We’ve all experienced the effects of lockdown restrictions on our daily lives. Everything from cancelled vacations to postponed family gatherings and celebrations. But one (perhaps unanticipated) side effect you might also be experiencing is some extra money in your bank account.

The options we have available to spend our money are more limited than ever and Julie Sarich, one of Servus’s branch managers, is sharing how she too has seen some surprising benefits.

Julie Sarich, Lethbridge Crossings Branch Manager, speaks from personal experience about the change she’s seen in her spending during COVID-19 and shares how to take advantage of this chance to create new financial habits.

1. In a sense, this pandemic has been a crash financial diet. What can I learn from how my spending has changed?

Like many of us can relate to, Julie herself spent two weeks in self-isolation in March. “We didn’t go anywhere during quarantine,” she says. “Then I saw there was way more money than usual in my bank account.”

Even if you haven’t been in full quarantine, you’re probably noticing a similar decrease in your spending simply as a result of having less opportunity to do so.

“I started thinking,” says Julie, “did I really need that daily coffee?” With so much of our daily spending wrapped up in our normal routines (commutes, school/work life, etc.), there’s been a big disruption in what we’re buying, or more accurately, not buying.

“There’s so much unconscious spending,” she says. “This has shown us, even forced us, to think critically about how we spend our money.”

Julie suggests taking time to look back at your transaction history. What have you managed to live without, but also where has your spending shifted and possibly increased? Her advice is to dig deep and focus on how it makes you feel.

“Ask yourself: are you really missing thing you used to think you couldn’t live without, or does having the money in your account feel better? How much online shopping did you do? Would you feel better now if you had that money back?”

2. How might this “new normal” actually be a new financial habit I’ve created?

They say it takes 30 days to create a new habit. Since we’ve spent double that amount of time in lockdown, you might have a new perspective on how you prioritize your spending.

“What are our values — they show up in how we’re spending or not spending our money,” Julie says.

Everything from gym memberships to our choice to support local businesses — there are things we can learn about ourselves based on how we’ve either eliminated certain expenses or refocused our spending on what’s truly important to us.

“We’re all going through this together and now (more than ever) we can all relate to one another,” says Julie. She suggests an accountability buddy to lean on for support.

“Don’t buy things you don’t need and hold yourself accountable for keeping the habit going forward.”

3. We know there’s the potential for a second wave. As we go back to work, what’s your advice around how to save money (just in case) in a short period of time?

“You don’t have to put a lot of money aside at once to have a fallback position,” Julie says. Though the dollar goal may seem lofty at first, Servus has tools to help you make it manageable.

“With members we talk about Top-Up Savings a lot because it’s automatic,” she says. Julie refers to the Top-Up Savings tool available in Servus online banking that allows you to automatically transfer money to your savings account with each point of sale transaction you make using your Member Card.

It’s easy she says, “as little as $5 when you buy groceries or a coffee at Tim Hortons!”

“There becomes an addictive element,” Julie says. “They’ll ask themselves ‘how can I save more?’ as they see their savings grow.” Basically, it’s all about paying yourself first she says. “Sometimes setting aside 10% of your cheque seems like a chore, but once you create that habit – if there’s a second wave, you’ll have savings.”

Having the time to dig deep into your bank account — your spending and your savings habits — can help you feel a sense of control during these uncertain times. If you’re looking for guidance, Servus financial advisors are always available to help.