Lessons from a year of pandemic spending

“He was in pain,” she said. “But he wasn’t ready to die.

Mrs. Smith visited him every other day, occasionally bringing him steak sandwiches, pizzas and other favorite foods. And she often ate dinners and snacks provided by the retirement home, which cost her nothing. She now prepares all of her meals at home, spending about $ 60 a week on groceries, including the fish cakes she practically lives on. That’s about double what she spent when she shared meals with Bruce.

She said she didn’t realize how much her life revolved around the visits and friends she had made inside the nursing home, something she continues to work with. help from several groups of mourners. “All of a sudden I didn’t have it,” she said.

During the summer, she tended to gardening, growing her own vegetables in raised beds, including peppers, squash, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. This helped improve her results: “I saved so much money on the products,” she said. “I rarely went to the grocery store. “

In a typical year, Ms Smith would have spent around $ 2,000 traveling to Denver to attend mineral exhibitions and purchase supplies for her jewelry business, while taking a few days off to relax. But the pandemic forced Ms Smith, who planned to work and save until she was at least 70, into semi-retirement.

She stayed afloat for some time thanks to improved unemployment benefits, but the additional federal allowance expired in the summer and her state benefits expired in mid-December. The checks didn’t start coming in again until early February, when the year-end stimulus bill went into effect for her. Ms Smith started collecting Social Security a few months before she had full benefits, which reduced her payments by $ 16 per month and started to dip into her retirement savings.

“It’s not what I expected,” she said. “I want to work.”

Ms Smith’s house is paid off, but her annual property taxes of $ 5,000 – partly due in late May and August – are an impending expense. Her car, an 11-year-old Chevrolet Aveo, is still going strong, even though she just paid $ 1,500 to replace the clutch. Frugal by nature, she is not a big buyer. But she’s excited when she finds an almost new item – whether it’s a nice sweater or unworn leggings – at the flea market. One of the few services she offers herself is to hire a landscaper to mow her lawn in hot weather.

But she longs for her life as it was. When the pandemic is over, Ms Smith said, she will return to dance classes she took at nearby Lehigh University, and she would like to resume teaching yoga and selling jewelry. She looks forward to traveling again – as she did before her husband’s health deteriorated – and hopes to visit Alaska.

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