Like most millennials, I was taught to save every spare dollar and gift from the tooth fairy into a rainy day fund. While I didn’t always follow through, during COVID I’ve begun to reassess what I want out of both my life and my money. After saving diligently during lockdowns and not seeing my friends, I’ve found myself beginning to splurge a little more on things I would've deemed “too frivolous” just 18 months ago.
These include but aren’t limited to: buying a mimosa (as well as an oat milk latte) at brunch, spending on an Uber while visiting friends, and not being stingy when I'm out to dinner, because hospitality venues have had a particularly rough go of it recently.
After nearly two years spent in and out of COVID lockdowns, it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one whose relationship with money has changed.
A report by the University of Melbourne found that 44% of 18 to 44-year-olds are experiencing financial stress as a result of the pandemic. Some of us have had our roles made redundant, others have started side hustles or quit our jobs in what has been termed The Great Resignation. But as we all emerge from our doona fortresses into a new phase of the pandemic, should we keep sitting on our savings waiting for a flood of rainy days?
With scientists predicting that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, it feels like the sunshine has returned (or is at least poking out through the clouds). To navigate this post-pandemic season, there are a number of ways to find the balance between spending like it’s the last night on earth and saving for those (seemingly endless) rainy days.
Redefining what money means
We’re two years older, a whole lot wiser and entering a new phase of our lives. Whether you’re a saver or a splurger, we should all be thinking about what money actually means to us. What are you saving for? Is it a house deposit? A post-lockdown holiday? Or is it just the satisfaction of seeing a certain number of zeros on your bank statement?
When you sit down and ask yourself what you’re actually saving for (rather than just squirrelling money away for the sake of it) it can feel like a new chapter in your money story. Because there’s saving for a rainy day — and then there’s not enjoying the present moment.
Spend on experiences
If the pandemic taught us anything, it's that we shouldn't take life for granted. From being able to hug your grandparents to the feeling of your shoes clinging to sticky nightclub floors, we’ve come to realise that life is made up of the experiences in between the big Hallmark-worthy moments.
While we begin to celebrate the everyday, money guilt can quickly creep in. One way to battle the spending guilt is to maintain money in a ‘fun fund’. Rather than only having accounts for spending and saving, some people put money into different ‘buckets’ to know what they can splurge on because the cash has been specifically allocated for eating out, a trip to the cinema or a weekend away.
Using a digital-first app or account can also help to see exactly where money is being allocated. The Money by Afterpay app gives users 15 different buckets to divvy up their salary into. I mean, how can I feel guilty if I'm spending money from my ‘Girls' Night’ fund? That’s what it’s there for! Splitting up money can mean spending on experiences that bring richness and colour into our lives rather than just using money for the serious stuff.
Save for security
While it's important to have fun and spend money on life, these are still the hard-earned dollars we're talking about. If certain saving goals are on track for the year or there are big plans on the horizon, then keep going.
Financial security is financial power so let's not let peer pressure throw us off course. Whether it's described as a safety net or an emergency fund, having a chunk of money in the bank is super important for the future. It can mean being able to help out family and friends easily, leave an uncomfortable situation and is a way to build wealth (and therefore independence).
Ditch the all-or-nothing approach
Similar to diet culture, it turns out that if we restrict ourselves, we usually end up only wanting it more. Changing our money mindset to a more positive balance is the way to go.
After a few weeks of spending post-lockdown, I've realised that just because I've splurged on dinner or a new dress, it doesn’t mean I should throw my money goals out the window and start keeping designer shoes in my oven à la Carrie Bradshaw. And, on the other end of the money scale, just because I’ve saved diligently over the past few years doesn’t mean I can’t have any fun and need to spend even more time sitting on my coins waiting for the rainy day to end.
Financial education is both a privilege and a journey. Not everyone graduates from high school knowing how to make their money work for them. But every small step to re-balance our finances, start a budgeting method that works, and spend without guilt is a step in the right direction.
So I'll save for the future, sure. After all, it’s never been more uncertain as we enter a new time for humankind post-pandemic. But I'm not going to forget to enjoy the here and now as well.
Please note that this information is general in nature and shouldn't be construed as financial advice. Money by Afterpay is a product from Afterpay Australia Pty Ltd (ABN 15 169 342 947, AFSL 527911) with accounts and debit cards issued by Westpac Banking Corporation (ABN 33 007 457 141, AFSL 233714). T&Cs apply.