Coronavirus has had a huge impact on our way of life, and how we spend our money is a big part of that.
Job losses and business closures have put some serious, unexpected strain on many Australians’ financial situations.
Boosted income support and limited opportunities to spend have helped some people stay afloat, and even get on top of their finances.
But a shift in expenses and the occasional online shopping addiction can send savers back the other way again too.
We asked our Facebook Messenger subscribers how their spending habits have changed since the COVID-19 pandemic started, to see how Aussie families are adapting to the changes differently. Here’s what they said.
Some say they’re saving heaps of money
“Our spending has been cut largely due to ongoing enforced lockdown! We can’t go out to eat, our kids can’t do their plethora of afterschool activities, we have no minding expenses for afterschool care. We can’t travel — either for a holiday or to visit our families overseas and interstate! There is no point buying nice work clothes for sitting around the house, all my nice heels haven’t been worn since March.”
– Kellie L
“At first my savings occurred naturally as there was less opportunity to leave the house and do activities, but seeing how much I was able to save made me realise that I had been spending my money much more carelessly that I was aware. Now I have a plan to save and get myself ahead.”
– Krystle R
“We are pensioners, with an independent income from our super as well. Not huge, but we have always got by. We live in Mallacoota, so there has been some support from bushfire relief. Used to travel quite a bit, eat out and so on. Now saving money hand over fist. By accident not design — nowhere we are allowed to go, nowhere to spend it!”
– Liza N
“We haven’t really tightened our budget but because we are doing absolutely nothing, we have saved so much money. Ordinarily there would be movies, dinners out, weekends away, swimming lessons, childcare, playcentres, new office clothes and more.”
– Amy M
I’m saving way more than usual, and I’m on 80 per cent pay. I’ve moved out of my rental in the city and back to the country with my parents.”
– Chelsea A
Others say there hasn’t been much advantage
“I haven’t really tightened my budget. I feel like if anything I spend more money on things like groceries and power because we’re all home. So I guess we do spend less on treats and luxuries in order to save for the increasing power bills.”
– Lauren B
“I’m not saving anything. I’m just racking up debt. I get 50 per cent of JobKeeper because I have to share it with my business partner. My gas bill is over $600 with heating on every day because everyone at home. Electricity will also be higher. Council won’t consider rate reductions even though most services are closed. You can’t pull a $60,000 income out of a family and expect to survive for long.”
– Carolyn G
“Being pension recipients, our financial situation has been very difficult due to the pandemic, especially when cheap groc
ery items are difficult to obtain, so we have frequently had to really try to stretch our food budget to cover more expensive items.
“We have been unable to save, with the economic stimulus payments being used mostly for grocery items. We wouldn’t have been able to get through this without receiving regular vegetable boxes from a local charity.
“We can no longer indulge the kids in the occasional takeaway dinner, so we make what they would buy at home. We’d love to be able to make spontaneous purchases, including takeaway meals, but that is simply not feasible at the moment.
“I hate that our children frequently have to go without even more than previously, it makes me feel like a failure as a parent.”
– Cherie W
“We unfortunately weren’t able to tighten our budget really. While I was able to work from home (which certainly saved on travel), we live so tightly the rest of the time that any potential ‘savings’ we easily absorbed into other areas where we’ve long needed more money to spend.”
– Aaron M
Some tell us they’ve been learning to live without
“The biggest thing we have tightened is discretionary spending. We haven’t replaced old shoes or broken kitchen utensils, we are just making do until all this is over.”
– Josh M
“I haven’t been spending on replacing old clothes or things I’d usually class as ‘luxuries’ like a takeout coffee or some nice soaps or wax melts.
“I’ve been stocking up on non-perishables, essentials and frozen goods. Prepping. I buy all my groceries at half price. I buy everything at half price really unless it’s essential and an emergency.”
– Caddie S
“I stopped drinking alcohol completely and realised that’s a massive saving.”
“I haven’t spent any money at all on clothes since March! I’ve been rocking the tracksuit uniform to the home office. I also have been spending less on food and drinks, I make all my coffees at home now, and maybe order UberEats only once a fortnight. This is less to save money, and more to give me something to do due to being in isolation.”
