Saved up a tidy sum for a getaway but don’t think it’s wise to leave home due to COVID-19? You’re not alone. Like you, thousands of would-be holidaymakers have had their plans disrupted due to flight disruptions, city lockdowns, travel restrictions and quarantine orders since the onset of the COVID-19.
So what do you do with the few hundreds or thousands of unspent travel dollars?
From boosting your financial health, to getting in shape, lending needy communities a helping hand and having fun (because that’s what the money was for in the first place!), Here’s our hit list of smart things to do with travel funds saved because of COVID-19.
1. Do some good. Help the elderly and vulnerable during the COVID-19 outbreak by making a donation to the Singapore Red Cross. Your money will help the charity deliver care packages comprising a mix of food, medical, hygiene and household products to beneficiaries. It’ll also help fund psychosocial support calls for seniors living alone, and sanitation kits for on-ground volunteers and staff who help them.
2. Treat everyone at home to a meal. Circuit-breaker measures may mean you can’t dine at your favourite restaurant for a while, but you can always bring the restaurant home with delivery service. Make it a fancy affair with your finest tableware and have everyone dress up for a change. It’ll be just like eating out except you can dine at a leisurely pace in the comfort of your home.
3. Upgrade your holiday plan. Save the money and let your travel fund snowball so you can afford a bigger, better trip when the pandemic blows over. Because you’ll have accumulated more leave days, you could consider longer trips too. Iceland? Egypt? Hawaii? Nepal? Time to start exploring your options!
4. Stretch your mind with an online course. Use your extra time at home to upskill through online learning platforms. Coursera, for instance, offers courses in areas like data science, medicine and languages hosted by noted partner universities inclusing NUS, Yale and Imperial College London. You can also enquire with polytechnics here for online courses on subjects like cybersecurity and fintech.
5. Treat yourself. Since you can’t indulge yourself with a trip abroad, do it with a gift. Use your travel fund to buy yourself those trainers you’ve been eyeing or a new watch that you can wear to work when the situation improves. And rather than head to the malls, do your shopping from your couch using your favourite online shopping apps.
6. Invest in your health. There’s no better time than now to boost your immunity and get in shape to ward off nasty viruses. Use the cash to get nutritional supplements online. While you’re at it, browse for quality home gym equipment like a cardio step, weight vest, trampoline, dumbbells, resistance bands and an exercise ball (which can double as a desk chair).
7. Jazz up your home. Since everyone will be spending more time at home due to safe distancing measures, why not use the cash to create a space you would enjoy being in? DIY wallpaper accents in bedrooms, an ergonomic chair for the study or a mini home theatre system for family movie nights? You decide!
8. Spend it on a family hobby. As a COVID-19 family project, build a mini garden in your balcony or another corner of your home using tools, plants and accessories available online. If you have the luxury of space, take it up a notch by creating a tropical resort vibe. Rustic furnishing here, a hammock there, a tabletop water feature and strands of lights hanging overhead complete the picture.
9. Make money out of your money. Rather than let your travel money sit in the bank, let it grow by buying a savings product. With the shaky economy, it’s prudent to choose something low risk that gives guaranteed returns. Aviva’s MyLifeIncome, for instance, is a savings plan that gives annual payouts for life that you can use any way you choose. There’s a high annual payout of up to 6.2% sum assured, made up of a 2.2% guaranteed portion and a non-guaranteed cash bonus portion that’ll give you a cool payout of up to 4%.
10. Turbocharge your larger life goals. Whether it’s putting a down-payment on your dream home or capital for an e-commerce business, your big goals require significant sums of cash. Set an action plan to achieve your goal and let your travel dollars give you that initial push. Already started on your goals? Then use the cash to shorten the runway to your goals.
11. Top up your parents’ CPF Retirement account. COVID-19 or not, it’s always a good time to show some filial piety to the ones who raised you. Under the new Matched Retirement Savings Scheme to help 55- to 70-year-olds meet the Basic Retirement Sum, the government will match every dollar of cash top-up to an eligible member’s account under the CPF Retirement Sum Topping-Up scheme up to an annual cap of S$600. The scheme kicks in from 2021, but you can set aside the money from now.
12. Fund your own retirement. It’s a long-term goal you know you should have but tends to get put on the back burner due to for more immediate priorities. So, why not channel the unexpected cash into your retirement nest egg? Consider a savings product like Aviva's MyRetirement Choice, which gives guaranteed returns of up to 2.63% per annum with 100% capital guaranteed at your retirement age. It empowers you to retire whenever you want and gives you various income payout options to suit the retirement lifestyle of your dreams.
13. Make a lump-sum payment on your home loan. If you have a considerable amount of travel savings, say from a cancelled two-week family tour of Europe, talk to your bank about making a lump-sum payment on your home loan to reduce your monthly payments and you may ultimately pay less interest over time, not to mention avoid any potential future hikes in interest rates. Check if there are pre-payment penalties and other terms and conditions first.
14. Buy cooking gadgets. Increased home-dining during COVID-19 means you’ll be making more meals from scratch. That’s good reason to invest in a new oven, electric mixer, pasta maker or other cooking aids. The extra hours of cooking may unleash your inner chef – a valuable survival skill to have long after COVID-19 is gone!
15. Clear your debts. Whether it’s your university loan, credit card bill or car loan, paying off those high-interest debts, whether partially or fully depending on your available travel funds, would give you greater financial freedom – an assurance anyone can use in times of uncertainty.
16. Invest in your kids. If you haven’t already started planning for your toddler’s education needs, this might be the right time. Put those unused travel funds towards their university fund. The earlier you start saving for their future, the more time is given for that money to potentially grow into your target savings amount.
17. Build an entertainment corner. With fewer opportunities and reason to leave home during COVID-19 circuit-breaker measures, many will be tempted to stay home and play with our smartphones. Not exactly a family bonding activity. Consider creating a family entertainment chest using your travel fund. It can comprise things like jigsaw puzzles, board games and if you’re the competitive sort, foosball and air hockey sets, that’ll give hours of family fun.
18. Change a life. Know of an old spinster who sometimes sleeps rough in your neighbourhood? Or a kid in your building who loves reading books but can’t afford to buy them because his parents just lost their jobs and can barely make ends meet? Use your travel fund to give them a gift that’ll lift the darkness out of their lives.
There are probably many more ways to use your travel funds than this. Whether you choose to spend it on yourself, on others, on building a more secure future, or a balance of all these, what matters is to ensure you do what’s right for you, considering your financial situation now.