5 Money Moves I Made to Calm Down During the COVID-19 Crisis

5 Money Moves I Made to Calm Down During the COVID-19 CrisisThis has been another week for the history books. And not in a good way. It’s more a “Oh, my gosh, Penny, why did you already eat all the ice cream? It’s only Wednesday” kind of way.

Mr. P and I have both tried to stay calm in front of HP. But his schedule is so thrown off. We thought we would get lucky since toddlers don’t really have the greatest concept of days or hours. No dice. He misses his grandparents, he misses his Miss Anne at school, and he is heartbroken over not being able to go to the “jumpy place” at the mall. 

He knows things aren’t normal, and my students are feeling it, too. My colleagues continue to be the absolute best, and we’ve already made it halfway through our first week of eLearning. Moments have been really exciting. It’s fun to throw everything out and really innovate. But it also feels a lot like you’re treading water and then someone grabs your foot when you go into it during these circumstances. 

When I think about eLearning stretching out beyond two weeks, another thought immediately comes to mind: job safety. Everyone loves to talk about how teaching is recession proof (it isn’t), and this times are totally unprecedented. I know I will be paid for the two weeks that we are off, but I have no idea what anything looks like after that. 

All that to say, I’ve panicked. 

And I finally told myself, “You need to calm down.”

via GIPHY

For some people, calming down looks like a bubble bath, a treadmill session, a glass of wine, or a phone call with a friend.

For me, it looks like spreadsheets. And ice cream, if I’m being totally transparent here. But you knew that.

These money moves aren’t going to dramatically change our lives. But they were concrete steps that I could take to improve our financial situation relatively quickly.

So I thought I’d share them with you in the hopes that you’ll share the moves you’ve been making in the comments.

1. Claim Your Cash

Because life gets busy I am a bad money blogger, I sometimes leave money lingering in places I shouldn’t. I’m not talking about couch cushions or in my pocket. Instead, I am not always super punctual with claiming cash in the digital space. Over the past week, I checked in on these three areas of my virtual life:

  • Credit card cashback bonuses
  • PayPal & Venmo
  • Rewards and rebate app

It’s not like tens of thousands of dollars were out there floating around. But I was able to put more than $100 in an actual bank account. With the Fed rate cut, I’m not actually concerned about interest. Instead, I simply want my money someplace a little bit more safe and secure. It’s headed straight to our emergency fund. 

2. Swipe the Right Card

Our grocery budget basically went out the window. Thanks to the fact that the money community was pretty clued in that this event was going to be significant in terms of human behavior, human health, and personal finance, I was able to slowly buy just a little bit more of what we might need on our regular shopping trips. Amid the barren shelves and Clorox wipes hoarding, I am still only focusing on taking what I need now.

RELATED POST: Take What You Need Now

Unfortunately, I’ve realized that a lot of times what I need isn’t on sale or isn’t even available at a grocery store I would normally shop at (hi, Aldi!). So while I’m definitely not hunting down loss leaders and other screaming deals, I have been shopping with my Discover Cashback card, which still has grocery stores in the 5% cashback category for the month. It’s been a real bright spot!

If you don’t have a Discover card, you should still review any credit or debit card promos and offers that might be available, if that’s your thing. However, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to cash, either!

3. Take Advantage of Ally

I first opened an Ally savings account maybe a year ago to chase a new-customer promotion. Recently, they emailed me that they were offering another promotion for new AND existing customers. I promptly signed up. Now, I earn 1% on the money I move over as long as it stays there until June. (I think — you can learn more here.) 1% is nothing to write home about…except it kind of is when “high yield” interest accounts are now yielding .3% if we’re lucky. I’m not positive how long this offer will last, but it’s a good reminder to be on the look out for different sign-up bonuses. 

4. Keep Scanning Receipts

This is not going to make me rich or famous, but it does take the sting out of the full-price groceries I’ve been buying. I use apps like ReceiptHog and Fetch to pretty consistently earn points. I also make it a point to check Ibotta after I shop to see if anything lines up. Drop is still synced to my RED card, though I haven’t been buying much at Target as of late. It still gives me a little rush and a small sense of control to know I have these little tools and tricks at my disposal.

5. Put Your Credit Cards Away

Anxiety is a trigger for me to spend. So is sadness. And happiness. And basically any human emotion. If I don’t constantly keep tabs on myself, I can very quickly spend money on things that I have absolutely no use for.

