Spotlight: Tiny virus holds the purse strings

Muscat: If you ask anyone how the coronavirus changed lives, answers vary from financial losses and job cuts to different lifestyle and working. For children, it is a challenging time as schools are closed and classes held online.

Although the pandemic has appended our lives in many ways, the fact is that the unseen microbe has made some obvious changes, especially in spending.

A recent Facebook post read, “At first my savings occurred naturally as there was less opportunity to leave the house and do activities, but seeing how much I was able to save made me realise that I had been spending my money much more carelessly that I was aware. Now I have a plan to save and get myself ahead.”

Some of those savings can be attributed to the fact that people stayed home and didn’t do things like going abroad to spend annual vacation, stay in hotels or dine out.

Tariq al Lawati says he could save a substantial amount in just two months as his annual tour plan was cancelled due to the pandemic.

“Every year, my family of five would go to different foreign destinations to spend summer holidays spending a good amount of money. This year, due to the pandemic, we stayed home, that too without much expenditure”, said Tariq.

Consumers have recognised, albeit belatedly, that current shopping patterns were not based on critical need but driven by a market economy and often fed by an aggressive advertising machine.

Edwin Gomez has a different tale when he speaks about what the pandemic helped him develop money saving skills.

“Against our normal shopping habit, we have learned to go to the grocery store not every day, but once a week, which means meal planning and shopping with an essential list,” he said.

While Arun Srivastava said he saved money not only on several fronts including travel and food but also on his grooming.

“I was spending a lot of money on weekend travel and food. Once the pandemic hit, I had to start cooking for myself and travel coming to a complete halt,” he said.

But Mubarak al Wahaibi said his utility bills have gone up in the recent months due to staying home.

“My bills for electricity and water have almost doubled as we spend more time indoors unlike before the outbreak of the pandemic. All are at home now”, he said.

According to experts, the main objective for families during this time of pandemic is to preserve cash flow flexibility, regardless of whether somebody has extra finances or they are directly impacted.

“A lot of the money that well-off people aren’t spending right now is money that lower-paid people would normally receive as income. What is good for a wallet is don’t overspend on anything even if they are essentials. But if you still find yourself frequently ordering takeout, try cutting back and cooking more meals at home,” advises Dr Rohit Sharma, a financial expert.