Budget COVID19 life

Day 92: Assumptions, Questioned

June 15, 2020

Things previously assumed that have now been called into question due to the lifestyle changes spurred on by the pandemic:

1- Couples need dates nights to remain healthy & happy. Ideally twice a month. No dates nights for the past 3 months and we seem to be doing okay. In fact, we both agreed on Saturday night that we didn’t miss them all that much. We are however both craving a date weekend (ie, have childcare for entire weekend & get to sleep in / relax / be together for more extended circumstances).

2- Running is the best (and my favorite) form of exercise. In my past life I was obsessed with mileage, training plans, races. I’ve run 4 marathons and many more half-marathon races. AND YET. I have run maybe 4 times since March, replacing my running workouts with strength/interval work a la Beachbody. Quite honestly, running is not fun in the summer here and I have (finally) realized that strength training is much more effective when it comes to physical ‘results’, particularly at my advanced age. I find I can get the same kind of mood boost from a challenging strength workout. The only thing I really miss is listening to podcasts on long runs! My podcast-listening time has really suffered recently.

3- Meetings & didactics are much better held in person. Yeah so – in some ways yes, but not all that much. And it’s not necessarily worth the hassle of getting everyone to gather in one place so often. If a meeting or didactic is worth having (ie: there are clear learning points or to-do items that require group brainstorming or decision-making), it can probably be held effectively online. We’ve held faculty meetings, clinical competency meetings, didactics, resident meetings, and more on Webex and they have been . . . fine.

(I do not think this extrapolates to young children, but for adult learning/work it is fine.)

4- I prefer to outsource my grocery shopping. NOPE. It is now one of my favorite activities. ALSO I have mostly stopped going to Whole Foods. One week I checked out and my cart came to over $500. Just no. I am currently doing a weekly Publix trip, always on Sundays. Some things I guy organic (usually the store brand, Greenwise) and for other things I just . . . compromise.

Meal plan/list is completed just prior to heading out so it’s fresh in my mind. Usually I cook Sundays + our nanny cooks on Tuesday & Thursdays. Saturdays of course = take out night 🙂 (MY FAVE)

this week’s dinner:
Run Fast Eat Slow turkey chili + kale-cheddar scones from Milk Street Mag
A&C liked it all + G liked the scone (who wouldn’t?) . I’ll take it.
Yes she is covered in paint

5- I — and the kids — will go crazy if we can’t go on 32 outings every weekend, including play dates & community adventures. Yeah, no one has gone crazy yet. And in a way our days at home/around the neighborhood have been more relaxing than our prior lifestyle. I honestly never would have thought.

I’m sure our willingness to relax prior screen time rules has been part of this, and we are lucky that G takes a SOLID afternoon nap — gives everyone a break. But active mornings (with outdoor component) + lazier afternoons at home have been our current template and it’s been . . . fine. They find things to do.

6- My kids need to be enrolled in multiple structured formal activities (even at preschool ages). Yeah, no. I do want A&C to pick up a sport again — any organized sport/athletic activity of their choosing. And it would be great if they would each have *one* other thing (art, music, drama — pick one). But I think that’s plenty. And I also don’t think it needs to start nearly as young as we did — A was going to ballet at 3. It was cute but really . . . was it all that impactful or necessary? Or just something to do because it was there?

7- It would be really hard to live on less than half of our salaries. MAJOR CAVEAT: I recognize that we are very VERY lucky not to have had our income impacted by the pandemic (YET, anyway — one thing I have learned during this time is that even jobs or career paths that seem rock steady may not be).

We started out 2020 really working on being more frugal. It is embarrassing to admit this, but when we were living in Miami Beach we were really only saving the minimum amount. We were tracking expenses (YNAB), but every time $$$ seemed to accumulate in our emergency fund there was some other giant bill due (like property tax or a broken A/C) that basically . . . brought it way back down again. Our savings rate was something like 5-7%, I think, and that was basically just the $ that was dumped automatically into retirement plans.

We are spending significantly less now (and also earning a bit more), and when I did the calculation the other day I realized that at least from Jan-May, we spent just over half of our take-home pay. And this is after funding 403(b) / 457 plans for each of us. I am really happy about this. (CAVEAT #2 – we have not yet filed our 2019 taxes and this may put in a significant dent. Documents are all in; waiting for our accountant to finish! Suspenseful.)