It happens when I try to buy things for my son that he doesn’t need. When things got hard for me in my personal life and then ::flails hands in the air: THIS happened on a national and global scale, let’s just say that I was trying to shop away my problems. Thankfully, I regained my composure, emptied out my online shopping carts, and put my credit cards away.

Since I don’t store the credit card information in my store accounts, I now have to get up, walk a distance, and really think before I buy. This is both good for my budget and good for the workers who should not be risking their health so that I can have a BOGO bikini from Target.

So Tell Me…What money moves have you made recently to regain a sense of control? What should I do next?

5 Comments

  1. Hey Penny- Stay strong! In times like these I like to think about the fable of the 2 friends and the bear. You don’t need to have everything perfect financially. You just need to be ahead of most of the population. And you are so far ahead.

    It’s a challenging time for everyone. Each of my kids has internalized it in their own way. We’ll adjust a little bit more every day.

    My money moves- well I definitely don’t have a Liz-Officer approved emergency fund (or Penny approved emergency fund). But I’m okay with that. While Mrs. Gov and I aren’t immune from losing our jobs, they’re not correlated to the economy or each other as we work for different levels of government. So if there’s a 1% chance of us losing our job each year, then we’d have a 0.01% chance of needing our emergency fund. And then there’s even a lower percentage chance that it would be in a bear market.

    That being said, I am hoarding a lot of cash. We got our tax return (which was big, > 5 figures) and I didn’t invest it or use part of it to prepay our mortgage. I also think I might divert our regular mortgage prepayments into cash and just hold onto as much as I can in case there are any bumps.

    I realize this whole comment about my money moves sounds batshit crazy. I guess it’s on brand with my #DumpsterFIRE ethos.

  2. Ohh I should do daycare reimbursements for daycamp and aftercare. Who knows if I’m going to make the full amount I put away if this stretches into summer. Might as well get reimbursed for what we have spent. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. steveark

    I’ve put about half our cash reserves into investments since prices are lower right now on stocks. I also asked Vanguard to rebalance our portfolio there back to the 50-50 target, that will move another significant chunk into equities and I’m going to do the same thing on our other biggest portfolio at Personal Capital, or at least I’m asking about the balancing plan there. I think our Betterment accounts will do the same so we’ll be moving a whole lot into the stock market from cash and bonds. We’ve still got several years worth of expenses in money market and savings accounts and still maintain a zero withdrawal rate on our investments due to my one day a week consulting. That income might drop due to this though since I’m not sure I’ll get all my clients signed up this year due to oil prices and business impacts. But even if it goes away we don’t need income, the work is just for entertainment and to have some structure imposed on my lazy self. As far as life, we haven’t had to change anything, we still get up before 5AM and run with our friends. It’s easy to practice social distancing when you are meeting and running outside on empty small town streets. We still play tennis, maybe the ideal social distance sport when played outside. And we still fish from our boat, we are never near anyone when we do that. Only church and my volunteer board meetings have now switched to remote teleconferences and Facebook live. Our tennis team seasons and the marathon my wife was going to run in two weeks have been post poned. We have no kids at home so all those issues don’t exist for us and no jobs to go to. Two months of supplies on hand which is normal for rural folks and fish are so easy to catch this time of year that we could live on those if we needed to. If this was us twenty years ago it would be much different. I’d have a job that couldn’t possibly be done remotely, three kids at home and much less invested. I know we are blessed to be on the sidelines watching something that is disrupting most people’s lives while passing us by untouched. At least if we don’t get sick, since we are in our sixties and I’ve got two significant lung issues I do not need to catch this, it could easily take me out even though I’m an athlete and in good health. I don’t have much pulmonary margin to give up to covid19.

  4. I just cashed in my Bing rewards having just hit the target, and Nicole and Maggie’s idea of cashing out the daycare reimbursement is a good one. I hadn’t done that yet and I usually do around March.

    Mostly I was spending like a rabid squirrel collecting supplies for our shutdown 😬😬😬 and then we were hit with house repairs. I still need to make some more thank you cakes for the friends who seriously saved our butts.

    Keeping busy helps and we ARE busy. I have been terribly tempted by some out of character clothing items because… stress? Colorful things feel needed right now? But I know they’re not needs and I should sit back down and save those dollars for keeping our local economy bolstered.

  5. Stay strong and stay safe Penny & family! Making sure you claim rewards is a great idea. One thing we’re doing is reduce overall spending so we can build up our cash reserve. It’s crazy time for sure!

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