5 couples share how the pandemic has impacted their spending

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For many of those self-isolating at home, spending habits have changed. Perhaps you’re eating out less — or ordering in more. Maybe you’re saving money on movies and concerts, but have signed up for an extra streaming service or two.

Below, CNBC Make It spoke with five couples to see how their spending habits have changed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Interviews have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

1. Sara, 30, and Josh, 31

Source: Sara Schrenk

  • Location: Florence, South Carolina
  • Relationship status: Married with two children

What have you been doing to pass the time while self-isolating?

Sara: We’ve been staying fairly busy with a 2-year-old and a 12-week-old. Everything from cooking, lots of baking, a lot of yard work, working on the house and going for walks a lot. 

I’m home full time, which is normal. The difference for me is our normal weekly activities aren’t happening. Josh is a home health DPT (doctor of physical therapy) so he’s been lucky and has been working the whole time.

How has that impacted your spending?

Sara: Other than buying a few small Easter gifts, we really aren’t making many, if any, non-essential purchases.

Josh: Absolutely. Since we don’t go anywhere, we don’t buy as many impulsive things and we’re eating in much more.

How is your spending different now than before the coronavirus pandemic?

Sara: We are making only essential purchases. The rule is, if it can’t be delivered directly to our home or picked up via car, then we don’t need it.

Josh: Our grocery bill has probably gone up, but our eating out budget has gone down.

Is there any particular reason your spending has changed?

Sara: We just don’t know what tomorrow could bring, so we are being cautious. Josh works in health care, mostly with the elderly, and with having a newborn we are just trying to do our part in staying home.

Josh: My hours have been reduced somewhat, so we are sensitive to that fact. Since we have a smaller amount of money coming in, we are being cautious.

What is one thing your spouse is spending more or less on now? Do you approve or not approve?

Sara: Josh barely spends money. I think the only thing he really has been buying lately are things for the yard/house. I really can’t complain.

Josh: She’s bought a few more home improvement tools, which I approve of because it should make the house look nicer and add value.

Sara: However, we both bought new running shoes, because we each needed them. Josh is a physical therapist and Asics had an increased discount for medical professionals at this time, so that was a big reason we bought now.

 2. Lauren, 26, and Cass, 29

Source: Lauren Schumacher 

  • Location: Eureka, Illinois
  • Relationship status: Married

How has being in self-isolation impacted your spending?

Lauren: We aren’t commuting back and forth to work, so we aren’t filling our cars with fuel as often. We make fewer, yet larger, grocery store visits so that we don’t have to visit the stores as frequently.

How is your spending different now than before the coronavirus pandemic?

Lauren: We typically like to go out on date nights every weekend. We’ve switched to getting carry out from a local restaurant. We may still get food to go during the week, but overall, our spending on dinners out is significantly less than before.

Are there specific categories, such as groceries or gas, where you are spending more or less?

Lauren: We are spending more on groceries, but that covers three meals a day, snacks, paper products and toiletries for at least one to two weeks at a time. I would say that there have been a few movies we’ve rented through Amazon Prime, so maybe $10 to $15? Not very much, but it’s more than we normally spend. We’d usually only rent one movie a month or every six weeks. 

What is one thing your spouse is spending more or less on now? Do you approve or not approve?  

Lauren: Spent more on getting exercise equipment for our house since we can’t work out at the gym. That was a one-time purchase, but I do approve!

 3. Kristen, 33, and Anthony, 30

Source: Kristen Rassi

  • Location: Fort Bragg, California
  • Relationship status: Engaged and living together

What have you been doing to pass the time while self-isolating?

Kristen: Lots of TV series and movies, rollerblading, being outside.

Anthony: Watching TV and trying to be creative and productive.

How has being in self-isolation impacted your spending?

Anthony: We aren’t really doing anything, so we are spending way less.

Kristen: Before quarantine, we spent a lot more on gas, restaurants, events and shopping.

Is there any particular reason your spending has changed?

Kristen: We are both on temporary leave from work, so we are definitely budgeting at moment. I am spending less on “fun” stuff. Probably $500 less a month on frivolous buys like more clothes or home decor. In general, I’d say we are spending less on everything overall and are trying to be more frugal.

What is one thing your partner is spending more or less on now? Do you approve or not approve?

