Hey, have you heard about this pandemic thing? :-)
The weirdest thing about this whole thing is that more than anything in my lifetime -- more than the great recession, more than the tsunami a few years ago, more than even 9/11 -- I know nearly every person in the world is affected by and thinks about COVID-19 nearly every day. We're all having the same moment in history, but every person's situation is slightly different. So all I can really comment on is how it affects me personally.
Mentally and physically, that's a whole story on its own; it's taking its toll of course. I'm just going to focus on all the financial things that have changed for me since early March when this really hit my world.
- Salary. NT has been given a small temporary pay cut, equivalent to last year's pay raise, but other than that our incomes remain miraculously intact. We're all working from home at our office jobs. (AS has had her lowest 6 weeks of income ever, weirdly, since she started being an independent contractor, but it has nothing to do with the pandemic. She just got paid early for a bunch of things in the first quarter and is working on a lot of things now that she either already got paid for or will get paid for later.)
- Groceries. The schools used to provide 3 or 4 lunches per week for the girls, plus breakfast and snacks if they needed them, so our grocery bill has gone up. Liquor store spending has increased too, but that's mainly because we used to drink at shows etc. and that got calculated differently. I don't think we're drinking more than before; in fact it might be a little less for me at least.
- Technology. When it became clear the kids would be distance learning for a while, we decided we couldn't take turns on our computers forever, so we bought them each a refurbished Chromebook. Not a huge expense but one we wouldn't have made for a couple years, probably.
- Dependent care flex spending. We allocated $5K pretax for child care that was going to be used for summer camps/care. Well, the first summer camp has just notified us that it won't be happening this year, and we expect some or all of them to follow suit. Well, I've already had nearly $1700 withheld from my paychecks, and the current policy is that the money is use it or lose it. So unless I find a workaround, I might lose it. Two possible solutions: 1) I wonder if my old daycare lady, who is one of the most cleanliness-focused people I know, would take two older kids for a week or two. It'd give everyone in the house a much needed break and I could use some of my use-it-or-lose-it money. I may check with her at some point. 2) I heard from a co-worker that I could potentially move that money into my medical flex spending account. We haven't exhausted our current flex spending but it's possible we could over the course of the year, plus I believe you can carry over a few hundred into next year. We'll see.
- The UK flat. Early this year (January or February), we decided that Brexit had settled down enough to list our flat for sale, so our management company gave our renters notice. Little did we know what was about to take over. This is the last month they'll be paying rent, but our estate agents aren't allowed to do viewings, so our place is essentially sitting on the market. If we don't sell it soon, we'll have to start covering mortgage payments, utilities and association dues out of savings. We asked for advice and our management company said they could list it for rent simultaneous with it being for sale, so we're going for that. We have enough money in UK savings to cover expenses for probably a couple years, but hopefully it won't come to that!
- Regular house expenses. Since we can't really use them, we've been saving money on bus passes, carshares, ride-sharing and house-cleaning. I haven't stopped my bus pass being taken out of my paycheck, A) because it's a pain to stop and start it and B) it's a relatively small expense that supports our public transit system, but NT, AS and the kids haven't needed bus passes in a while. Most of those were reimbursed by NT's work so it's not much of a savings. The house cleaning was over $200 per month, so that has been more of a benefit to us.
- Stimulus money. Obviously that's been a benefit to us. We decided since we didn't really need it, we'd spread it around. So we've spent most of it helping nonprofits, artists, local and small businesses, etc. Some of it benefits us, such as local restaurant delivery, CDs, and gift cards to places we intend to go back to when they reopen, but some of it is just benefiting society as a whole. But anyway, it's made it easy to make the decision to give back to the community.
- Going out/shows. I had quite a few shows booked that were canceled, and I got most of them refunded. A few I had them keep the money for when the show got hopefully rescheduled, and a couple I donated the amount to the venue or artist. So I didn't see a big material benefit but I suppose I saved some money. (even though I'd much rather have the shows!)
- Child care. Once I realized summer camps would likely not happen, I canceled the remainder of my dependent care flex spending contributions. That will bring about $3300 (pretax, so less than that once it's taxed) back into our budget for the year. And if I do find summer care options, I have the $1700 set aside, which I'm no longer counting on getting back, so that will feel like something extra for free at this point.
- Travel. I booked 4 air trips and one road trip in February; two have been canceled and the other three are severely in doubt. For the one air trip I had to cancel so far, the airline had a deal where I got a credit I can use for two years. I'm wondering if I can get actual refunds if others are canceled. I'm not sure, but I guess even if I can't, they'll probably give us credits we can use later, so when travel is eventually allowed again, we'd be able to book a few trips using credits. So it hasn't helped our current cash flow but it may make vacations a lot cheaper next year if all these get canceled. (One was a trip to England for about $5K, the others were smaller/cheaper trips.)
- Summer camps/care. We do a thing where we use five different places to provide summer care, which gives the kids a lot of variety and keeps them from getting bored. However it's thrown planning (both money and logistics) into chaos.
*One place has canceled camps outright -- they're offering online courses but not for entire weeks, of course. We're getting a refund from that.
*Another is taking a wait-and-see approach for now -- they may try to go on or go virtual, but they're not making decisions and not requiring parents to make decisions yet.
*Another place is going to try and go on but with current social distancing guidelines, need people to commit to 9 straight weeks or nothing. We had signed up for weeks here and there. We have travel in the middle of the summer that we're not sure is getting canceled. We have weeks at other camps that we're not sure are getting canceled. They want us to make this decision by Monday, but there are so many other things in play it feels impossible! But we have to -- if we want our money back we need to cancel by the 18th, if we want the 9-week thing we need to sign up by the 18th. The kicker is of course, there's some chance the state will say no summer camps allowed at all, and all this scrambling will be for nothing.
*We're still waiting to hear from two more camps and trying to decide about travel booked in July and August.
There are so many big and little impacts but those are the main financial ones I can think of right now.
Financial impacts of COVID (good & bad)
Hey, have you heard about this pandemic thing? :-)