When Lori Levy looks back on the past year, she is painfully aware of what she missed because of the pandemic. Her son did not have a personal school diploma and she has gone for almost two years without seeing her daughter, who lives in California.
But there were small silver linings: she saved money on fuel, on-campus parking, and fewer meals in the restaurant. With the savings, she helped her son buy a car for college and plans a trip to California later that year.
“It’s just nice to know you have this money when you need it,” said Levy, a nurse in the clinical education and professional development department.
During the pandemic, most Duke employees changed their spending habits, creating opportunities to save money.
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According to the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, Americans’ personal saving rate – the percentage of disposable income that was saved – rose from 8.3 percent in February 2020 to 33.7 percent in April 2020. It remained high in January 2021 20.5 percent.
“On the one hand, the waters are murky, and on the other, people have extra cash,” said Benjamen Parker, a retirement planner with Fidelity, the lead record holder for Duke’s Faculty and Staff Retirement Plan. “So now you want to know what to do with that extra money?”
As you ponder how the pandemic has affected your financial situation, think about how some coworkers have found ways to save money.
Be smart with additional savings
Often, when speaking to Duke employees asking for financial advice, Parker begins by recommending people to build a household budget.
If you haven’t already, a budget is the easiest way to see where your money is going and to make sure it covers important expenses and priorities, such as spending time and money. B. Retirement provision and emergency savings.
Fidelity recommends the 50/15/5 approach, where 50 percent of your income is used for essentials, 15 for retirement savings and five for emergency savings. The ideal amount of emergency savings would be enough to cover expenses for three to six months.
When it comes to the extra money saved from lifestyle changes caused by pandemics, Parker recommends using the money to pay off high-yield debt like credit cards or to build an emergency fund or increase your pension contribution.
After a one-year suspension of contributions to the faculty and employee benefit plan due to the financial pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic, the contributions will be returned as planned on July 1, 2021.
Casual savings on clothing
Using a whiteboard, several computer monitors, and constellations of sticky notes on the wall, Emily Jackson has built a home office space that features many of the details of her office on the Erwin Square campus.
A great perk for her home office is that Jackson can wear anything she wants while working, including comfortable sweatpants and casual shirts. This has had an impact on Jackson’s finances as she doesn’t have to buy expensive new work clothes or dry clean her pants, sweaters and blazers.
Prior to the pandemic, Jackson was spending around $ 30 to $ 50 a week on dry cleaning.
“This is definitely a savings for me,” said Jackson, a senior regulatory coordinator for the Pediatrics Division of the Duke School of Medicine.
According to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis consumer spending, Americans spent $ 23.9 billion less on clothing and shoes in the fourth quarter of 2020 than they did in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Jackson also said she appreciates not having to buy as much clothing and when she returns to work locally she hopes to keep her savings momentum going.
“When I look at my clothes I just think, why did I need so much stuff?” Said Jackson. “I think I’ll be more economical when we go back.”
Less trips to gas stations
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, John Owens’ position as senior IT analyst at Duke’s information technology office was removed, meaning he no longer did the roughly 70-minute round-trip drive from his Mebane home to his office had to do on the American Tobacco Campus.
Before the pandemic, he refilled the tank in his Nissan Frontier pickup about every 10 days. He estimates the cost was around $ 150 per month. Now there can be several weeks between top-ups. He said he used the extra money to build his savings.
Data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that Americans spent $ 88.2 billion less on gasoline and other energy goods in the fourth quarter of 2020 than in the fourth quarter of 2019.
The savings are just one of the positive developments Owens saw from working remotely during the pandemic. Owens also values having more time to go outside and stroll, and the opportunity to eat healthier home-cooked meals instead of having lunch at the restaurant
“Obviously we were all scared at first because we didn’t know how it would work and how it would affect us individually,” said Owens. “But finding positive things everywhere was definitely good.”
Since the pandemic began, Kate Davies has worked from home in Wake County with her two children who do schoolwork online.
Without having to drive to campus every day, a walk that can take 45 minutes to an hour, she doesn’t have to worry about looking after her son who is in elementary school.
Not only does Davies save about $ 150 a month on gasoline and another $ 20 a month on her on-campus parking permits, but he also saves $ 100 a month for outside school care. She was able to use these savings to pay off debts and increase her contributions to her retirement account.
But for Davies, an administrative assistant at Duke Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS), the money is far from being a valuable gift as a present for her children.
“Actually, it’s nice,” said Davies. “I’m really enjoying it. I feel like I’m a parent for the first time because I’m not sending them to someone else to take care of them. It was nice to see them learn, eat together, and go to soccer practice.” what I couldn’t before. “
Prior to the pandemic, Emily James, a regional development director for Duke University Development, spent about half of her work days on the street building Duke’s connections with alumni, parents, and friends in places like Chicago, Pittsburgh, Indiana, Iowa, and South Carolina. The rest of the time she would be at work in downtown Durham.
Both at home and on the go, James spent money to eat out while at work. While their meals were covered for business purposes, expenses like a midday coffee were paid out of their own pocket. And when she was working in Durham, she would go to lunch regularly to meet with colleagues she rarely saw.
“Our office was in One City Center, which was great because we had access to a million restaurants,” she said.
Now that she works from home, James estimates that she saves about $ 30 to $ 50 a week if she doesn’t eat out during the day. The US Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that Americans spent $ 194.9 billion less on food and lodging in the fourth quarter of 2020 than in the fourth quarter of 2019.
James used these savings wisely to cover the costs of a tutor who visited her house a few times a week to help her children who were completing their kindergarten and second grade online by the time they started learning in person in February.
“I was grateful to have them,” James said of the tutor. “She was a great help.”
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