There are any number of things guaranteed to cause offence in the current climate: coughing in public and leaving your house more than once a day among them. But the thing no one has yet dared admit? Having more money to spare than ever.
With thousands facing job insecurity, struggling to pay rent and food banks increasingly stretched, it’s hardly surprising that people like me aren’t rushing to reveal our dirty little secret. Who wants to replace the coronavirus as public enemy number one?
I’m lucky enough to be working as normal, for a business that shows no signs of going under. It was inevitable that I’d be saving money on my commute, but it’s come as a shock just how much more I used to fritter away.
Those little things add up: the oat milk latte every morning, the salad (OK, Pret macaroni cheese…) at lunch, the trip to the office vending machine, Waitrose on the way home.
It’s not as though I had a diary packed with dinners in Michelin-star restaurants. But, turns out, that not being able to pop for a quick sourdough pizza at the local restaurant has left me with disposable income. With the weather so nice, I’d usually be spending weekends in a pub beer garden. Instead, I’m sitting on my own patch of lawn, sipping whatever I’ve managed to find in the fridge.
I‘d also failed to truly appreciate the ease with which I was shopping for clothes pre-Covid. But when you’re at home, oscillating between work and trying not to think about work, it seems ridiculous to buy what you can’t wear. To avoid temptation, I’ve freed myself from the tyranny of shopping mailing lists – unsubscribing as they land in my inbox. In these times of increased email contact, I’d recommend that for your sanity as well as your savings.
As I write, I haven’t spent anything for four days. Other than being hospitalised with appendicitis in my twenties, it might be the longest I’ve ever gone without reaching for my card.
The side effect, of course, is that I’m caught in a spiral of guilt and shame. I feel bad for buying anything that could be seen as too ‘frivolous’, but guilty for failing to support small businesses in their hour of need… then even more guilty for having the extra money to consider spending in the first place.
The answer lies in trying to be mindful. When I do spend, I’m going to local restaurants that have reinvented themselves as grocery shops. Today, I donated to Captain Tom Moore, the Second World War veteran walking laps of his garden to raise money for the NHS. It feels good to be able to support others in a small way. Just don’t expect me to admit it any time soon.
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