Y’all, I barely even know where to begin.
Life is insane.
My world, and all of our worlds, have been tossed upside down in the last 30 days. People are falling ill with a new virus that no one has immunity to and dying in record numbers. Entire communities are under mandates to shelter in their houses. Life as we knew it is basically suspended for the near future.
Sounds very gloom and doom eh?
It’s all a matter of perspective.
For me, this has been a time to slow down and re-examine my life. Who has been there for me through this? What am I particularly grateful for? What was I doing that wasn’t necessary? What activities do I miss the most?
My life has, and hasn’t, changed drastically in the face of social distancing to flatten the curve. On a day to day basis, my life looks very similar now as it did 2 months ago. I get up, I go to work, watch shows on the TV, play video games, call friends, read books, play with the cat and make myself food.
I no longer have a commute. Instead of driving 10 minutes on the interstate and walking into the office, I walk from the kitchen to my spare room (which is doing double duty as office and craft room). My job remains more or less the same, but with more Skype chats and less interaction with my cube mates. I’m saving money by eating at home and not getting whole milk caramel lattes or lunch from the cafeteria. My boyfriend and I still text throughout the day, but now we can’t see each other in person after work a few times a week. Now that we’re basically in a long-distance relationship, we’ve added in phone calls, video chats, and watching shows together online. (We’re going on week 3 of no contact as he is immuno-compromised and would get very sick if someone were to pass it on to him.)
In-person meetups have all been canceled. I don’t go out after work to talk finances with the local ChooseFI group, or do fun things with the local Young Professionals group, or do geeky things with the Nerdy 30’s Women’s group. Instead, I join Virtual Happy Hours with coworkers or friends from the comfort and safety of our own couches. I don’t get to travel to see friends or family on the weekends, which is especially difficult after I learned my aunt is currently going through treatment for breast cancer. My boyfriend and I don’t have to worry about coördinating schedules to Meet the Families for Easter. Instead, I’ll cook a piece of ham at home and video chat with people while we eat.
Life on the surface has changed, but has stayed roughly the same if you look deeper.
I am so grateful for all the privileges I have in my life. I have an incredibly stable job that I can do from home that pays me on the same schedule as always. I have no outstanding debts being called in. I can still pay my rent and all my other bills. I have tons of food in the fridge and a pack of TP in the closet.
When the Great Recession hit in 2008, I was largely unaffected. I was a senior in high school who had 4 years of college to get through before I worried about trying to find a job. I didn’t sell any investments or lose a ton of money because I didn’t have any. I wasn’t worried about the housing market collapse because I lived with my parents in their paid-off house or in a college dormitory.
However, I was shaped by the Great Recession as I got more integrated into the personal finance community and met people who had been affected. I met people who had lost everything in their real estate empire and started over from scratch after short sales and foreclosures after being unable to find tenants who could pay rent. I met people who had very nearly lost everything but were able to hang on by taking on large amounts of consumer debt to stay afloat. I met people who sold close to the bottom and took years to regain what they’d lost. I met people who had stable jobs and were able to invest as much as they could in the market and retire early less than 10 years later. I listened and learned from them. I started this blog (over 5 years ago!) to help share what I was learning and doing with others my age or younger in hopes that the next time something like that hit, we’d be in better positions to survive the storm.
And I am. I feel a little guilty my life has largely been unchanged when there are others out there who’ve lost their jobs and have no way to pay their bills. But, as someone told me in a call recently, I’ve made different choices. I chose to find a job with stability over flexibility. I chose to live simply and far below my means. Because of those choices, I’m now in a place where I can help others out as much as I can. When you fly, you’re told to put your own mask on first and then help others. My hypothetical mask is on and now I’m helping others put on theirs.
My expenses have changed over the last 4 weeks. I’m no longer driving as much, so my auto expenses have gone down. The weather is warming up, so my utility bills are going down. I’m not eating out as much. I’m not going out and shopping for stuff in stores anymore (not that I was doing much of that anyways but it still adds up). As some categories have gone down, I’ve started spending more on others. I’ve gotten boxes from the local farmer’s market and kept my share with my local CSA to get fresh, local, organic foods. (This lessens my need to go to grocery stores and potentially get exposed.) I bought a self-care box from a local business that had to close. I’ve ordered delivery from local restaurants and tipped well. I’ve donated to my church back at home to help offset the loss of tithes from some that have lost their jobs and can’t give anymore. A local portrait photographer offered stoop shoots, so I signed up for one and When the stimulus checks come out, I’ll share that blessing as well. If your financial position isn’t as secure, focus on becoming more stable by spending less and buffing up your emergency savings accounts.
When I was about 16, I developed a fascination with the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. I read books about it and tried to find out more about that time in history that so many history books had glossed over. I never thought that fascination would come in handy over a decade later as we grapple with our own pandemic. After reading so much on the 1918 pandemic, I’m heartened by a few things. One, our medical knowledge is so much better now. What killed millions a hundred years ago will only kill thousands now. Two, this is nowhere near a mass extinction event for humanity. Covid-19 is no laughing matter, but it also won’t kill us all off. Three, life in 1918 definitely sucked for a long time. People stayed home because schools, churches, pool halls, and shops were closed. However.…. life flourished just a few short years later. My own grandmother was born in 1921.
I see the same seeds of hope planted here in 2020. My friends are still getting new jobs, having babies, getting engaged, buying houses and doing incredible work for themselves and others. Life will continue as normal soon! All we have to do is hang in there and wait it out. We can do it!