– Law R
“We haven’t made a conscious effort to save. It’s just that there’s less opportunity to spend … but the money has mysteriously piled up. We love it! It’s also giving pause to whether we should be formalising this approach in future so that it’s permanent. We were spending way too much on stuff we don’t miss.”
– Jonathan M
And some people have taken extra thrifty steps
“I saved so much I cleared all my debt that had been hanging around for years during this time! And now I am saving almost half my pay as an emergency fund and potential house deposit. It has absolutely shaken up my finances in the most positive way.
“I also just negotiated my rent down by $100 a week to re-sign my lease. My partner and I will save that.”
– Made L
“Our budget has had to tighten seeing as I went from earning $65k to being on JobKeeper overnight. I’m in travel so the idea of ever being back to what that was seems impossible.
“We took advantage of early super access and stopping our mortgage for six months. With the way our mortgage is set up, anything in our offsets counts towards money being paid off so we have put the super money in there while the mortgage is stalled, so that when we go back to paying off principal again, our interest won’t cripple us.”
– Sara-Ann G
“I spend less on luxury items and only buy the food I need so I have zero waste. I bought chickens for eggs. We don’t go out now so no movies or dining out.”
– Linda V
“No longer going out and cooking a lot at home so just stashing all that money. Also selling things around the house for cash just in case. Aiming to have 12 months of cash in the bank in case I or my wife lose our jobs. Any extra cash goes straight into savings. We have saved nearly an extra $15k since COVID hit just to be careful.”
– Dan N
“I am saving because of necessity. I’m saving in clothes and beauty products, also trying to spend less water and electricity. For cleaning I was using those expensive Earth-friendly products, and now I’m cleaning with white vinegar and sodium bicarbonate.”
– Cristina A
But new expenses have popped up too
“Spending a lot less on transport expenses, and takeaway food! However, the gas bill for heating my house is now pretty scary.”
– Claire O
“My wife and I have had to reduce how much we spend on alcohol, as it’s too easy to collapse on the couch with a drink after a frustrating day working from home. We decided to invest in a coffee machine, so now we’re saving ~$30 a week from not buying coffee.”
– Ben B
“My plan revolves around the question ‘do I NEED it?’ If not, I usually don’t buy it. I worry most about spending too much on streaming services.”
– Thomas R
“We have a plan to pay off our mortgage ASAP, invest in home maintenance, and save for the 2023 river cruise for which we have just paid a deposit.”
– Lynda T
“I’m spending as much as I can because I can afford to, and it will help the economy. I’m trying to spend my money on Australian goods.”
– John D
It allowed some people to do things they may not have been able to otherwise
“I’m a uni student in Wollongong. I work and also get Centrelink. I haven’t changed any of my spending habits drastically but I’ve been saving due to the double Centrelink. However now that I have a bit of savings, I can afford to go to the dentist after four years.”
– Nima D
“I’m 26 and since the pandemic began, I have been saving a heap of money. I used to spend over $60 a week on getting to work, now that’s going straight into savings. I’m saving for a home so it’s a good time to be putting money away! There’s also not the opportunity to spend it on nights out anymore which also helps. I have spoken to a financial advisor and have a plan in place. I don’t know if I would have felt like I had the spare cash to do that before.”
– Thea K
“Honestly, I have just been using the money to catch up on bills and loans I’ve received from friends over the last few years. The normal rate of pay just isn’t enough to live on and even with a very tight budget, any surprise sets me back. It’s very stressful.”
– Stel S
“We haven’t consciously been saving but seem to have extra money in our savings. Credit card is down to zero for the first time in 20 years. We can only put it down to not going out.
“Plus we have reduced the number of times we go to the supermarket. Used to be every couple of days, now we shop once a fortnight. This reduces our food bill by reducing the amount of impulse buys.”
– Merilyn H
Working from home, I save about $100 a week on coffees, muffins and lunches (bonus — I’m losing weight!) plus about $400 a month on city parking. I’m putting that $800 a month into savings to put towards home renos which will increase the value of our home.
“We went through our credit card and wiped out as many discretionary monthly direct debit expenses as we could, too. It all helps.”
– Julia C