Some of the expenditures will come back eventually I am sure (family travel!) but I think a lot of this is due to the much lower cost of living in our current home/area. (Yep, we moved in Jan 2019 and we probably would have done well with saving last year too, BUT we couldn’t sell our house and thus spent the entire year paying mortgage & rent AND sold at a loss. Oh well! Getting through that was actually good practice living below our means.)

8- I need to have many trips & adventures to look forward to in order to be happy. So – I don’t feel like “zero” is the right number. But I had 4 trips planned between March and June and not going on any of them was actually . . . kind of a relief. I remember looking ahead at my 2020 schedule and thinking “Really SHU? That’s kind of . . . a lot.” But all of the opportunities / conferences seemed worthwhile at the time.

I think that one big trip/year and maybe some smaller ventures to see family is probably about right for us. AND a couples weekend or two (as noted above).

9- I need to see my friends in person in order to feel connected. I have . . . not missed having a social life? I don’t know what that says about me. But I mostly haven’t. I have enjoyed Zoom chats every other week with my college friends (although the last one I was solo-wrangling the kids while on it b/c Josh was at work, and that was tough). We did a Facetime cocktail hour with our local friends on Saturday and that we nice, too. But I am not craving a ton more.

I could happily go another 12 months (or years . . . ) without big work parties/social events. Don’t tell anyone. I would love to go out for a happy hour every couple of months. That would suffice 🙂

I DO miss seeing local family. We haven’t ventured to see Josh’s parents (40 min away in our old neighborhood) for health reasons. But maybe a socially distanced trip soon . . .

10- Summer camp is essential for kids. Apparently it is not. 2 weeks in and mine are doing fine following the prior schedule. Annabel loves her workbook (which means it is probably slightly too easy . . . but whatever). G is going to hopefully start some swim lessons at our house. I am not sure “camp for the entire summer as default” will be something we plan on in the future even in post-pandemic times.

WELL. THERE YOU GO. I have a packed week up ahead so . . . posts after this may be short.


  • Reply Grateful Kae June 15, 2020 at 8:08 am

    I have also not really missed a social life. Recently my son had his first outdoor “activity” (some organized workouts for his swim team in a park), and several of the moms in the parking lot were exclaiming, ” Ahh! It’s so great to SEE people!!” And I remember thinking, Hmm, I feel rather indifferent about this. LOL!

  • Reply Tamara Cohen June 15, 2020 at 8:56 am

    I am still in my 20s and have admittedly, secretly, enjoyed having a “valid” excuse for the last 3 months to not go out and see people. I still want to go out and do things-go for a picnic, go for a drink or out to eat, but not all the time. So what does that say about ME? Haha!

  • Reply Omdg June 15, 2020 at 8:56 am

    This post is exactly what I needed to read this morning. So much this!!! In fact, my husband and I are going on a “date” in a few min to drive to my kid’s school to drop off her school iPad. It will be perfect! We can chat, or listen to music, all with no interruptions.

  • Reply Kathryn K. June 15, 2020 at 9:04 am

    I’ve always been surprised at how go-go-go the lives of some bloggers I read seem to be – of course, everyone is different and I’m probably on the lower end of liking to be on the go – but I wonder how much some of these things – frequent date nights for married couples, many paid activities for kids – came about to be considered standard in some circles mainly due to the success of businesses promoting them and if as it has for you, the pandemic will cause a lot of people to consider if they actually really like all of these outside activities or not.

  • Reply Gillian June 15, 2020 at 9:05 am

    I like this idea of reassessing right now. I tracked my time last week with the intention of thinking what I want to spend time on this summer. Interestingly, we have also been spending a lot less during this time. Some of that is because there is no dining out etc. But it is definitely a good time to save a little extra. Much of what you say rings true to me, but I have to say I do miss date nights (although we do have dinner once a week together after our kids are in bed) and SOME socializing. I do plan to be more selective with socializing going forward. We also plan to keep some of the new family activities including exploring our County parks together and movie and game nights. We will definitely use this as a time to re-calibrate our household.

    • Reply Grateful Kae June 15, 2020 at 9:41 am

      Thanks for mentioning time tracking. I know they and especially Laura talk about it a lot, but I forget sometimes that it’s a good way to reset and reevaluate things. My days have felt like they are slipping away from me too often lately- I think I should maybe track this week too to get a handle on it.

  • Reply Michelle June 15, 2020 at 9:15 am

    I agree with everything except for date nights! Probably because my 2yr old has given up naps, but I am always on with my kids during the day, and then crash when they go to bed. I need to schedule a date in order to even see my husband, preferably during the day so I’m not dead the next day. We had one scheduled for mid March but we cancelled it, but I really wish we hadn’t! Oh well… maybe one day soon!

