I keep hearing people refer to various topics with the phrase “The New Normal” and it’s got me thinking about what that means. Obviously, wearing a face mask is new and will likely be seen as normal for many months to come. I can only assume that the plexiglass safety shields that are now up at Target and various other places, to separate the cashier from the customer, will also remain for many months as a “new normal”. But what aspect of your personal life will be a “new normal” going forward? What about your financial life?
My Financial “New Normal”
I was ready to take a very large amount of our emergency fund and pay it towards our mortgage prior to Covid-19. As no emergency had occurred that required the use of that money I was getting antsy about having such a large amount just sitting there. I wanted to use some of it and I was able to justify to myself that three months of expenses was sufficient.
Well, thank the stars that I didn’t touch it. I couldn’t imagine going into this pandemic without six months of expenses saved. I did not expect to lose work as a healthcare provider during this crisis but sadly, I’ve lost a significant amount of income for the month of April. At some point I would like to pay down our mortgage but a pandemic has taught me one thing…a large emergency fund is priceless.
There is lots of debate about where one should keep their emergency money and I have never felt comfortable putting our money in the stock market. The way the stock market has behaved during this pandemic has made me believe keeping this money easily accessible was the right decision. We lost none of it during the pandemic…unlike many others I know. So our “new normal” will be to keep our large emergency fund in tact with six months of expenses in it at all times, and in our high yield checking account.
Going forward, another financial “new normal” will be to keep a larger supply of food and cleaning items available in my home. I had to overpay for many items from the grocery store as supplies dwindled. I wasn’t happy about paying extra money for organic pinto beans and soap but we legitimately needed these items so I didn’t have much choice.
Part of my “No Spend Year” goals for 2020 was to stop over-buying cleaning items and hygiene products. I was only going to replace these items once they were used up. But I’m finding that part of the reason there will be “new normals” for everyone is that we have no choice but to view things from the perspective of possibilities, even the unlikely ones like pandemics. Am I comfortable letting my toilet paper supply dwindle down to a few rolls before replacing it now…hell no!
Not much else will change for us from a financial perspective but I hope it will for many. I know lots of people are in a real financial bind right now, waiting on stimulus money and unemployment checks just to feed their families. I will be watching to see if spending changes for our country of consumers. Will people relocate to cheaper places to live? Will cars be sold? Will this pandemic lead more people to pursue frugality and financial independence?
My Personal “New Normal”
One “new normal” for me personally are the relationships I have made in my neighborhood. I’ve had many conversations across lawns and driveways with neighbors I had never met before Covid-19. I likely may never have met them, much less formed a friendship with them, had we not been forced to stay home for so long.
Another “new normal” for me will, sadly, be the end of some relationships with people I thought were friends. There have been a lot of people I haven’t contacted during my time at home even though I’ve had loads of opportunity. Out of my 200+ friends and contacts in my phone, I have exchanged communication with exactly 18 over the past month. This has led me to question the number of people I’m “friends” with out of convenience.
I can say with all honesty that 95% of my “friends” are not people I can truly count on. They don’t really know me outside of whatever place of business or educational experience brought us together. And as I recently learned, when you change jobs, only 1-2 of those friends from work will ever contact you again, and vice versa.
Another “new normal” for me will be my attempt to focus my brain and my time on activities and people that do bring value to me. I want to take a trip with my best friend who I have missed so much. I want to take more weekend trips with my husband and daughter. I’m tired of spending my weekends doing house and yard work. I’ve looked back and seen many wasted weekends spent “catching up” on chores that just need to be caught up on again by the next weekend.
There is always something that needs to be done isn’t there? Whether its laundry or the dishes, there’s always work that one can busy themselves with. It just never seems to stay done. So I’m going to work towards setting aside two weekends a month to just play and rest.
I’ve learned over this past month is that when you have a 4yo and a dog, your house will always be messy no matter how much you clean. There’s just a certain amount of mess I need to learn to live with when it comes to toys and dog hair so fun can be the priority.
I’m currently spending some time and a little money on reorganizing my home in the hopes that some areas of my home will stay put together and won’t require as much work going forward. Having spent so much time in my home lately I’ve been able to see areas that just aren’t functioning as well as they should be. I’m going to make those better.
We are going to spend more time outside as another “new normal” for us. We have realized how nice it is to turn the tv off and go for a walk, play outside, and eat a picnic in our front yard. We have gotten to spend more time together as a family over the past month than we have since my maternity leave. My daughter and I are so bonded to each other right now, and while the rest of the world is ready to return to their work and their normal life, I’m secretly grieving the end of our time together.
I realized I will NEVER have this much time with my child ever again. As a working mother, this has been precious to me and it makes me so sad to know that life will go back to the way it was. I will go back to work and she will return to school. Our days will be spent apart and I will miss having so much time with her when it’s over.
My goal for our “new normal” is to use the lessons I’ve learned about myself, my family, and our home to make our lives more peaceful, more fun, and more focused on each other and the experiences that bring us the most out of our time together. For our family, the one good thing that has come from all of this is the understanding that we get a lot of say in how we spend our days. We have taken this for granted for a long time. Once our town reopens, I can’t imagine we will take this freedom for granted any longer.
What will your “new normal” be?