Like most, we have been spending more time at home with just our immediate family, exploring new activities and hobbies, and working on our home and yard.
We’re not driving nearly as much, as my husband isn’t commuting to work and I’m not running errands with my kids or taking them to activities. With restaurants closed, we’ve been eating out less. We’re also not going out to concerts, sporting events, or catching happy hour with friends.
All of these lifestyle changes have, in turn, had a positive impact on our finances.
I decided to compare our last full month of non-isolation spending (February) to our first full month of social isolation (April). Here is what I found.
Groceries: + $160
Food is by far our largest discretionary spending category each month, and I budget $800/month for our family of four for groceries.
In February, we spent $702 on groceries, and in April, we spent $862. Although our spending on groceries varies per month based on factors such as if we are having people over and what items we purchase, the reason we spent more in April was because we ate out far less than we normally do and cooked more at home.
Dining out: – $319
Which brings us to our dining-out expenditures. I budget $400/month for our family to use on takeout and dining out at restaurants. For some, that may be a lot, and for others, not so much. Most months it’s a struggle not to spend over that amount.
In February, we spent $462 on dining out, and in April, we only spent $143. This amount could have been lower, but we decided it was important to us to continue supporting our favorite local restaurants, so we got takeout once or twice a week.
Fast food: – $52
My husband and I don’t really eat fast food or get drive-thru meals, but I allocate $100 per month for “fast food,” which is essentially my husband’s lunches out. In February, he spent $52. In April, that amount was $0 as he’s been working from home.
Gas: – $109
I budget $200/month for gas as my husband commutes 30-plus minutes one way, five days a week. In February, we spent $197 on gas. But since he has been working from home since mid-March, we only spent $88 on gas in April. Part of the reason that amount was even that high was because we filled up on the first day in April from gas usage that occurred in March.
Alcohol/bars: – $71
Perhaps one of the biggest changes for people during this time is that they aren’t going out to socialize with friends, and we are no different. This means that we spent less not only on restaurant meals and drinks out to dinner, but also on alcohol at bars.
While some are drinking more during this time, we have been consuming less because we are at home all the time. In February, we spent $71 on alcohol/bars, and in April, we spent $0.
Coffee shops: – $33
Another expenditure that has been hugely affected by staying home is our coffee-shop spending. My husband and I both frequent the Starbucks drive-thru once or twice a week, and our budgeted amount for coffee shops is typically $40/month.
In February, we spent $41 on coffee shops, and in April, we spent $8. That was the one day I couldn’t get our youngest to take a nap, so I took a drive to get a coffee with the hope that she would fall asleep in the back. It worked — so it was worth it!
Total saved: $424
In total, we’ve saved about $424 by staying home, even though our grocery budget has increased. Given our reduced spending and the dips in the stock market, we’ve decided to max out our Roth IRAs for 2019 while we have some extra cash on hand and stocks are “on sale.”