This is a guest post written by Uziel, who has been working with me for the last few months.

Let’s cut to the chase…. Here is the short list.

  • I do not need to spend money on eating out every day.
  • There are activities that I can do that don’t involve spending any money.
  • It is okay to defer payments/ speak up.
  • Emergency fund is truly for an emergency.

Today we will be discussing some of the things we learned about money during this COVID era. By late May, my job had closed due to quarantine and I had no sources of income. I had to rely on my emergency fund.

The first lesson that I learned was that I do not need to spend money on eating out every other day. I had this bad tendency of eating out, even when there was food at home. I was spending about $400 per month on just dining out. It was unhealthy and very costly. During COVID I was forced to eat at home, since money was tight and many restaurants had closed/ were only doing take-out. This was when I realized that although I was enjoying my food adventures, it was ruining my health and eating up my money. This was a bad habit that I had tried to overcome but never succeeded. Thanks to COVID I cut down and only eat out about once a week.

The second lesson I learned was that there are activities I can do without having to spend much money. Whether it was going for a hike, going to the beach, going for a walk, I learned that there are plenty of activities that do not involve any spending. Of course, there are other small costs that you do incur like gas, parking, or packing snacks and you have to account for those. But these costs were much smaller than what I was accustomed to. I used to go out for bowling, watch live boxing fights and live concerts. These costs were very high, not only would I have to pay for the admission fee, but it also consisted of more expenses like eating out, merchandise, drinks, and high parking costs. I am still likely to continue to do these activities when everything resumes back to normal (I value do these things) but I will mix it up with doing some of the other activities that consist of less spending.

The first 2 months of quarantine, I used some of my emergency fund to make my car payments. I had already received an email about deferring my payments. I didn’t want to prolong the term on my loan, but it made the most sense given the circumstances. It was unclear if my job would resume and many places were not hiring at that time. I evaluated the situation and I deferred my loan, I had other obligations and expected that my fund would only last a few more months. In addition, I reached out to my auto insurance agent to see how they could help me. They extended my payment deadline. There was also another situation where the A.C. on my car had blown out. This was in August when we were seeing high temperatures. I took the car took the dealership, they quoted me for about $250. I told them that it was absurd, my car should be covered (I’ve only had it for about 2 years). There was some confusion, but it ended up being covered by my warranty. I am usually the type of person who does not speak up (I am an introvert) even in situations like these. But I was not going to pay that amount for something that should be covered. I learned that it is better to inquire and ask questions then miss out on an opportunity to spend less.

The most important thing that I learned was that my emergency fund is truly for emergencies. It would bother me when I started to see my emergency fund decrease. It had taken me a few months to get where I was at and I had yet to reach my goal. But as my family was going through a financial hardship, I was glad to help. It made me realize that this was the circumstance and emergency that I had long saved for. It is okay to see your balance decrease, especially when you are doing it for its supposed purpose.

All in all, I now value my emergency fund more than I did before, I know that there is a way to have fun without spending much money and I realize that you can adjust and change and not feel like you are cutting out on fun in life…. How about you? What did you learn about money during Covid?