Self-isolating during the coronavirus crisis has devastated some sectors of the U.S. economy while leaving others largely unaffected, or even expanded sales. Travel, tourism, and events have been hard hit while spending for food, household items, and health-related supplies have skyrocketed.
Many businesses are struggling to stay afloat during these challenging times and when possible, we should support them to keep people employed. At the same time, millions of Americans now find themselves unemployed or had their hours and income reduced.
If you’ve suffered an interruption in your income due to temporary unemployment, you should look for ways to cut expenses and stretch your dollars. Here are 10 ways to trim your budget while self-isolating:
- Look for subscriptions to cancel. Studies show that 85% of us are unaware of automatic debits from credit cards and checking accounts for apps and services we no longer need or want. Review your bank statements to find repeating debits and eliminate them. Apps like Trim and TrueBill can help you discover these charges.
- Cut your cable or satellite service. You may be charged an early termination fee, but you can recover that cost quickly by opting for less expensive streaming video services. You can also buy an inexpensive digital antenna to pick up local channels.
- Shop your home and auto insurance. Bundling your home and auto insurance can save you from 5% to 25% for each policy. Just make sure to maintain the coverage you need. You can also increase your deductible to $1,000, but keep that amount in your emergency fund in case you have an accident and need repairs.
- Review cell phone bill. Shop other providers to find a better price for the data plan you need. You can compare prices and area coverage of the four major providers at letstalk.com/cellphones/guides/best-coverage-map/. Many providers will reimburse you for early termination fees if you switch to them.
- Beware of online shopping while self-isolating. Limit television viewing to avoid commercials that encourage you to spend. Don’t fall for the idea that a sale price saves money. You can’t save by spending. No sale is a good deal if you can’t afford it.
- Watch your food budget. Limit “take out” meals and home delivery, or cut them altogether. Make your own coffee instead of buying it while you are out and carry a water bottle instead of buying water at the store.
- Cut your utility expenses. Keep the thermostat at 75 degrees for cooling and 68 degrees for heating. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and limit showers to eight minutes. Do only full loads in the dishwasher and clothes washer. Air dry clothes if possible. Reduce “phantom power” by unplugging appliances when not in use.
- Cancel home services. With time on your hands and limited funds, you can do your own cleaning, yard work, and pool maintenance. However, if you haven’t been financially affected by the coronavirus, we encourage you to maintain these services to keep others employed.
- Cancel your gym membership. If you needed encouragement to begin taking walks and exercising at home, the coronavirus has provided it. This is good practice even if you don’t have a gym membership and will help keep your mind and body in shape.
- Sell things you no longer need to get cash. Now is the perfect time to clean out your closets, basement, and garage to find unused items. Use a local sales app to advertise specific items and limit human contact, rather than having a yard sale.
These 10 steps could save you hundreds of dollars a month and stretch your budget during this difficult time.