  • Reply gwinne June 15, 2020 at 9:56 am

    This is interesting. My personal situation is VERY different than yours, and also than many of your regular commenters (working single mother of 8 and 16 y.o.). A lot of what you list here is already something I never do (date night) or rarely do (travel) anyway. My little one can do ONE activity at a time (swimming lesson would be an activity); my teen has a bit more flexibility because they can walk/bus places solo.

    I will say that I’ve enjoyed not driving as much and the general slower pace of family life. My kids are also spending more time together in “high quality” ways. I’ve very much enjoyed attending large meetings (like 20+) online with the video off, as opposed to going to campus.

    But this time has been so so hard for me, and I say that from a place of relative privilege (in terms of race and class, anyway). I’m feeling better now that I have something resembling childcare.

  • Reply Sue June 15, 2020 at 10:22 am

    Loved reading your thoughts here, Sarah. Two comments–1) re: saving and emergency funds, etc–I agree that every time we are making great progress on our savings goals, some massive house or car expense seems to come up and it does make it feel really frustrating.We considered renting during this last move for this reason, but for a variety of reasons, we still bought. just saying I think it can make total financial sense to rent! and 2) I have always felt like my kids are a bit different in that they much prefer staying home to going and doing things/activities. Right now, after three months of being together 24/7, we are all really missing parks and museums…but they don’t miss their structured activities (only one per child) at all. It’s confirmed for me that only doing one activity per child, and sometimes no activities at all, is just fine for our kids. Anyway….loved your thoughts!

  • Reply Stephanie G. June 15, 2020 at 10:30 am

    Super interesting to hear your reflections!

    I am the reader/listener who wrote in with perhaps the first COVID-related question for the podcast… about the virus being the “death or feminism” and how to divide responsibilities at home.

    Now that we’ve been quarantined three-plus months I have more thoughts (but still agree with my original assessment too!).

    I do wonder if some of your contentment with the current situation is because you’re still getting “out” (going to work a couple times a week, etc). I am ok with scaling back our activities, but my mental health has really suffered with not leaving the house/talking to other adults in person AT ALL in months.

    Plus- and you’ve noted this- you still have childcare. HUGE. I dream of childcare more than date nights, vacation, anything really.

    I’m still in a place of immense privilege… my husband and I are still both employed and have the luxury to work from home to keep ourselves and our family safe. (And we welcomed our baby girl the last weekend in May!).

    BUT, it is hard and we definitely have some “quarantine fatigue” and I am looking forward to some simple amenities so much- childcare, seeing family, going on a walk with a friend, letting my son play on the neighborhood playground…

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns June 15, 2020 at 10:44 am

    I agree with most of these as well – or at least the ones that apply to my stage of parenting (our son is 2 so is years away from structured activities/camps/etc). The one I don’t agree on is not missing seeing friends. I am a total introvert but since I am no longer going into the office, I feel pretty isolated. I love my husband but talking things over with him is not the same as talking with girlfriends. So I was majorly on the struggle bus in March and April when book club and girlfriend dinners and such were off the table. But in May and June, I started to get together with girlfriends outdoors for coffee or walks and it’s done wonders for my mental health. I think part of my desperation for friend time is that our son is 2 and it’s a demanding/exhausting (but fun – of course!) stage of life. So I just need an outlet that gives me an excuse to leave our house for 2-3 years without our son… If he was older and could play independently and carry on conversations with me, I might feel differently? We’ll see in like 4-6 years!

    I used to have an incredibly busy go go go go go lifestyle before having our son and that stopped immediately after he was born. I have not missed it one bit. I think I’m finally at the stage where I COULD go away without him but now that is not an option and I don’t strongly desire it so I’m fine with it being a far-off post-vaccine possibility. I do feel like COVID has shown a lot of families that they were overscheduled and need to change that in the future.

  • Reply Jennifer June 15, 2020 at 10:45 am

    Working 100% remotely (for me; my husband still has to go into the office a couple of times a week) has far and away had the biggest impact. Summer camp has been essential for us since the end of daycare as childcare (a nanny/sitter is much less cost-effective for one child so we’ve always gone the group care route), but this summer is definitely changing my assumptions about that, with camp cancellations coinciding with my daughter’s markedly increased maturity and independence. She’s 8 and definitely not ready to just be home all day while her parents are at their offices, but doesn’t need the same level of supervision as a younger child. It hasn’t been as challenging to work from home with her here as I’d anticipated (still challenging, but not AS challenging). Normally my employer requires child care when working from home with elementary school or younger children present, but that’s been lifted until further notice.

