MINDFUL

By Jay Ledesma

ANYONE who has attended a webinar, or has hosted a party over zoom, or has ordered groceries or medicines to be delivered at home; or has watched a concert via live streaming for the first time will agree that the covid-19 crisis has profoundly changed our spending behaviors overnight. The lockdowns, quarantines, and health protocols forced us to change and adjust the way we are spending, what we are spending on and what we give value to. Allow me to share some of these changes which I have personally experienced and observed since the start of the pandemic. Guess what, they’re not bad at all. 

1. Flight to the online platform

With our movements restricted, social distancing, and work from home arrangements, we have no recourse but to maximize the accessibility that digital technology has to offer. Suddenly, we saw a surge in online shops and selling. Almost everything is now being sold and offered online, from food, clothing, medicines, plants, animals to seminars, podcasts, and consultations. In just one click, you can have them delivered right to your doorstep. Online shops like Shopee and Lazada are having a field day during this pandemic. Likewise, both government and private companies have also migrated most of their products and services into the digital space. 

While this shift to online selling affects almost everyone across the different generations, it is mainly driven by the Gen Ys and Zs. They lead online purchases specifically on food delivery, at-home entertainment, and fashions. Other generations still show a higher preference for face-to-face transactions.        

But analysts are saying that with more people experiencing the convenience of the online platform, digital shopping is here to stay, even after the pandemic. 

2. More consumers supporting local and small brands 

This health crisis has prompted a more conscious intent and desire among Filipino consumers to support local entrepreneurs. More people are now buying locally made goods and produce to help drive the local economy. For instance, when doing our weekly grocery, I observed that more people are now buying canned goods made by local companies instead of the imported ones. Even when buying clothing and footwear items, more people are patronizing the small and local business owners. Before the pandemic, I used to buy our veggies and fruits from the big groceries. But now, I buy freshly harvested veggies and fruits from a sidewalk vendor.  Not only am I getting them fresh and at a cheaper price but am able to support better our local farmers. 

3. Value for money is important more than ever

With almost all households on a tight budget, Filipino consumers are looking for products and services where they can get more value for their money. Nowadays, brands don’t matter as much as the quality and value consumers get from what they are buying. And with the information made available in one click, it is so easy for consumers now to compare your products and services with those of others in the market. This puts every business owner on their toes as a brand name is not a guarantee of customer loyalty. The one who can give/offer better quality for the least amount is what consumers are going for. 

4. Rise of homebody spending

With more and more people staying and spending more time at home, there has been a marked increase in home-related spendings. While we are all excited to already go out, still a majority is hesitant to resume regular outside activities for fear of contracting the virus. As such, we busy and pre-occupy ourselves with activities done in the safety of our homes. Activities that allowed us to have more bonding moments with our family members. Food deliveries as families are now enjoying more mealtime together, use of online entertainment as family members bond watching those Netflix movies or playing Call of Duty, and orders for home decors and accessories as home improvement is a favorite family project, are topping the home expense category.  

The work and study from home pushed the sales of computers (desktop and laptops) to an unprecedented level. Parents do not mind investing in those laptops as needed by their children either for work or study. The different computer shops in Davao are almost always out-of-stock of their laptops. You have to place your order at least a month in advance to secure a unit. There’s also a substantial increase in pet and plant ownership.  People have more free time to take care of pets and grow plants.  Remember, this pandemic gave birth to the Plantitas and Plantitos.    

5. Awareness of financial products 

The Covid-19 pandemic, being a health crisis, made Filipinos more aware and conscious of their health and financial wellness. From what we have heard and read, we know how expensive it can be to be hospitalized due to covid. Sadly, the majority of those who died or get hospitalized do not have the needed health or life insurance plans so they have to pay their medical expenses out of their own pockets, leaving a big dent in their savings. But we also realized that we don’t even have to be sick or hospitalized to feel the pinch of the virus in our pocket. The unemployment resulting from quarantines and lockdowns caught many people financially unprepared. Because of this, people are now making sure that a portion of their budget is properly allocated for savings, health, and life insurance plans. Those with more means are making smart investments while market prices are at a bargain.    

Indeed, the pandemic allowed us to examine and change for the better how we are spending our hard-earned money. The challenge is how to sustain them post-Covid, since most of these were forced to us by the pandemic. How confident are we that as soon as everything is back to the “old normal”, we don’t find ourselves back in our old spending habits? As I read in one article, “If you are forced to do something and you don’t really embrace from a mindset shift, then the second you have the ability to do the other things, you're going back to that behavior because you really didn’t embrace the change”.   

Let’s be mindful that the key to a real and long-lasting change in our spending is to set a clear financial goal with specific results. For instance, be clear with your retirement goal…when you intend to retire, how much retirement fund you need, and how much to regularly set aside. Give your new spending and saving behavior a purpose that will inspire and keep you on track. This is the only way you can stick with your goal and continue setting aside even when there are opportunities (temptations) to spend on other items.       

About the Columnist

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Ms. Jay Ledesma writes about local tourism and business bits that delve on investments and insurance.