Over the next few weeks, and very possibly months, we will have to get used to a new way of living. So how do we adjust to a Church without public Masses? How can we help the most vulnerable? And might there be opportunities to live better lives than we did before? This week, six writers offer their suggestions for thriving in a lockdown. Here, Sophie Caldecott writes on spending wisely.
While the economic impact of global quarantine looks undeniably bleak, there could be a silver lining: what if we treat this situation as a wake-up call, an opportunity to change the way we live and shop for the better?
This disruption provides us all with the unique opportunity to pause and think about what kind of world we’d like to see on the other side. As small businesses face the crippling financial repercussions of Covid-19, it’s more important than ever to be a conscious consumer. If you’re still getting a regular income, the way you choose to spend it can help keep those who don’t have a guaranteed source of income afloat during these difficult times.
Businesses connected with the performing arts, events, tourism and hospitality are likely to be among the hardest hit right now. If you possibly can, consider postponing instead of cancelling any bookings you had made before the travel restrictions came into place. That empty social calendar doesn’t have to stay empty forever; supporting these businesses now means that they might still be around when the danger of Covid-19 passes.
Another practical way to help is to buy vouchers for your favourite local independent restaurant, café, gallery, hotel, or theatre that you can use once the pandemic has passed – something to look forward to for you, and a lifeline during a tough financial time for them. Find out if any local restaurants are offering a takeaway service during their closure, so that you can enjoy the occasional pre-cooked meal at home during quarantine. If you attend a regular class, have a monthly gym or other membership, or provide financial support to your church via donations in the collection plate, consider whether you can stay signed up and keep paying your dues online to tide them over through this difficult time.
Support small businesses by shopping from independent makers and craftspeople online whenever possible; find out if the local shops and markets you usually visit in person have a website, and find out what they’re offering in terms of delivery and click-and-collect services. Many will be sharing news and updates about how their customers can support them and keep using their services.
Following your favourite businesses on social media, liking and sharing their posts, signing up for their email newsletters, giving them positive feedback, and leaving them positive reviews can have a deeper impact than you might think. As well as boosting morale, all of these little things help increase someone’s visibility online, which in turn will help other people to find them.
Finally, being a conscious consumer during the Covid-19 pandemic also means only buying what you actually need. Trust that there will be enough essential goods to go around in the long term, and don’t stockpile food and key household items. We’ve all seen the empty shelves and heard stories of vulnerable elderly people and exhausted NHS workers struggling to find necessary supplies.
Most shops now have restrictions on the number of single items you can buy, but even with those rules in place, ask yourself if you actually need something before you buy it, and never buy in excess of your needs. If you do find yourself with a little extra, consider donating to your local food bank to help out people in your community who don’t have enough.
The empty shelves in our local supermarkets are a sign of the power of collective panic, but they’re also a sign of the collective positive power we could have as consumers. Let’s choose hope over panic. Never has there been a better time in history to vote with your wallet – so choose wisely.
Sophie Caldecott is a freelance writer. See sophiecaldecott.com