It feels really gross to talk about money right now. My husband is salaried, I am salaried. We both have side hustles that are continuing as normal, if not more than normal. Meanwhile, my friend who is a bartender doesn’t know how she’s going to buy food once her savings run out in two weeks.
I could talk about how I spent the money we are saving on gas to buy a bunch of crafts from Amazon, to make this quarantine a camp instead of a cage. I could go on and on about how our grocery budget is different this month, it just is, and what that means in the big picture. But it is all so privileged and willfully blind.
Instead, I’m trying to figure out what it means to be a good citizen right now. I know how to be a good citizen in terms of movement: we don’t go out unless we must. Easy peasy.
But I’m feeling a strong sense of responsibility toward my fellow humans. So many people are going through economic devastation right now (maybe it’s not devastation long-term, but “no paycheck until who knows when” would be devastating).
It’s not like I’m rolling in dough but my GOD what a privilege it is to be salaried. Will there be longer-term problems that surface later and have big consequences on me? I mean who knows, maybe. But today and next week and next month I’ll be getting a paycheck from multiple jobs, as will my husband. So today and next week and next month, here are my intentions:
1) Continue to pay activity fees. Cheap-o me was kind of excited that I’d be saving so much money on canceled classes for my kids, until I stepped back and thought about what that looks like for the people who have been so influential in my kids’ lives – coaches, music teachers. My income isn’t changing. I have these fees set up as a part of the budget. I will continue to pay as usual and encourage everyone else to do the same.
2) Try to save money where I can – gas money and car maintenance are big ones. I’ve been budgeting myself $5 a day for whatever comes up for me and the kids, and it’s worked really well. Well, guess what? Nothing’s coming up. It’s tempting to go crazy online shopping with some of these savings as a way to stave off boredom, but I need to resist. Why does this matter? Because I have a bunch of grocery and gas gift cards that I need to buy my friends who are struggling. Another “paint these rocks” kit from Amazon won’t matter, to anybody. Also if kids want to paint rocks we have rocks and we have paint. A $50 gift card for groceries for a friend is far more important.
3) The opposite to point 2: be more lenient with myself and my family about ordering takeout. We don’t do it very much usually, but something’s gotta sustain the small restaurants in these couple of weeks, and by law they can only do takeout. Sonya asked if we could get sushi from this small Japanese restaurant today. I would normally say noooooo way, that’s a special occasion thing. But I guess this is a special occasion.
I have been feeling really helpless in the face of a pandemic, but the seriousness that has been shown toward the quarantine has been reassuring. I do think we will flatten the curve. The new helplessness is what is coming down the pike toward the hourly workers in my community. It feels like these small financial steps might make a small difference, in the same way that teaching my classes online instead of meeting in person might. I don’t know exactly what to do, but I do feel strongly that this is a time to take care of each other as best we can.
Any other ideas?