When you hear the words “shopping” and “COVID-19,” what comes to your mind first?
Probably panicked consumers at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, clearing shelves of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Or later on in the year, people ordering everything online to have it delivered to their door, from alcohol to groceries to sweatpants and more.
While our everyday shopping habits on physical items certainly changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our attitudes toward spending and what we value did, too. And some of these changes look as though they’re here to stay.
Here are just a few of the ways we think COVID-19 is changing the way we spend money.
How and where we travel
You finally took the plunge and planned a big, exciting trip to Italy in the summer of 2020…and thanks to the pandemic, you had to cancel. Your annual family reunion at Grandma’s a few states over? Canceled. Romantic honeymoon? Canceled.
For many, traveling is a treasured hobby. The experience of exploring a new place leaves us with longer-lasting happiness than souvenirs we bring home. COVID-19 limited how much traveling we could do last year and forced us to stay home. Thanks to vaccines, people are starting to make travel plans again. But where we travel and how has changed.
Traveling is no longer about crossing popular destinations off a bucket list; for one thing, cities in other countries may still be struggling with COVID-19 numbers and are not ready to accept visitors yet. For another, many of us are flying to see family members and friends first to give them a long overdue hug. Seeing our loved ones is a top priority.
For those of us who still aren’t comfortable flying on a plane or being in crowded indoor spaces? Road trips through the country, peppered with stops at national parks and outdoor activities, are the way to go. They satisfy our need to get out of the house and explore…but safely.
Gathering with loved ones
“I can’t wait to get together with my friends again!” Sure, that’s something we’ve all thought or said during the pandemic…but which friends?
It sounds a little harsh, but whether you’ve noticed or not, a year of isolation likely put your friendships to the test. Those casual friendships with coworkers or study buddies probably faded away. Groups who got together to watch the game or new weekly episodes of TV shows are no more.
It’s not just you. As someone said of her smaller social circle in this article, “There used to be many people I would have put on pants for — not yoga pants, but the ones with buttons…that number has definitely plummeted.”
Who we invest our time, energy, and support in has changed over the course of the pandemic. We may have smaller groups of friends and host smaller gatherings, but the people we invite are the ones who really matter to us.
Getting creative with budgets
We’ve also had to find ways to still have the experiences we want, but with less income. We’ve been more careful in choosing the things we buy. With less room in our budget for “fun” purchases like clothing or going out to eat, we’ve spent more on essentials like groceries or household supplies. Money spent on commuting to work went to sprucing up home offices.
Maybe you’ve noticed that you were more conscious of who you supported with your dollars, too. You might’ve chosen takeout from a local restaurant instead of getting dinner delivered from a nearby chain. Or you decided to stop supporting a certain brand because of how they treated their employees during the rise of COVID cases. Making a statement with your money became important during the pandemic.
When pricier experiences like international travel were off the table, we invested money in a domestic road trip (and repairing or maintaining our vehicles so they were ready for those trips). And if we weren’t ready to spend right away? We put that money in our emergency fund or toward our next big unknown purchase.
A shift to value and quality over “stuff”
There’s plenty of research that shows how shopping habits changed in the U.S. because of COVID-19. People stopped buying cosmetics and beauty products in favor of household cleaners and vitamins. We nurtured new homebody hobbies like gardening and baking with the money we saved from dining out and going to the movies.
Our attitudes and values changed as well. We used the pandemic as an opportunity to save more money, eliminate things we didn’t need, prioritize our health and loved ones, and put more stock into experiences that brought us joy.
How did your spending habits change as a result of the pandemic? We’d love to hear — tag us on Instagram @everyday_money.