This pandemic, and lockdown, in particular, has been challenging in many ways. I sense, in Melbourne, that some people are getting close to the end of their tether as the infection rate very stubbornly hovers just above where we want it to be. We yearn for restrictions to ease and freedom to be returned to us, and it’s close enough to be tantalising – but no more than that.
At least we’re not sick. We’ve been lucky in Australia, and even in Melbourne, where it’s been worse than anywhere else. I don’t know if we fully understand that, but it’s a pretty hollow claim when you’re one of those who got sick from this or have a family member who didn’t survive it. We’re not out of those woods yet, but it’s better than it was.
From a purely financial point of view, this pandemic has been devastating to many business owners and workers who’ve had their hours cut, or lost their job altogether. For thousands of people across Australia (and many more around the world), this pandemic represents a cruel twist of fortune.
I’ve been well throughout this. It’s probably the healthiest I’ve been through winter for many years. Psychologically, there are ups and downs, but I figure that’s probably normal and to be accepted. There’s no great joy, and I’m a fair way off my buoyant best, but when so much is closed off to you, then you cop it sweet and be thankful you’re no worse off.
The anomaly, for me, is the financial side of it. Knowing how many are struggling, I’m reluctant to admit than I’m better off now – by a fair margin – than I was going into this.
Most of it is in savings on expenses that I’m not incurring living from home – travel and social costs (coffee, lunch, the occasional night out), not to mention no hair cut for 7 months. I’m spending more on groceries, and my utilities will be higher, but that’s more than offset by the savings. I did a rough calculation and reckoned I’m saving about $500/month, net. Add in a tax return, and I’m in a financial position not known for about 10 years.
It means that I have money in the bank and my credit card is just about paid off. Like pretty well everyone, I’ve done a lot of online shopping through this period. Initially, it was an expense to get myself ready for working from home – another monitor, an office chair, various cabling, a USB port, and so on.
I then gradually moved on to replenishing my home. I never pay full price for anything, and there’ve been good deals throughout. A lot of my stuff was old or worn-out, and so I set about replacing, and sometimes augmenting my goods.
I started with simple things. I bought a few pairs of good jeans to replace the tattered ones I had. I knew they’d get a good work-out. After that, I turfed out my old shoes and got a couple of new pairs to get around in. And I bought some much-needed clothes for the office, not realising that I may not ever get back there.
I bought a new, much better microwave oven to replace the old one I got nearly 20 years ago. The latex mattress I had was near 20 years old too and making me sick. I managed to get a replacement QS mattress for the price of a single, and I’m much more comfortable now.
Since I do so much cooking I’m fussy about my tools and kitchenware, and strategic about what I need to get. I have an idea in my head of what needs to be replaced or updated and bit by bit I did that through this period, adding in some cast-iron, and last week picking up a new steel bin to replace the shonky plastic bin I’ve had for years,
Over the weekend I ordered a new kettle – half price – to replace the broken and scaly kettle I’ve had since about 2007. I’ve bought sundry other things – storage stuff, a new pillow, a wallet that holds my phone, etc.
And so on. Nothing too expensive, outside the mattress, but even that was half-price. I feel a bit more adult now. A little less tawdry. Things wear out or get pretty battered. I guess that goes for me as well. At least there are some things I can replace.
It feels odd. I’m locked at home and have little life, but around me, the bits and pieces are being refreshed and replenished. So it is with most everyone else, too. Home delivery is like a new sport these days and a pretty lame form of entertainment. But it’s something.