How to avoid spending money in times of stress

How to avoid spending money in times of stress

I think many of us can relate to the sense of fun or enjoyment that comes from buying something nice. Something which we’ve wanted for a while, or even an impulse purchase. We feel pleased, we have treated ourselves. But being mindful of how to avoid spending money in times of stress is an important skill that feels particularly relevant right now as we deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Resisting that urge was an important part of adapting to my life in France. Stopping treating all of my time here like I was on holiday was an important element of integrating and teaching myself how to be in this country.

But in times of stress, times of panic and sadness, some of the old tools which we have perhaps used in the past to manage our feelings, can feel closer to the surface. This is the focus of this week’s blog post where I reflect on not spending money while transitioning to life in a new country, followed by how transferable that might be to surviving financially in the COVID-19 dominated landscape which we all now live.

Managing our online spending during COVID-19

If I don my psychotherapy hat for a moment – spending money can be a tool which people use to change their emotional state. Whether we are buying a house or a baguette, the transaction moves us from one place to another. House-less, to with-house. Bread-less to with-bread. I’m simplifying this but if you want to read more on the psychology of state change I’ll save that for my counselling blog…

So when bad things happen to us, or we feel stressed or anxious, it becomes very easy – alluring even – to believe that buying something is going to make us happier. It has maybe done so in the past and we are hoping that it will do so again. This may be all fine and good if we can afford to do so. But what if we can’t?

Stress as a risk to our finances

I found myself thinking about those who were just about scraping by before COVID-19 took hold a few weeks ago (is that all?). I wondered how with the restrictions on movement in place, our ability to shop or refill fuel at the most affordable businesses may have been taken away. For those on a reduced income – as so many of we immigrants – pensioners, those living frugally and self-employed here are – this change could put some families in a distinctly tricky place when it comes to balancing our bank accounts.

How to avoid spending money in times of stress

To my mind, knowing how to avoid spending money in times of stress has never been more important. Resisting the urge to change our emotional state using a tool which isn’t good for us can be really hard when we feel uncomfortable. I’m not suggesting that we close our purses completely, we do need to support businesses and independents in this time where we can do so safely – for example, I have just started online French lessons with a teacher in La Reunion. She is a micro-entrepreneur and so am I. I’m proud to support her business and improve my language skills at the same time. But I am not doing so to distract myself from feeling uneasy about COVID-19.

What can we do about it?

If we do spend money – let us simply interrogate why we are doing so. What does this purchase do for me? Am I buying something which will improve my life or happiness, or am I buying something because I need to distract myself from feeling fearful?

Perhaps coming back to Martin Lewis’ Money Mantra is appropriate here:

“Do I need it? Can I afford it? Will I use it? Is it worth it?

How to avoid spending money in times of stress
Credit: Martin Lewis @

If we can answer all of those questions in a way that satisfies us that the purchase is sound, then we should go ahead. But if we are buying things because we are responding to our emotions rather than our needs, then perhaps we should talk it through with someone else, or delay the purchase by a day to see if we still need the thing that feels so essential right now.

Managing our online spending during COVID-19

Just a few thoughts that occurred to me this week. I hope that you’re all keeping well. Stay safe, L

What to do in France under COVID-19 lockdown

A bit of a surreal set of circumstances to find oneself in, but as you may have seen on Instagram I am confined to my French home for fifteen days as part of the French government’s approach to tackling the COVID-19 coronavirus. If you, like me, are wondering what to do in France under COVID-19 lockdown, do read on.

The newly decorated kitchen and office of our French home
The newly decorated kitchen and office of our French home

My husband and I are both fortunate enough to be able to work from home during this period and we have plenty of food, wine (!!) and toilet roll (!!!) thanks to our routine of shopping once a month. Perhaps through frugality – not wanting to spend at shops each week, nor on the not insignificant amount of fuel our very uneconomical car uses to get there and back – we are the original doomsday preppers (which if you haven’t watched on Netflix or elsewhere, I highly recommend, taken with a pinch of salt…)

So I’m sitting here in our newly painted kitchen on day two of this enforced nationwide rest, and looking for ways to spend my day. We had a conversation this morning about how useful it would have been to have had our chickens by now – reader, full disclosure: we don’t yet have them because we have not wanted to get up on the cold, dark mornings to let them out – now, as we keenly monitor our egg supply, we’re regretting not acting sooner.

A smallholding seems like a good idea right now!

This led me onto thinking of what other kinds of smallholding-type activities we could begin during this period, and an obvious one for us was always going to be to have a good go at filling the potager.

What to do in France under COVID-19 lockdown
A few select volumes from my recipe book collection.

Thankfully, I had already bought our seed potatoes for this year and they were sitting unloved in our chaufferie room, so I have released them into their trays for chitting – not that they much need it, some are ready to walk! So a task for me will be getting them into the ground. If you too are looking for some tips on growing some veg to occupy yourself through this unsettling time ça tombe bien because I currently have an article in Living France Magazine April 2020 edition which describes this very thing. If you see it, do let me know what you think of it and my fetching leopard print gardening gloves…

My copy of "Retrouver le goût de la nature. 140 recettes de campagne" which I received for Christmas after falling in love with my library loan.
My copy of “Retrouver le goût de la nature. 140 recettes de campagne” which I received for Christmas after falling in love with my library loan.

What we’re doing indoors

Inside the house, I am thinking it’s time to tackle last year’s glut of pears, apples, peaches and grapes which are patiently waiting in our chaufferie room freezers for me to get a wriggle on. At some point last year I borrowed a beautiful book from our village library called “Retrouver le goût de la nature. 140 recettes de campagne” by Camille Le Foll. It has so many sweet traditional French recipes to try, many of which use foraged items from the abundant French countryside. Plus it’s in French, so a good opportunity to practice your vocabulary. It’s a really tactile book, with a woven cover and various types of paper stock inside, the photography is fantastic. I really could not recommend it more as a gift, or for yourself since we will all be looking for ways to occupy ourselves or our families. I’m very grateful that my husband bought me a copy for Christmas, as I had to give up renewing it at our local library and depriving our neighbours of its loveliness.

The latest copy of Living France magazine April 2020 with my Frugal France column
The latest copy of Living France magazine April 2020 with my Frugal France column

When it comes to what I’ll be doing in France under COVID-19 lockdown, aside from recipe trawling, I’ll be reading my own copy of Living France in the garden – with a gin and tonic before too long I would hazard – and will maybe even venture out with Margot for a government-sanctioned walk using one of my Attestation de déplacement forms (I’ll include a link below in case you too need it). I hope you’re all keeping well and virus-free wherever you are, and if you’re in confinement like us please do share how you’re spending your time in the comments. I feel as though by day eleven I’m going to need some ideas!

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