by Nikki Ducas

Woman under a pile of money


I can’t believe it’s been nearly six months since COVID-19 moved into Fredericksburg. Thinking back to the first couple of weeks, it was a novel idea to be self-isolated, shuttered away from the rest of the world. But our entire community shut down except for essential businesses, and we all went a bit stir crazy. That’s when I got imaginative to save my mental health.

Even with a yard to work on and play in and enough space inside to spread out, I yearned to get in the car and get away. So, we bought the 2020 The America the Beautiful-The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass to enter the Shenandoah National Park. We found obscure trails where we could socially distance from other groups and managed three visits before they closed because of COVID-19. I’m hopeful to use this $80 pass again to see the Fall foliage along Skyline Drive.


Since we canceled our big vacations with family and friends, my little family took mini trips within Virginia for a change of scenery. We stayed at a cute river house on the Rappahannock with paddleboats, canoes and a pool. We went camping at the beach and waded in the bay to cool off. We rented a condo three blocks from the ocean in Virginia Beach. Each of these stays cost less than $600, much less expensive than our three cancelled vacations.


Spring cleaning took on a whole new meaning this year. I cleaned out closets, my children’s playroom and our shed. Using online yard sale sites, I sold a lot of things that were unused and wasting space. A little time and effort made us over $300 and, with the house more organized, we did a DIY project replacing the flooring throughout our house.


I learned to cut my husband’s hair. I hadn’t tried since the first time I cut it 25 years ago! I did so well (enough) that I’m now his barber and he saves $25 every six weeks.


I swapped books on and to give my family some new reading material. I got rid of old books and received new books for the price of media mail to send my books. A win-win.


We connected weekly with family and friends we wouldn’t see but two to three time per year using free video conferencing services.


Bonus: our garden and landscaping look better than ever. Since my husband has worked from home, he has put his commute time into the vegetable garden. We also took a break from doing a CSA this year, so we saved that cost.

I’m happy to say my family’s mental health survived COVID-19, and we learned we could do less and spent less too.