Practical Ways to Save Money During a Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has affected many areas of our lives.
From where we go (or in most cases, don’t go) to what we wear and who we spend time with. From how we conduct business and how we maintain relationships.
It has also affected our finances. Many people lost jobs due to this crisis. Others saw their hours cut.
Those fortunate enough to keep their jobs have saved on some costs. Including dining out and movies. But rising food prices means they’re spending more at the grocery store.
It’s especially important now
Saving money should be a lifelong effort for those of us who wish to prepare for an uncertain future.
But it’s especially important during these trying times. And we’ve been around long enough to know there will be plenty of trying times to come.
Today I’d like to discuss a number of practical ways we can save money during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not all of them will be suited for your particular circumstance. But I’m hoping some of them will work for you.
Food savings add up
As we know, the food supply chain has had some problems during this emergency situation. As a result, we’ve seen empty store shelves. So let’s start with ways to save on food.
Your weekly grocery bill is the first place you can look to save money. The average couple spends up to $500 a month on groceries.
Make a list. Grocers know how to position products so shoppers will purchase them. If you have a list, you’ll know just what you need. Avoid shopping when you’re hungry.
Buy store brands. Buying store brands can take a huge chunk out of your grocery costs. Sometimes there will be a brand name item or two you can’t do without. But more often you won’t notice the difference.
Buy in bulk. This isn’t about warehouse stores with membership fees. Although that might be an option, depending on your family size. It’s about buying more of items you use often when there’s a sale. If it means you shop less often, this can add up to even more savings. Make sure you can properly store items you buy in bulk so nothing goes unused. Buying in bulk can be a big help when an emergency occurs out of the blue.
Choose less expensive meat. An example here is purchasing chicken thighs rather than breasts. Even better is buying whole chickens you can roast and spread over several meals. Also consider cutting back on meat, which is generally expensive, replacing it with high-protein foods including beans and nuts.
Freeze meals. If you’re buying in bulk, make sure your food doesn’t go to waste. You can freeze many items. Including bread, milk and chopped vegetables. As well as whole meals. There are cookbooks with recipes for freezing meals in bulk. When you make a meal, cook enough for two meals. That way you can serve one and freeze the other.
Use digital coupons. Many stores offer digital coupons not available in the weekly newspaper. To acquire these savings, you’ll likely need to set up an account. Check off the coupons you wish to use each time you shop.
Stick to the store perimeter. Center aisles have many expensive, processed foods. They’re full of salt, sugar and other additives. The outside ring of the store is where you’ll usually find more foods such as produce, meat and dairy.
Use fewer ingredients. Sometimes the simplest food tastes best. But you wouldn’t know it looking at some of the complicated recipes out there. Sites such as AllRecipes.com are great for finding different options for your favorite recipes. And usually the top reviews will include tips on making them even easier.
Other ways to save
Of course, there are ways to save money during a pandemic that have nothing to do with food. Including…
Cut out the nonessentials. This might be easier to do now than ever. Those working at home – or not currently working – should be able to save on new clothes and shoes. And if you do need something new, such as a stove or lawnmower, don’t go top of the line.
Negotiate with creditors. If money is tight with less coming in, you might be able to strike a deal with companies you owe. Including mortgage lenders, utilities and credit cards.
Get refunds. Perhaps you had to cancel a trip due to the coronavirus. If so, try to get a refund on your flights and hotels. Some will only give you credit toward your next purchase, but others offer cash refunds.
Look for a better savings account. You’re not going to earn a lot of interest these days in a basic savings account. So talk to your banker about increasing that interest in a different account. Or try a different bank that might be able to grow your money faster.
Do it yourself. The library has books on car repair, home repair, and lawn and garden care. There are many instructional videos on YouTube. You can learn to do everything from fixing a radiator to pruning your rose bushes. Try it on your own before calling in a professional.
Make small changes around energy use. We don’t notice all the little ways we use excess energy. For example, laundry doesn’t always need hot water. Cold water gets the job done while preserving colors. Hanging clothes up after a few minutes in the dryer helps clothes last longer. Lights on appliances that are not running are also energy vampires. Unplug them when you can or use a power strip.
Stay healthy. This is a good idea all the time. But it makes even more sense now. You don’t want to spend time in a doctor’s office these days if you can avoid it. Do some form of aerobic exercise for 30 minutes at least three times a week. Some experts recommend 10,000 steps a day for optimum fitness. It doesn’t matter if they come at the gym or the park or even while cleaning house. A pedometer or smartphone can help you keep track, giving you a number to watch that doesn’t involve your scale.
We live in challenging times. Saving money wherever possible will help us better deal with them.