Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 5 August 2020

Only spend on necessities to ensure your finances survive Covid-19

Priorisiting your needs over your wants is key in these economically uncertain times

While returning to malls to stock up on luxury goods might make shoppers happy, it can be a serious budget-buster says Zach Holz. Getty Images
While returning to malls to stock up on luxury goods might make shoppers happy, it can be a serious budget-buster says Zach Holz. Getty Images

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Dubai's malls over the past few weeks. This isn't to go shopping though, but to walk.

I've taken on a walking challenge that started at 15,000 steps a day, and recently increased to 25,000 steps a day. With temperatures so high at the moment, it seemed sensible to do the walking in malls, where it’s air-conditioned. Plenty of others are also visiting the malls while I'm doing my daily march, but unlike me they are loaded down with shopping bags.

Your future self will thank your current restraint when you make it out the other side of this situation without serious hardship.

Zach Holz

Of course, this makes sense, it’s a mall and I’m sure that the stores are very happy to have customers back. But this conspicuous consumption also has me curious and a little worried. Are these people laden with fancy bags full of shiny purchases making good economic decisions? Or are they spending their way to ruin in a global economy that is still reeling from the effects of Covid-19?

In uncertain economic situations, it is vital you prioritise your spending towards your needs, and not your wants. This can definitely feel like onerous belt tightening, especially when shopping is such a reliable source of excitement, temporary happiness, and a return to normalcy that many of us are craving. But, I promise that your future self will thank your current restraint when you make it out the other side of this situation without serious hardship.

So, if frivolous spending is to be discouraged, where exactly should your money be directed? This should be to your needs and specifically five key areas:

Housing

First make sure you have enough to pay your rent or your mortgage. This may be a great time to move, as rents are dropping, and your cost of living could decrease massively by changing your accommodation. It’s also a great time to downsize, as this can further reduce this expense. Imagine how low your electricity and water bills would be if you had a smaller place.

Household bills

Make sure you pay all your household bills on time, such as your utilities and internet charges. Now is a great time to reduce those expenses as well. Let your AC sit at a higher temperature and turn it off when you leave the house. Make sure there are no leaks in your water system causing precious and expensive water to be wasted without your knowledge. Also, try to reduce your phone bill by using less data when you’re not on Wi-Fi, or switching to a cheaper provider.

School fees

Schools will hopefully be open once again at the end of August, and your children need a place to learn and socialise. Make sure the money is there for them to attend. Schools are scrambling for students at the moment, so it might be a good time to negotiate lower fees or move to a cheaper school.

Food

You have to eat, but you can also eat less expensive products and cook more efficiently. Have you tried batch cooking large portions and eating them over a few days? Make sure you are eating things that boost your immune system such as fruit and veggies. But don’t forget rice, beans, lentils, oats and other staples that cut costs and are good for your health at the same time.

Transport

Can you switch to a cheaper model or afford to clear your can loan if you lose your job? These are factors to consider in these economically uncertain times. Could your family sell a car and survive with just one vehicle to cut costs? Either way, you need to transport yourself to work, so finding a wallet-friendly solution is key.

Beyond these five key categories, it's also important to cut back on your spending and prioritise your needs over your wants. Remember, this is only temporary. We will overcome this, and then we can return to a more normal life. But for now, be safe and save. You'll be grateful for a more frugal strategy further down the line.

Dubai schoolteacher Zach Holz (@HappiestTeach) documents his journey towards financial independence on his personal finance blog The Happiest Teacher

Updated: July 9, 2020 02:06 PM

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