    This has also resulted in spending a lot less – I think increased power consumption at home offsets the savings from no commute, but even with school still in session we’re saving on childcare since there’s no after-school program cost.

    Because she is an only child, I am making a few compromises in the name of social interaction that I suspect I might not be doing if she had a sibling; she and a neighbor the same age (also an only child) ride their bikes around the block together, climb trees in each other’s yards, etc. Basically the same things we see the sibling groups in the neighborhood doing, they just don’t hang out inside together. And barring a major local outbreak I’m still sending her to a couple of weeks of farm camps where it will be small groups of children in wide-open spaces. (Camps I wouldn’t normally be able to send her to because they don’t have late after-camp care!)

  • Reply Beth @ Parent Lightly June 15, 2020 at 11:19 am

    I love this! COVID has actually confirmed a lot of my instincts, and I agree with a lot of your observations! Here are mine so far.
    1) Date Nights: We have never really done “date nights” and never felt like it was necessary. We usually work out together without kids once a week and that’s great.
    2) After school: We’ve realized that after school care probably isn’t necessary. The girls did fine entertaining themselves during quarantine for a couple of hours in the afternoon so they could easily entertain themselves after school for an hour or so assuming one of us is WFH.
    3) Working from Home: I’m SO MUCH more productive working from home. Less driving and less peopling is really great for me. I know it’s important to see people occasionally but I feel like the optimal level of face time isn’t as high as people might think.
    4) Activities: I love so much that we aren’t running to an activity every evening and weekend. I have actually never wanted to do this but somehow it ramped up over time. My preference is one weeknight and one weekend half day only for scheduled activities but that is tough.
    5) Grocery shopping: I don’t hate grocery shopping as much as I thought! In a way it’s easier to just make a list and grab whatever looks good. Contrary to my pre-COVID belief, I can get the weekly shopping done in 30-45 minutes.

  • Reply Danielle June 15, 2020 at 11:56 am

    I think it’s so interesting that you’re not missing seeing your friends in person. I remember reading the blog years ago and hearing how much you were wishing for a sense of community and group of friends. Maybe it’s just that you’ve created your own pack at home…

  • Reply Jordan June 15, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    It’s fascinating reading your list and the comments. I am incredibly lucky in that Covid hasn’t changed too much of our daily lives, minus the childcare element. My husband and I both work remotely already – me from home and him from a co-working space 5 minutes away. His co-working space recently reopened so he’s thrilled to be back in a quiet office.

    • Reply Jordan June 15, 2020 at 12:08 pm

      Hit enter too soon! One thing that feels really different is less pressure to be social. We moved to our city 2 years ago and have been putting in a ton of effort to make new friends. We are both extroverts and social people who love to entertain – we always felt like it was frustrating the people didn’t reciprocate or were flaky. My kids are little – 1 and 3, so it is nice to have adult friends with similar-aged kids that we like to hang out with and can spend time together, but during Covid we’ve been completely isolated. I do feel like this will set us back with developing real friendships with people since it felt like such a struggle to maintain/build friendships before with everyone’s busy lives. It feels like now people have an excuse to just not try at all.

      • Reply Marcia (OrganisingQueen) June 17, 2020 at 10:57 am

        Yes, Jordan, I agree with you. I’m an extrovert and mostly the initiator in any friend date/ social. I do feel like my friendships and relationships are suffering because people have more of an excuse to not try. I don’t want to think about what this means just yet…….

        I have a very social job – meetings and client and inter-company talking all the day long (which I love) and not having that feels like I’m missing a large part of my enjoyment.

        I guess I still need to do some work on routines. Honestly when our gyms open, i’ll be 100% happier – I have realised I’m not someone who likes exercising in her study all on her own.

