The coronavirus pandemic changed the way we all live. Working from home, living on one paycheck, and having groceries delivered are just a few ways our lives have changed.
Financially, many people suffered greater than ever before. Lost jobs, stock market crashes, and uncertain futures have everyone wondering, what’s next?
But, some good has come out of this. You can be in control of your money now more than ever. Check out the list below on the top 19 ways to save money during the pandemic.
1. Create a Budget that Works with your New Situation
It sounds so simple, yet millions of people still don’t do it. Make a budget and stick to it. During Covid-19, your budget may look different – slightly scaled back and that’s okay. You may even keep this budget moving forward if it helps you save.
There are many options:
- Use an app like Mint
- Create an Excel spreadsheet
- Sign up for a You Need a Budget account
- Use pen and paper
There’s no right or wrong. Do what you’ll use consistently. Budget weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Figure out what you’re most comfortable with given your current financial circumstances.
2. Cut your Expenses without Sacrificing
Creating a budget should be eye-opening. You’ll likely see areas you spend more than you anticipated.
Go over your expenses carefully and cut out everything you can. This doesn’t mean sacrifice – but ‘cut the fat.’ Cable subscriptions, magazine or app subscriptions, gym memberships, and other online memberships are great places to start.
Think about what you pay for and don’t use, especially during the pandemic. Gym memberships are a great one. How often are you going, if at all? Is it still worth it?
If not, cancel the subscriptions and transfer the money to savings each month instead. If you aren’t sure which subscriptions you have, use an app like Trim to find out.
3. Freeze Subscriptions
If you have memberships you can’t cancel due to a contract, inquire about freezing them. Many contracts include a clause allowing you to temporarily stop the membership. Read the fine print because each company allows a different holding period, whether a few months or up to a year.
You’ll have to come back to the subscription and finish out your contract, but for the time being, you can freeze it and free up the cash.
4. Stop Using Credit Cards
Spend within your means and nothing else. Lock up the credit cards for now. They are a temptation to spend, especially if you spend hours surfing the internet.
Consider consolidating your credit card debt too. If your credit allows, open a 0% APR balance transfer card. Transfer your debt to it and divide the balance equally over the 0% term.
For example, if you have a $5,000 balance and 24 months with a 0% APR, budget $208 a month and you’ll pay the $5,000 off before interest accrues again.
That’s like saving the equivalent of the interest rate on your old card because you’re no longer paying excessive APRs.
5. Refinance your Mortgage
If you haven’t seen it yet, mortgage rates are lower than most of us have seen in our lifetimes. Call your lender and shop around with other lenders. See what you qualify for.
Here are a few great ways to save:
- Lower your interest rate and keep the same term
- Cut your term in half and take a 15-year term to own your home faster and save thousands of dollars in interest
- Tap into your home’s equity but use the funds to pay off high-interest consumer debt while enjoying the low mortgage rates
6. Call your Student Loan Servicers
If you can’t keep up with your student loans, call your servicers. They may have plans that either defer your payments or lower your payments temporarily.
Be honest about your situation and they’ll likely work with you. Don’t ignore the debt and think it will just go away. It won’t. Even with bankruptcy, your student loans stay with you for life. It’s best to work out a plan when the world is struggling – you’ll probably have more options.
7. Shop for Cheaper Insurance
Being stuck at home in lockdown gives you plenty of time to shop for cheaper services, including your insurance.
Look at all insurance plans. Auto and home insurance are the most commonly shopped policies. Call around and see what other companies offer.
Let’s look at car insurance. How often do you shop for it? Did you know once you work with an insurance agent, they typically increase your rates each year? Part of it is due to inflation. There’s nothing you can do about that, but they may increase more than necessary.
If you shop around, you may get lower premiums for the same coverage. You may even lower your coverage, especially on a depreciating car. Let’s say you bought your car 5 years ago. At the time it was brand new. 5 years later it’s worth a lot less – you may be able to scale back on coverage and get cheaper coverage elsewhere.
The same is true of home insurance. We’re all guilty of just paying the bill when it comes. What if you looked at how much it changed, though? Even if your mortgage company pays your insurance bill, you are free to shop around and switch companies. What if you could save a few hundred dollars a year?
8. Plan your Meals
How often do you go to the grocery store (or order from Instacart) only to discover you didn’t need half of the items you bought?
Instead, plan your meals and snacks by shopping for your food first. Plan meals that use up the meat and produce you have on hand. Get creative with snacks and treats too. After shopping your inventory, make a list using the items on sale. Use coupons when you can too.
If you’re stuck inside in quarantine, get creative with your meals. Pinterest is a great source for new recipes. You never know when those cans of beans sitting at the back of your pantry may turn into your family’s new favorite meal.
9. Grow your Own Produce
If you’re stuck at home in quarantine or just stay home more to stay safe, consider growing a garden. Even if you don’t have a ‘green thumb’ try it.
Try new fruits, vegetables, and herbs. You never know what might take and become your new go-to produce. It’s not as overwhelming as it seems, and it can even be relaxing.
Check out the crops that grow best in your area and have some fun. You can even plant pumpkins for your next Halloween!
