Monthly Archives: August 2020

My, How Things Have Changed

This morning I saw a child walking to school.  And it struck me how something so completely normal now seems weird to see.  A lot of things that used to be perfectly normal in February are unusual in Covid times.  It’s odd to see people standing close together (it even triggers me when I see it on TV!).  I cringe when I see people without masks.  Name brand Clorox Wipes are impossible to find, and I rush to text my friends when I find the off-brands in stores.  And I generally don’t go to stores.  My groceries come from curbside pick-up.  Beer from my local brewpub is delivered to my front porch.  Eating restaurant food now means takeout or delivery.  Concert tickets are now sold by the car for a drive-in experience.  My commute to work is now a walk from my living room to my guest room.  And meeting with students one-on-one now involves a webcam.

A lot of things have changed in life to accommodate the Covid-19 pandemic.  How we spend money is no small part of that shift.  My impulse purchases in stores are WAY down.  Because I don’t go to stores.  By ordering my groceries online for pick-up it forces me to think about what I need in advance.  In the before times I would retrieve a cartload of grocery staples from the store every weekend, and my husband (who does most of the cooking) would make a supplemental trip to the store nearly every day to get things he wanted for that day’s dinner.  Now I place an order once or twice a week for pickup and my head chef works with what we have on hand (in what he calls the daily mystery box challenge).  Our grocery budget has definitely decreased due to this change.

It almost sounds like the pandemic would be saving me a fortune.  But that’s not true at all.  Everything gained on groceries and gas seems to be spent on my own sanity (retail therapy—the struggle is real!).  Clothes and gadgets that I used to buy at Goodwill are now coming from online retail sites….at a higher cost.  Restaurant food (which is typically a Friday night treat for us) now comes with a delivery charge.  Additionally, I seem to have developed a fabric purchasing habit in an effort to make masks so cute that I can’t wait to wear them.  And writing this makes me realize that I really should focus some effort on reducing my food delivery and Amazon expenses…

Times are weird.  And things have changed, including how I spend my money.  How have your spending habits evolved with the pandemic?

But What Can I Do?

The world is upside down.  It feels like we are experiencing 1918, 1929, and 1968 all at the same time.  Plus murder hornets.  And California is on fire.  And even the one thing we could always depend on (the US mail) is a question mark.  Due to a global pandemic we have no idea what the next hour holds, let alone tomorrow or next week.

During times like these it’s easy to throw up your hands and say, “Why bother?  I can’t do anything that will make a difference.”  But you can.  You can do SOMETHING.  Which is much better than doing NOTHING.  You can wear a mask.  You can stay home when you’re not in class.  You can say no to that questionable party you were invited to.  You can encourage your friends to also say no to that questionable party.  You can make sure to maintain a six foot distance between you and the next person.  It’s SOMETHING.  And something is much better than nothing.

Sometimes it will feel like your finances are spinning out of control.  It’s easy to see what you CAN’T do and difficult to see what you CAN do.  I can’t pay my rent on time.  I can’t go out for dinner.  I can’t buy that extra textbook.  I can’t put gas in my car.  But what CAN you do?  You can arrange with you landlord to make payment after your student loan comes through.  You can make a pot of spaghetti for next to nothing.  You can borrow books from friends or from the library.  You can take the bus.  You can evaluate your belongings to see if there’s anything you don’t need that you can sell.  You can pick up a micro-job or gig work.  There is always SOMETHING you can do.

The world seems pretty weird right now.  It can feel helpless.  But you are not helpless.  Remember….you can always do SOMETHING!

This Isn’t What I Had Planned!

Things rarely go exactly as planned.  If this year has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that.  I started 2020 with optimism.  I was exercising and losing weight.  I had plans to attend at least 8 music festivals between April and October.  I was preparing for my 35 year high school reunion.  I was excited about the small desk my husband gave me for Christmas—a designated place to pay bills and work on some extra-curricular studies.

As you can assume, my year didn’t play out like that.  I decided my mental well-being was more important than counting calories.   Music festivals are not happening.  My high school reunion was canceled.  And my bill-paying desk has been the Penn State Law Financial Aid Office since March.

When things don’t go as planned, there are only two ways to react.  You can be angry and quit (which is less than ideal).  Or you can move forward and do the best you can with what you’ve got.  I’ve found joy in working from home and learning new technologies to make that process easier.  (I highly recommend the Adobe Scan app for using your smart phone to scan documents into PDF form.  And if you are extra lucky you’ll get to meet one of my cats during Zoom Drop-In Office Hours!)  I’ve gone on a few camping trips.  I’ve watched a number of streamed concerts.  My husband and I have taken to having front yard cookouts so we can talk to our neighbors as they walk by.  I have tickets to my first drive-in concert in a few weeks.  None of this is what was planned.  But I’m doing what I can with the hand I was dealt.

I don’t think anyone is excited about starting fall semester in a socially distant/hybrid manner.  But this is what we’ve got.  Focus on what you’ve got.  We are fortunate that Penn State Law is well equipped with outstanding classroom technology.  You’ll be able to commune with your classmates through technology.  You can choose your own classic football games to watch, making sure Penn State always wins!  (I highly recommend Penn State vs. Michigan—Oct. 12, 2013.)

As you start into the fall semester, anxiously awaiting financial aid refunds, remember to do the best you can with what you’ve got.  The refund will come in time to pay off the credit card you used to get your books.  You’ll be able to stock up on groceries very soon.  But don’t go nuts…that lump sum refund at the start of the semester needs to last until January!  Budget out your rent through January now.  Make a spending plan so you know how much money you can afford to spend on groceries and fun throughout the semester.  Deposit the bulk of your money into a savings account, and then transfer one month’s worth to your checking account each month.  Then do what you can with what you’ve got.

The world is weird this year.  But with the right attitude (and some imagination), it can still be amazing!