Finance Your Budget How the pandemic will forever change our household budgets

How the pandemic will forever change our household budgets

Australians believe the pandemic will have a long-term effect on their spending habits. Photo: TND
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Working from home may have blown a hole in your budget or helped you save on corporate wear, given you can ditch your trousers for pyjama bottoms.

But what does the office exodus mean for your hip pocket?

Regardless of whether you’ve come out on top or bled cash during the pandemic, spending more time at home is likely to have changed how you think about money.

And the effects could linger.

For while Australia is returning to a semblance of normality after months of restrictions, research by the Boston Consulting Group suggests that up to 60 per cent of us want to continue working at home for two or three days a week once the pandemic subsides.

And so, the virus may affect our spending habits for good.

Working from home has left Ms Williams worse off financially and fuelled a new online shopping habit to ensure a chat with the postie.

She bought dehydrated Tasmanian cheese, Western Australian beef jerky, and synthetic pancake moulds even though she doesn’t make pancakes.

“It was such a depressing and dark few months (during lockdown) that the highlight of my day was honestly hearing the postman’s motorbike coming,” she says.

“It got to the point where I was buying little things every day just so I could have a five minute interaction with someone outside my household bubble.

“I just felt so lonely.”

Millions of Australians have worked from home for the first time during the pandemic. Photo: Getty

Pre-COVID, Ms Williams would eat takeaway dinners once a week, but during the pandemic, the meals have become more expensive as the family started to use a premium delivery service of restaurant-prepped, finish-at-home dishes.

Sometimes she would have a coffee sent to her home and the delivery fee cost more than the beverage.

“We got into this pattern where we felt like we needed to reward ourselves,” she says.

“We did crazy stuff you would never do pre-COVID.”

Ms Williams spends more on groceries since she has worked from home and the family’s electricity and gas bills have tripled.

But she spends less on clothing and intends to sell her luxury handbag collection, which Ms Williams estimates to be worth around $35,000.

“The things that mattered to me before were so superficial and the pandemic has made me focus much more on what truly does matter, like family and friends and small freedoms.

“I actually feel really grossed out by having those things (expensive bags) now.”

The Lofti-Jams have saved more money since the couple have both been working from home during the pandemic.

Ms Lofti-Jam says their utility and grocery bills have soared but been more than offset by additional savings.

They no longer fork out $45 on train travel each week. Nor buy lunch and coffee out, which was denting their budget by roughly $100.

“I have probably saved a fortune on coffee alone,” Ms Lofti-Jam says.

Other pre-pandemic expenses, like going out to the movies and buying presents for children’s birthday parties, have disappeared.

Ms Lofti-Jam says working from home has also prompted her to consider not replacing the family’s second car when it becomes unusable.

Boston Consulting Group research shows up to 60 per cent of Australians want to work remotely at least some of the time after the pandemic. Photo: Getty

She cut her working hours, from three days to two, to manage home schooling her daughters, but was able to use leave to ensure her pay remained the same.

But she says this may present an extra childcare cost next year as she won’t be able to take leave during the school holidays.

And the fact hundreds of thousands of Australians have lost their jobs or had their hours cut plays on her mind.

“I don’t go out and make big purchases because you just don’t know (if you might lose your job in the future).”