10. Cut Down on Home Expenses
Being stuck at home is a great time to see where you overspend. Here are a few tips:
- Shut lights off in rooms that aren’t in use
- Unplug appliances or electronics, not in use
- Look for cheaper internet packages
- Consider a less expensive cell phone package
- Cut out your home phone if you have a cell phone
- Ask your utility company (gas or electric) about budget plans that keep your bill fixed year-round
11. Use Coupons to Save Even More
If you’re shopping from home, it’s easier than ever to find coupons for just about any purchase. Groceries and retail stores all have coupon options. Join store loyalty programs for exclusive deals and take advantage of other coupons posted online for anyone to use.
Combine coupons with sales and you’ll save the most money. Stores want your business during the pandemic, so you’ll find plenty of opportunities to save.
12. Save an Emergency Fund and Don’t Touch It
If you blew through your emergency fund at the start of the lockdown or you never had one, now is the time.
Everyone should have at least six months of expenses saved. That’s a tall order if you’re just starting. If that’s too much, set a smaller goal of $1,000. Open a high-yield savings account at an online bank, like Chime, and let your money grow.
If saving isn’t in the budget, consider an app like Acorns. It sweeps the ‘spare change’ from your purchases into a savings account. Once you accumulate $5, Acorns invests your money so it grows even faster.
13. Automate your Savings
We’re all guilty of paying ourselves last. After you pay the bills and use your ‘fun’ money you save. Only many of us find we have nothing left to save.
Don’t let this be you.
If you only make one change during the pandemic, automate your savings. Set up an automatic transfer via direct deposit or through your bank. Choose an amount and have it transferred to your savings account of choice on your payday. You won’t forget to pay yourself anymore and you’ll build a savings account.
14. Automate your Bills
Paying your bills doesn’t seem like a way to save money, BUT if you pay your bills on time, you do save money.
Look back at the last year. How many bills did you pay late? Now add up the late fees you paid. Do you like what you see?
Setting your bills up on autopay reduces the risk of missing a payment. Even if you save $5 here or there, it’s something. Plus you get peace of mind knowing your bills are paid on time, which is worth its weight in gold.
15. Invest in the Stock Market
It sounds crazy to suggest that you invest in a pandemic when you’re trying to cut back, but there’s no better time than now.
Stock prices are still low, giving everyday investors opportunities they didn’t have before. Look at your favorite companies and see if the stock price is still low. If it is, jump on board. Even if you only buy a share or two, you’re investing in a company you know will rise back up to its full potential and you’ll be there for the profits.
16. Earn Cash Back
If you have a cashback credit card (and you can use it responsibly) take advantage of the cashback options. Know your credit card’s categories and what percentage they’ll pay back. Some pay cashback on groceries and gas, while others pay a flat percentage on any purchase.
Know the tiers and use the credit card ONLY to buy what you normally buy. Then you can use the cashback to treat yourself with gift cards to your favorite stores.
17. Buy and Sell Clothes at Resale Stores
Today, buying second hand is trendy and there are plenty of places to do it. Whether you shop your local Goodwill or a trendy resale shop downtown or you shop online at places like ThredUp, there are plenty of ways to save money using resale stores.
First, you can sell your clothes there. Go through your closet and see what you no longer wear. Then head to your local resale shop or ThredUp and sell them. You may only make a few dollars, but every dollar adds up. Use the money to buy some new clothes and you just boosted your wardrobe for a fraction of retail cost.
18. Get Good at DIY
If you’ve been on YouTube lately, you’ve seen that you can find a tutorial on just about anything. Home need repairs? YouTube it. Looking to dye your hair or try a new beauty trend? YouTube it. Honestly, you could find just about any tutorial on there.
You may even find ways to entertain yourself by trying new crafts or learning a new hobby. As long as the DIY is safe, go for it! You may find that you can fix up your own home or save money on expensive grooming appointments by exploring a little yourself.
19. Use the Library
If you’re running out of entertainment ideas, hit up the library. You don’t even have to leave your home to use most of their resources. You can rent movies online, and even listen to or read books online.
You can save a lot of money by not subscribing to streaming services, buying books, or movies. Rent them from the library and you can watch or read a lot more for free, saving yourself money while still having plenty to do.
20. Save Your Spare Change
Set up a coin jar in the house and every time you have change, throw it in the jar. If you don’t use cash often, set up a free savings account. Then at the bank where you have your checking account, set up a savings rule. Every time you use your debit card, round the purchase up to the nearest dollar and send the spare change to your savings account.
It’s amazing how fast spare change adds up. If you make 10 purchases a week and round up an average of $0.50 each time, that’s $5 a week or $20 a month. After a year, you’d have $240 plus interest earned.
If you don’t want the hassle of doing it yourself, sign up for an app like Acorns and have them do it for you.
See the Coronavirus as an Opportunity to Save More Money
Coronavirus is devastating, but it’s also an invitation to handle your finances better. Use the downtime to revisit your budget and make financial changes.
Even if you don’t change providers or consolidate your consumer debt, simple changes like using coupons, planning your meals, and using cashback apps can have a drastic difference in your finances.
What ways have you found to save money during the pandemic? We’d love to hear your creative ideas or how you’ve used any of the ideas we discussed above. Let us know in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you!