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  • Peter Francis Fenwick

Discretionary Saving

Shopping Again

For the time being there are lots of things we cannot spend our money on. What will we do with the money we save?

In response to the threat of mass contagion from the coronavirus, the government has closed many businesses.

They have exhorted us to keep our distance from each other. Where we do congregate, we are being asked to keep a metre and a half apart. For hygiene reasons, payment by credit card is preferred to cash. Visits to the elderly have been curtailed. Workers are being encouraged to work from home where possible.

Air travel is banned. Hotels, bars and restaurants are shut. Cinemas, theatres, sporting venues, and churches are closed. Personal services are banned or curtailed. It is possible that public transport will cease operating soon.

We face a winter alone in our own homes. Now we must live our lives without the overseas holiday, without the dinners at restaurants, without drinks at the pub or coffee shop, without going to the G to watch the footy, without going to the theatre or the cinema or concerts or the art gallery, without going to church, without playing tennis or golf. Our excursions will be limited to shopping, mainly for food and medicines, our exercise to a walk in the park. Even the beaches are banned, and the Botanic Gardens is closed.

Many of us will work from home. Life will be boring. We will miss the interactions with our friends, our workmates and our grandchildren. But it is possible. At least for a short while.

The businesses that the government has shut down are the non-essential ones. It is worthwhile pondering just how much we spend on these now forbidden pleasures. Just how much do we spend on discretionary items. How much of the average household budget is spent in this way? 10%? 20%? 30%? Whatever. Now it won't be. The question is `How will this windfall be used`? Will it be spent on other items – new cars or TVs, home maintenance, clothing or jewellery? Or will it be saved, used to pay off the mortgage? My guess is the latter.

We won't decide not to buy. We will just be too cautious. Without any conscious decision, we will save. But when the crisis is over, we will have the funds to spend on things that delight us.



"Australian households poured more than $13bn into savings in the 12 months to October 2020" David Ross, The Australian, November 30 2020

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