5 Ways to Save Money During the Pandemic
As the Covid pandemic and the need for social distance continues, it’s no wonder many of us are feeling more stress. Whether it’s due to the dizzying news cycle, economic insecurity, or simply having long days with little ones, the stress of life in a pandemic is real and exhausting.
One of the biggest stressors for families right now is money. The United States is facing one of the worst economic downturns in years and unemployment continues to rise. Although you may not be facing job loss or reduced hours and income, with such uncertainty, everyone can benefit from a few money saving tips and ideas.
Besides the more you save, the less you’ll worry about money. Here are a few tips and ideas to help you save.
Set a budget and stick to it
Setting a budget isn’t exactly fun, but it can go a long way in helping you understand where and how you spend your money. It doesn’t matter exactly how you create your budget (monthly? Weekly?) but it needs to make sense for you and your family. Especially during uncertain times like these, (thanks again, Covid!), a budget can bring some peace of mind. You can see exactly what you have and what you need.
There are tons of apps that can help you organize your income and expenses. Mint and PocketGuard are both easy to use and popular. Or you could use a simple electronic spreadsheet or a dedicated notebook to track your spending.
The key to successful budgeting is regularly updating it and sticking with it. Once you find a system that works for you, it will be easy to keep it updated. Until then, don’t be afraid to try new systems and ditch what isn’t working. A budget only works if you follow it. So give yourself a couple of months to try and try again.
Buy in bulk
This may sound basic but we sometimes forget just how much can be bought in bulk these days. Thanks to the internet and the affordability of warehouse memberships, buying in bulk is easier than ever.
I know what you’re thinking…“my kids change what they will and will not eat on a daily basis. I can’t commit to 5 pounds of Cheerios!” I get it. Sometimes buying in bulk can leave you panicked about how much food is going to go to waste. But remember, the freezer is your friend. Freeze what you won’t use in the next week and plan ahead.
Many of us plan our meals ahead of time because weeknights can get busy (amazingly, even in a pandemic). Planning ahead makes it easier to shop. But don’t stop with just food, apply the same plan-ahead-principal to other household goods as well. You can calculate how many diapers, how much detergent, even how much toilet paper you’ll actually need. By knowing how much you’ll need, you can reduce wasteful spending.
If you still end up with a boxful of Cheerios no one will eat, consider co-opting with another family or two. You can divide your bulk items among the group and take turns doing the shopping. Everyone wins!
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
We all know recycling is good for the planet, but what can be even more effective for families looking to save money is reducing and reusing.
Take a look in or garbage, or at least pay attention to what you’re throwing away. Are there items that could possibly be reused? Or perhaps there are items you can simply avoid using. My guiltiest items were plastic baggies and paper towels.
If you can’t quite commit to abstaining from plastic baggies, you can start by reusing them. They can easily be washed and dried. If you’re ready to ditch the plastic, there are several alternatives like silicon or compostable bags. Instead of paper towels, try using washable, reusable clothes in. These reusable towels are a fantastic alternative. Or simply cut up old cotton shirts and use them as cleaning rags.
Get your kids thinking about repurposing. Keep all kinds of cleaned old containers around and challenge them to think of ways to reuse. Think: old boxes as Lego organizers, glass jars as trinket keepers, and old hangers as bubble blowers. Keep a scrap paper drawer and collect broken crayons and toys. When you have a pile of broken crayons, you can melt them down in a mold (whatever shapes suit your fancy), wait for them to cool and reuse them. Broken toys pieces can be used for mosaics. Use everyone’s secret best friend––the internet––to inspire you!
Harness the Power of the Internet for Good
Speaking of the internet…use all those social networking apps for good! Join a buy nothing/sell nothing Facebook group, follow your favorite frugal moms on Instagram, and don’t forget about Nextdoor, Facebook marketplace and Craigslist. Most of these groups allow you to post items for sale or for free. In return, you can find many used items at a great price or even free.
You can find toys, furniture, clothes, housewares, sports gear, and more on a variety of apps. Sometimes you have to sift through some questionable items but more often than not, you’ll find gently used and sometimes brand new items. These sites can be a great way to save.
And don’t forget to scour the internet for rebates and coupons. Sites like Rakuten, Honey and Swagbucks all offer ways to either find the best deals, or earn cash back on purchases.
Cut back on services you don’t need
Ditch that gym membership. Even if your gym is currently open, you can find nearly any kind of workout you’re looking for online. YouTube and Instagram are both flooded with exercise videos. Whether it be yoga, Zumba, or a great ab workout, there is a free option available to you from your home, anytime of day.
Reassess your cable and steaming services. Check your cable bill to see what you are getting and at what price. Maybe there are channels you never watch or a charge you are unsure of. Call your cable company and ask what special plans they are offering. They want to keep you as a customer so they may be willing to work with you to save a bit each month. Or better yet, ditch cable TV and switch to free streaming services.
So, now that you have a few more ways to save, go finish that cup of tea, book, or Netflix show and fall soundly to sleep. Cross one less worry off your pandemic stress checklist.