Kristen: His main hobby has been learning to dive and spear fish, but he’s been doing some landscaping as well! So he has been spending more on hobby supplies. And I absolutely approve! Hobbies are important at all times of life, but they are especially important now that we are in quarantine.

Anthony: She is spending less on beauty stuff. I approve. Eyelashes are expensive.

4. Kelsie, 25, and Marcus, 25

Portrait of Kelsie Travers (left) and Marcus Larson (right).

Courtesy of Kelsie Travers

  • Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Relationship status: Dating and living together

What have you been doing to pass the time while self-isolating?

Kelsie: We have been watching a lot of nostalgic 2000s movies, like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” because I just got Disney+ at the beginning of the year and we’ve barely used it until now. I have also been fixing up our apartment somewhat: repotting plants, painting furniture, hanging some art and photos.

Marcus: We’re watching music livestreams, cooking a lot of food, drinking, doing some puzzles and playing video games.

How has life in self-isolation impacted your spending? 

Kelsie: I am spending more on household stuff and art supplies than I think I would have otherwise because I have more time at home to work on it. For example, buying new curtains, sandpaper and paint to refinish furniture, new planters and more canvasses for decorating. It probably only amounts to $50 or so as of right now, but it’s things I didn’t care about until I was at home 24/7.

Are there specific categories, such as groceries or gas, where you are spending more or less?

Kelsie: I’m spending significantly less on concerts now because I used to go to several a month. Before quarantine, we weren’t home that much, so I didn’t care to fix up my apartment or do projects, which now I have time for and it requires spending a bit of money.

What is one thing your partner is spending more or less on now? Do you approve or not approve? 

Kelsie: I think he is spending more on takeout for sure, mainly because we get sick of cooking. Also, although we are making more frequent runs to the liquor store and keep more alcohol in our house, I think he is spending a lot less money on alcohol because no more bar tabs every weekend.

Marcus: She is spending more on takeout, which she never used to. I approve because we get sick of cooking and doing dishes when we are home so much.

5. Becky, 31, and Mark, 31

Source: Becky Burgess

  • Location: Pekin, Illinois
  • Relationship status: Married with three children

What have you been doing to pass the time while self-isolating?

Becky: We’ve been spending a lot of time as a family. Before the stay-at-home order, we rarely had any family time. Mark was gone Friday through Sunday due to work, and Kali was spending her full days at kindergarten.

Mark was unfortunately laid off due to Covid-19 and school is out, so we’ve been watching movies, building with Lego, drawing pictures together, making videos and movie scripts (yes, movie scripts!), baking, playing outside, reading and writing books, cooking dinner together and so on.

Our two older kids are actually getting along better and playing together more often. We still have fights and I hear “don’t take my toy!” a lot, but it happens much less often than it used to when Kali was at school all day. This quarantine happened at a good time for our youngest, too. She’s showing her little personality and is reacting more to everyone in her life. She is smiling and laughing a ton at her big siblings and her daddy.

Mark: We have been finishing home projects, playing with the kids, cleaning. Gosh, mostly cleaning … like 70% cleaning. Also, playing video games and connecting with our family members online. I have also been playing music, studying programming and applying for jobs since I was laid off a few weeks ago.

How has being in self-isolation impacted your spending?

Becky: It has impacted our spending significantly. We’re no longer taking multiple trips to stores and restaurants every week. And I’m not going out to get coffee every chance I get some free time. I wish we could place a dollar amount on it, but not having the option to go out and wander around Target or Menard’s whenever we’re bored is probably saving us a decent amount of money.

Is there any particular reason your spending has changed?

Becky: It’s much more methodical. Instead of just going for things, we think about what we have to get and when. I used to see a cute kids outfit or toy or something on Amazon, and I’d order it right away. But now, I put it in the cart for a few days to think about it. It’s the same with our grocery list. I try to only write down things we really need versus writing down anything that might sound good at the moment.

Are there specific categories, such as groceries or gas, where you are spending more or less?

Becky: We are spending a lot less on takeout and fast food. We used to get lunch and dinner from restaurants every other day, maybe even more. Now, though, it’s once or twice a week tops. Sometimes fast food, sometimes a meal from a small family-owned restaurant in our area.

Check out: The best credit cards of 2020 could earn you over $1,000 in 5 years

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