COVID and household finances. A story from the Basis community

Budgeting & Saving


Jul 3, 2020

Ritika, aged 30 and a resident of Bangalore, didn’t know what was coming her way when she first read about the Covid pandemic. Just like any of us, she thought that it was going to be something that was temporary, but to her surprise, this was something that was not going to end anytime soon.

Ritika lives in a family of 3 and works as a Manager in the Hospitality industry.

How has Covid-19 impacted your household budget?

“Covid has impacted the budget quite a bit as we were not all prepared for this. From cutting costs on house help to significantly decreasing discretionary spending it has impacted our home way more than we were prepared for.”

But it doesn’t stop at just the budgeting. For Ritika, this meant cutting down on her expenses by close to 30%, and working in the hospitality industry meant pay cuts as well. “While we do have an emergency fund, it may not see through this period of uncertainty.”

Identifying what to cut down on is important. While lifestyle changes are not always easy, identifying essentials and separating them from comfort is a different call altogether. In case you are an independent artist or a freelancer, here’s a guide to help you through this time. On one hand it is all about the inflow of cash, and on the other, it is all about retention of those investments.

Speaking to Ritika gave us an insight into what she cut down on and how she handles her investments, today. “As a family we revisited our financials and we cut on a house help/cook. My husband and I had gym memberships which we have now stopped and use free online courses. We used to probably order in/go out twice every week which is also something that has come to a hold. Every penny now counts in this environment and could make a difference.Investments have also been reduced since we may not be able to tide through all our SIPs, post office savings etc for a few months.”

Has this situation taken a toll on all of your incomes?

“2 of us work and my husband and I have had pay cuts. My mother-in-law also runs a small homegrown food business for the last 20 years that has seen an uptake since people are now choosing affordable eating from trusting places.”

This is not an extraordinary situation. Most families in India have seen a slump in their incomes and that has led to the slowest GDP growth for India in the past quarter ending April 2020. This growth has been the slowest in 11 years at a staggering 3.1 percent. In case you too, face a pay-cut, here are some tips that can help you get by.

What has Covid-19, especially the lockdown, taught you about your spending and saving pattern?

“The COVID scenario has taught me to always have an emergency fund and also weigh the options of your wants and needs very seriously. Not only in theory but in practice. We have also seen a few health scares in the last few months, as everyone is aware, hospital bills are not nominal. We are focusing on keeping more funds for health emergencies. We will sleep over expenses more and only if necessary will we make certain spends.”

More Indian households are considering an overall minimalist lifestyle that will not just be easy on their pockets but on their minds as well. While many of us have taken drastic decisions based on liquidity crunches, it might be a good time to hold back on self indulgent expenses as a lifestyle amendment itself.

If you're saving more money now, what are you doing with it?

I wish I was saving more, At the moment some part of our savings are on hold.

We are taking it one day at a time honestly, and as I said personally I'm planning and thinking strongly of a minimalist life for example - things such as binge shopping for sure will come to a total full stop. Indulgences are certainly not good for our wallets. We have put down a budget that is sustainable and shouldn't affect us negatively.

While this might just be a phase, will spending ever be the same again? For Ritika, that doesn’t look to be the case any time soon. She looks at the COVID situation as having had a positive impact on getting the family together, both socially and monetarily. “We've spent time baking cakes which we otherwise bought, cooking what we otherwise ordered in, and focussing on spending more at local, homegrown businesses to support them.”

While this might seem a cautionary tale, this situation has brought forth many financially independent women to the forefront of family budgeting. While we all have had our fair share of making financial decisions, the community still needs many more women to step up and take charge of not just their own finances, but take a call on fixing family budgets and planning future financial goals as well.

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