  • Reply Amanda June 15, 2020 at 12:23 pm

    This is so interesting! Here are my similar realizations:
    2. Similar to your running realization, I’ve done a 180 with my workout location mentality. I have always preferred in-studio workouts (yoga, Pilates, barre, etc) to at-home, so much so that at-home workouts were emergency only, yet now that local studios are reopening, I’m not even interested. I’ve been doing mostly livestream workouts, so I still feel a sense of community/connection with the instructors and other students via IG comments or post-workout Zoom chats. And the money I have saved. Wow.
    4. Some Publix have larger organic/Greenwise selections than others, so try various locations near you to find the one you prefer. There are 3 close to me, and I know one is great, one is okay and one is stay away.
    9. I agree and yet…we’ll need to figure out something eventually. 😉 The amount of time I spend on the phone/Facetime/texting with my friends has definitely increased over the past 3 months, and I’m okay with that. I still just as connected as ever. The toughest for me has not been seeing my parents in person. It will be 4 months by the time I see them, which is a record for us (and not that long for most people).

  • Reply LDMN June 15, 2020 at 12:44 pm

    Thank you for sharing your insights!! The game changer for me and my husband was getting child care at the beginning of June after not having it for 2.5 months. Our summer nanny returned … to save our lives and sanity. Before then I was honestly losing it. I cannot underscore this enough: This privilege has changed my whole concept of the “stay at home” experience. If you are someone struggling without childcare, I highly recommend looking into it — even finding a high school or college kid to come in 2-4 hours a day can relieve some of that pressure. Our nanny and kids are here about 90% of the time, but it’s a relief having someone manage their food, help them with activities, etc. (My kids are 6 & 9).

    • Reply Marina June 15, 2020 at 1:56 pm

      100% having childcare is a game changer and can completely change how we as parents feel about the quarantine. Especially with little ones (mine are 4 and 1.5). I agree with a lot of your list, Sarah, as we didn’t really feel the need to do too many activities or social events before and feel comfortable with that now, but things like date nights and camps (or daycare in our case) are important as it gives us time away from the kids and is better for everyone’s mental health.

      P.S. Thanks for having Jennifer Nagel on your show – I’m looking into strength training for the first time as well, and am looking into her program!

  • Reply Natalie June 15, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Things are so hard right now, I wish I felt that positively about life. Both my husband and I primarily work from home , with some in-hospital /clinic work. The hardest part is that we have very limited childcare. My 9 year old needs constant emotional support and my 1 year old needs to be watched like a hawk to ensure that he doesn’t hurt himself. It never ends and I am exhausted.

    We don’t have an equitable division of labor in our house, likely because my husband’s standards for cleanliness are a lot lower. House cleaning companies are still shut down in our state, and even when they reopen I’m not sure if it’s safe to have them back. Today we found out that a company made over $8000 in fraudulent withdrawals from our bank account, and our babysitter asked that her hours be reduced even further. I know tomorrow I will feel better, but today I am just so sad and exhausted, especially when looking ahead to the fall and knowing that we won’t be even close to getting back to normal school-wise. Maybe 2022 will be my year– thank you for letting me vent 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 15, 2020 at 3:16 pm

      Oh Natalie that is all SO HARD. I’m sorry. Maybe even 2021 will be better? Hoping for you.

      • Reply Natalie June 15, 2020 at 9:19 pm

        Thank you <3

  • Reply Canuck June 15, 2020 at 11:32 pm

    I think maybe what you mean by “it would be really hard to live on less than half our salaries” is “we would have to significantly change our lifestyle to live on half our salaries.”
    I have no doubt that everyday you both work alongside people at the hospital who are raising 3 kids on less than half your household income, and many that are making half of one of your incomes.
    I think that’s something that those of us who make multiples of the average annual household income should always keep in mind, COVID or not.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 16, 2020 at 5:20 am

      YES YES YES. I actually struggled to state how I meant that because I realized how ridiculous it sounded. That is a MUCH better way to word it!

  • Reply Marci Gilbert June 16, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    I like this post and can relate to a lot, especially camps, a full social calendar for adults and kids. We are currently in Florida and we drove (10 hours!) which I never thought we could do with a 2.5 year old but we did it. I also used to dread even single days off of school with no plans, but I am positive I can handle that now! I hope some of the zoom meetings stick around rather than gathering people and needing to get a sitter.

  • Reply Lee June 22, 2020 at 6:54 am

    I agree with pretty much all of these, except the summer camp one. Alex needs camp! My salary was impacted (15% pay cut) but it’s been ok because it’s sort of been offset by stuff we haven’t been doing. Also, you are not of advanced age!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 22, 2020 at 7:06 am

      I am *very* glad camps are open! We would absolutely need camp if we didn’t have childcare AND I think it’s actually sort of a plus that we have 3 kids – they entertain each other.

      (not a plus during school but summer – it works)

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