhere and don’t make noise or light. They can even fit in a backpack or purse with ease while out and about, and books of all kinds can be educational or informative for hours on end. Many books also contain ideas or stories that aren’t easily found online or on TV. After all, many books have been adapted into movies or TV shows, but not all of them, especially not the obscure ones.
Books are a fine start, and so are creative family activities. You don’t have to spend much to try writing your own poetry, short fiction, or essays, and this can really give your mind a workout and cheer you up as you create something like this. In your family, you can all make fiction of all kinds and share what you wrote, like a miniature workshop. The same can be done for watercolors and drawing, too, and there’s an infinite variety of topics to draw or sketch like this. Meanwhile, card games and board games are also strong options, since they don’t need electricity or the internet, and they can be great fun for hours for multiple people. If you don’t have fancy board games and don’t want to order them, family activities can include card games with ordinary playing cards. Nearly all households have them, and even if you don’t, you can easily get them online for a low price. You can look up the rules for just about any card game you like online.
What about exercise? Fitness centers are closed right now, and so are some parks, but you can get moving in other ways, too. You can perform yoga in any room and look up videos on how to do it, and you can do light exercises indoors such as push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, etc. Just be sure that you’re physically fit for this. As for going outside, if you are not currently sick, you can go outside for a jog or walk, so long as you practice social distancing. Try not to touch anything, and contain coughs and sneezes in your arm and clothes. Otherwise, go ahead and enjoy the sunlight and open-air, which can cheer you up a great deal. And you don’t have to spend any money just to take a walk.
In conclusion, this quarantine is a good chance to reassess how you spend money, and once you create a safe budget for your needs, you can stick to the bare essentials and cut out any extravagant spending. Most likely, you had some poor spending habits (big or small) before the quarantine, and this pragmatic time period lets you diagnose and get rid of those bad habits. In a way, this quarantine can work for you, so long as you are careful.