During a time of intense uncertainty, one way to ease our anxiety is by helping someone else. Serving others connects and comforts us and can manifest in myriad ways. We can support people emotionally (by listening and loving), physically (by hugging our quarantined cohort) or financially.
While many of us are facing new financial constraints, I’ve done my best to outline ways that we can consider being a conscious consumer during this time. Some cost money, while others are free, so think of these options like a buffet – pick what works!
1. Keep the subscriptions you can afford to maintain.
Workout studio or day care closed for the next month? If your budget allows, keep paying for your monthly subscription even though you won’t be able to partake in their services. You’re helping to keep their business running, from covering the rent to paying their employees.
2. Buy what you need.
Buy only what you need, and leave the rest for someone else who needs it too. When one person hoards, it creates a cycle of panic that encourages others to hoard, as well.
Hoarding also makes it that much harder for lower-income families to get what they need, either because their budget requires that they buy as they go, or because WIC- and EBT-eligible products sell out. (Remember, not everything at the grocery store is covered for people who depend on these types of benefits to get their groceries, so if the goods they need are gone, they’re out of options.) Remember, too, that older citizens, who are at a higher health risk regarding COVID-19, don’t always have the capability to bolt out to the store the instant they need something. Do your part to make sure goods are still left on the shelves for them when they get there.
3. Order local, if possible.
Many restaurants in the US that are open are only able to serve via take out and delivery. Even with these options, some have lost up to 90% of their revenue. You can help keep their doors open by ordering! With delivery services around the country rolling out contact-free dropoff options, you can do this while taking the necessary safety precautions for both you and the person making the delivery. Local restaurants, in particular, need to receive a certain amount of delivery orders each day to keep paying their employees and keep their kitchen open, so every order counts. And you still get to enjoy your favorite local meals – it’s a win-win.
4. Pre-pay for services you plan to use later.
If you have a regular babysitter, nail technician, physical therapist, or other service-based business you won’t be using this month, you can still help them manage their personal cash flow. Pre-pay for the services you know you’ll use down the line when it’s safe to do so.
5. Tell in-person service providers that you’re game to take things online.
If you have a music teacher, tutor, personal trainer (yes, please!), therapist, or any kind of in-person provider, ask if they want to continue sessions online.
6. Wipe down what you touch.
While scientists are still narrowing down the exact amount of time that COVID-19 can live on certain services, what they do know is that it does sit for a while on certain objects that you’ve touched. So be a good neighbor by wiping down anything you touch in a public space, or wearing gloves to touch things you can’t wipe down. Leave everything safer than you found it for the sake of the next person!
7. Shop and deliver necessities for others.
Just because we can’t touch each other doesn’t mean we can’t help each other! Reach out to your neighbors to see who might be in need. Offer to do grocery shopping or pharmacy pick-ups for immune-compromised or elderly neighbors. Many people with higher health risks don’t feel safe to leave their homes at ALL right now, even for necessities, and they don’t always have family nearby to help. Help lift them up so they can feel safe. Leave any goods you buy for them outside their door so they can pick it up contact-free, and sanitize anything that you can.
Even if all your neighbors are relatively low-risk, you can help each other out by creating collective grocery shopping plans, in which you take turns doing the shopping for everyone in one go. This can help reduce crowding in stores and lower the overall risk to the public.
8. Buy locally, even if you can get the product from a larger corporation.
Let’s say your cat is running low on her favorite treats, and Amazon stocks them. Instead of getting them through Amazon, could you place an order for the treats with your local vet, who is struggling to keep the lights on right now? Same product, with local benefits. Take stock of all the products you regularly order from major companies and consider which ones you can follow this practice with.
9. Offer a smile.
Seriously, it helps! You’ve probably noticed a lot of stony expressions these days, and it’s easy to understand why. People are scared, and they’re feeling alone. Many are under enormous pressure to keep businesses afloat, make ends meet, and protect their family’s health at the same time. With the physical distancing on top of it all, it’s easy to get the impression that it’s every person for themselves – but it’s not. And even without physical contact, you can make powerful connections. Smiling or waving hello to people you pass on walks or errands (from a safe 6-foot distance!) is something everyone can do, for free, to tell our neighbors that we see them in their struggles. And that we’re all in this together.