The pandemic showed me 5 new ways to spend my money that help me earn more and stay sane

  • Before COVID, I spent money on brunch, travel, and other fun activities.
  • Now that those things have disappeared from my budget, I’m spending on my well-being and career.
  • Cleaning supplies, therapy, online courses and workshops, ebooks, and more are new budget categories.
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My spending habits have completely flip-flopped during the pandemic. I used to have so many charges on my credit card bill every month from local bars and restaurants, ride-sharing apps and airlines, and fun activities (whether weekend shopping trips or a once-in-a-while Broadway show).

But since I’ve been enjoying a lot of extra quality time at home during the pandemic, my spending has shifted from happy hours and weekend excursions to a handful of new types of purchases I hardly spent money on before.

It turns out, I’m not alone. A recent survey from TD Ameritrade showed that 64% of Americans have changed their spending habits since the start of the pandemic. 

I took a close look at my spending, and there are five categories of items I’m spending more money on now than I ever did before the pandemic. 

1. Virtual therapy sessions 

Early on in the pandemic, I realized how important it was to invest more in my mental health. There were so many things changing and I knew that I needed to be in touch with a professional, more often than usual, to make sure I was taking care of myself. 

I pay out-of-pocket for therapy and it’s quite pricey. Before the pandemic happened, I tried to go see my therapist only once a month to stay on track with my overall monthly budget.

But as I realized how important it was to go more often (because of a spike in anxiety, loneliness, and other emotions intensified by the pandemic), I decided to rearrange my budget to be able to afford two or three therapy sessions a month. 

Because therapy and mental health are important to me, this feels like money well spent, even though it’s quite a lot of money spent monthly. 

2. Household cleaning supplies 

It might sound gross, but deep cleaning my small one-bedroom apartment was something I only used to do every couple of months. Pre-pandemic, I was traveling every week for work and was hardly home, so my apartment could go quite a while without seeing a vacuum cleaner or duster. 

Now that I’m spending practically every second at home and using my apartment more than ever (as my workspace, gym, restaurant, etc.) keeping the space clean has become a new priority. 

I find myself doing weekly home cleanings and at least one deep cleaning a month, which requires spending money on monthly cleaning supplies (around $20 to $30 a month). I also invested in getting a good vacuum and mop (around $300 total for both), which wasn’t something I would have ever spent a lot of money on before. 

3. Online classes, courses, and conferences

About a month into the pandemic, I realized that if we were going to be stuck at home for quite some time, I needed to commit to doing something to keep up with personal and professional development. Since I wasn’t going to be going to networking events or have the opportunity to meet a lot of new people who might help with this development, I needed to spend the money doing it myself.

I decided to pick one new thing to do a month that would benefit my career or help me learn a new skill, whether it was an online conference, virtual class, or course. I budgeted $100 a month for this, knowing that some months I’ll use that money for one ticket to a conference and other months I will use it to pay for two or three classes.

This has been worthwhile and has allowed me to feel like I’m staying sharp, learning new things, and even doing virtual networking to meet other professionals in my industry. 

4. Book subscription services 

After deciding to pause my TV streaming service subscriptions because I wanted to spend less time looking at a screen, I decided to do something else with some of that cash and invest in a book subscription service.

I’ve always loved to read but never found the time to do it very much before the pandemic. I also didn’t spend a lot of money on books and went to the library when I could.

One way to treat myself and also do something more beneficial for my brain (than bingeing another TV show) was to pay $9.99 a month for an ebook subscription service that lets me read unlimited books a month. 

I have found that I’m spending 25% less time looking at screens every day and have also saved money by cancelling three TV subscription services I no longer use.

5. At-home fitness equipment 

While I have always been into fitness and working out, I spent money on a gym membership that I cancelled at the start of the pandemic. Something I never thought I’d do instead was turn my tiny apartment into a home gym.

For the first time in my life, I bought weights, a kettle bell, medicine ball, and yoga mat to be able to work out in my living room. In total, I spent around $150 furnishing this mini home gym. I used to spend that monthly on a gym membership, so buying the equipment (and using free online videos for workout classes) helped me save money in the end. 

Life looks very different now than it did before the pandemic, which is why my spending habits reflect that. While I’m spending more on some things and less on others, I’ve found a whole new handful of categories that I’ve inserted into my budget to fill up the space of items that no longer fit my pandemic life.

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