COVIDiaries: 35-year-old changes travel plans and appreciates service workers for all they do

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In the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic, many people find their personal finances in complete upheaval. We want to share real stories of how people are coping with the crisis. 

Our new series, the “COVIDiaries” will share individual experiences with how the pandemic is impacting income, savings, debts, and more. You can read more here. We hope you find these stories relatable and reassuring, even if they do nothing more than show you that you are not alone. 

We are all in this together.

If you would like to share your experience of how the Coronavirus is impacting your finances, please fill out the form here

Courtney, 35, from Edmonton, Alberta

What do you do for work? Has the COVID-19 Pandemic impacted your income in reduced hours, layoffs, work from home or in another way?

I work for the Provincial Government (GOA) in an area that’s considered essential. My hours and income have not been affected, but I am now working from home 3-4 days a week.

My office has implemented a rotating staff schedule in order to meet mandatory requirements while minimizing the number of people in the office at once. Parking arrangements have been made allow staff to avoid public transportation, and with so few people in at any given time it is easy to spread out and maintain distancing

How has the COVID-19 Pandemic affected your spending? Are you spending more or less right now? What are you buying and why?

This Pandemic has affected my spending, and I’m sure it will continue to do so as things change daily, both in terms of spending more and spending less. One big difference is that Covid-19 is on my mind with every purchase I make, big and small.

I would say I am overall spending less, but where and on what I’m spending has shifted. For example, working from home means I spend less on take-away coffee. There is one drive-thru Starbucks relatively close on my commute, and so on the days I go to work, I stop in. The last time I was there, I left a big tip – the baristas were so friendly, and I know their work is challenging.

With Easter approaching, it’s disappointing that I will not be able to spend time with my family. Even though we are planning to do a video chat “dinner”, I’ve decided to send small edible arrangements to my family far away (3 different provinces).

I am not, however, spending on “stuff” for myself. No new clothes or books (I have enough waiting ti be read, anway). I’m making exceptions, within reason, for things that can keep me entertained (like renting a movie or a book on Kindle), for home projects (I’m trying to DIY a spice rack but need spice jars), and for things that help my health, both physical and mental. These are things that don’t involve outside contact and will help keep me sane.

We, obviously, aren’t going out to eat (I miss a good Sunday brunch!), but when I tire of cooking I’ve been using meal delivery services for local restaurants to support my community.

What about your debts? Are you incurring debt to cope with reduced pay or increased costs? Or are you finding relief in lower interest rates?

I have some school debt left, and am benefiting from the government’s 6 month relief program. I also have a small balance on my credit card. As I’m still working I could still afford the school loan payments, but instead I am using that money to pay off my credit card, and then setting money aside as an extra emergency cushion.

If I don’t need it, it can go back on my school debt in the fall. The challenge will be to ensure I don’t overspend!

Are you concerned about what will happen to your savings and investments at this time? Is this detrimental to your long-term wealth or a once in a lifetime opportunity to get into the stock market? Will you recover from this crisis or be richer or poorer because of it?

My mother is! She saw how low her investments had dropped and started to panic! I, on the other hand, don’t have many investments to worry about right now. My savings shouldn’t be terribly affected – I am hoping I won’t have to use them anytime soon.

I am considering investing a small amount now that numbers are so low, however until my debt is taken care of it doesn’t make sense to prioritize investing. If I’m cautious, and if things continue on more or less as is, I think I will come out the other side the same or maybe in a slightly better position.

One thing that will certainly help me is I have more time to focus on my finances and can make more deliberate decisions.

Did the pandemic force you to cancel any trips or special events? How did that impact your bank account (and your mental health!)

I was supposed to attend a wedding in the Mountains but it was, obviously, postponed. Thanks to AirBnb’s exceptional cancellation policy I was able to get a full refund on the property we rented. This is still “spent” money as I will be re-booking for a later date.

I also had a local festival cancel and refund my ticket costs, and a concert I had tickets for is currently working on re-booking. I am mindful of how the pandemic is impacting my mental health, which it really is in a number of ways. But these cancellations aren’t having a negative impact; sure, it’s disappointing, but I am glad everyone is taking it seriously.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic made you realize anything unexpected about your personal finances? Did you find vulnerabilities or are you more secure than you thought? Will it change how you see and manage money going forward?

I’ve been interested in personal finance for ages, but frankly I’ve been better at reading about it than acting on it. The situation right now is making me think about it more, while the added downtime has created opportunity for me to make a more detailed plan. It’s made me grateful for my job, and is a real life example of why an emergency fund is so essential. If my job wasn’t essential it would be very different for me.

Anything else you would like to add?

I think mental health, especially now, is super important – and that’s intertwined with finances. More about that would be interesting to read!

Share how your personal finances are being impacted by the Coronavirus here

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