For this Money Microstep Challenge series, we challenged Thrive staffers to test some financial Microsteps — small, science-backed actions you can start taking immediately to build habits that significantly improve your life — and write about their experiences. The result? Some very honest and encouraging reflections, like this one.
One year ago, had you asked my fiancé or me about our hopes and plans for our wedding day, I could safely say neither of us would have mentioned an infectious disease or physical distancing. And yet, here we are, less than a week away from our planned wedding date, which, thanks to the coronavirus crisis, has now been postponed.
With all the sudden changes happening to and around us, we wanted to be proactive about managing the emotional and financial toll of this pandemic. Over half of individuals reported feeling a strain on their relationship with their significant other as a result of the pandemic, according to a Thrive Global and Discover survey of 1,000 Americans — and we sensed that not talking about money would be a surefire way to land us in that group.
With this in mind, we committed to trying this Microstep together over the course of a month:
To make sure we followed through on this commitment, we scheduled weekly catch-ups. We used the time to discuss whatever financial concerns either of us were having, and that led to open discussions around our spending habits and a review of recent purchases (something we weren’t in the habit of doing before). This practice has been extremely helpful for us in three key ways:
1. We’re less stressed — and becoming healthier.
First and foremost, these weekly check-ins have helped us alleviate some general and finance-related anxiety and tension we’ve both been feeling, and made it possible to identify easy ways that we can be saving more. Having noticed an upward trend in our spending around takeout and delivery for dinner, for example, we agreed on a target number of meals each week that we’ll be cooking at home. This has helped us save hundreds of dollars in the past month alone, while also helping us improve our eating habits. (And, as an unexpected benefit, I’ve also become a far better chef as a result!)
2. We’re better savers.
Given the current uncertainty around the economy and our desire to protect our financial well-being post-pandemic, we’ve both decided to transfer a set amount from our paychecks each month into a savings account that neither of us withdraw from. Hopefully in a few months this will be a fantastic additional “honeymoon fund” that we can use to take a (more!) fabulous vacation after our rescheduled wedding. But even if we don’t use the money for a honeymoon, it’s giving us great comfort to know that we’ll have a bit more financial security through these challenging and uncertain times.
3. We’re helping each other avoid negative thinking.
During our weekly check-ins, we’ve both agreed to do our best to shift our mindsets and reflect on what is (and is not) within our control. Obviously we’re both extremely disappointed to have to postpone our wedding, but to ruminate on this and other non-ideal circumstances would, in reality, do little good. In fact, research shows that harping on negative life events can harm your mental health and prevent you from making rational decisions. Instead of ruminating over what’s “wrong,” we’re choosing to focus on the big and small positives in our lives — like our health and the fact that our dog, Chase, brings us so much joy — and what we can be doing today to better ourselves.
Through the small action of scheduling financial check-ins, we’re taking back control of our financial and overall well-being, supporting one another, helping each other shift our mindset, and ultimately setting ourselves up for the brightest future possible. As we all adapt and adjust to life in this new normal, that, for us, has been a huge positive step forward.