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I live in New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus. Before it started to sink in how serious this public health scare was, I kept to my regular work and social schedule — which always translates to spending.

Since state mandates have forced us to stay home and have shut down all non-essential businesses, I've had a refreshing reminder about living not just within my means, but rather living below my means, and how this quarantine experience will benefit my budget.

Here are just a few of the money lessons I've rediscovered in quarantine:

1. A Need Is A Need. A Want Is A Want.

Scarcity gives you clarity. The quarantine and shutdown have helped me get clear about what I want and what I need. I need food. I need shelter. I need connection.

Before the COVID-19, I would have given myself a pass when I equated a need for food with a want for eating out. I used to take having a safe home for granted because it wasn't decorated the way that I wanted. And in terms of connection, I felt that truly spending time with friends and family meant that I had to do something big or costly: brunch, travel, spa or movies. Even though texting, speaking on the phone or video conferencing will never replace human touch, especially if that is your love language, they serve as a low-hanging fruit to make sharing your life with your peoples possible.

2. I Have Money Hidden In My Budget

Because of social distancing and the shut down of non-essential businesses, my budget started to brim with money that I could use for saving. The categories that offered me the most opportunity for saving were beauty and grooming, transportation, childcare, entertainment and food (eating out). Here's roughly how much I've saved in a month:

Childcare: $970

Pedicure: $25

Eyebrows: $5

Starbucks: $100

Eating Out: $80

Transportation and Gas: $50

Total: $1,230

Now, if you aren't receiving a stimulus check, need to boost your emergency fund or you want to take advantage of federal student loan repayment suspension, comb your budget for money and make the best use of it.

3. Boredom And Social Media Trigger My Spending

Since I've been home, I've used social media as an outlet and a distraction. Luckily, I know that advertisements about skin care remind me of my pain points and insecurities about my hyperpigmentation. So rather than impulse buy on every product that I wanted to try, I purchased the one that I wanted after giving myself 72 hours to decide.

If you find yourself spending more than you would like on items that you typically don't purchase, then stop and ask yourself why. Is it boredom? Are you looking to purchase an item in preparation for post-quarantine life? Are you learning a new skill? Are you feeling listless or lonely?

Once you're able to understand the why behind your money behavior, you'll be in a better position to create a plan of action that keeps you from racking up unnecessary debt or accumulating clutter in your home.

COVID-19 has forced me to slow down my living and my spending. And I think it's been a great reminder about the emotional and financial payoff for prioritizing the essential in life.


Kara is the founder of The Frugal Feminista and author of three self-care books for Black women. She is also the creator of the course 60-Days to Slay Sallie Mae.