No one prepared for a global pandemic and significant disruption to daily life, personal finances and businesses whether you have an emergency fund or not. More than 16 million Americans have lost their job in the past 3 weeks. Regardless if you’re in this situation or not, it’s important to save money during coronavirus and create an extra cushion just in case.
The most important thing to getting back on track financially is to generate income. This can be done through your career, a side hustle or passively. However, if your current income has been disrupted it will take more time to develop a new plan of action. In the meantime, an immediate action you can take is to cut expenses. Start with cutting your largest expenses to make the biggest difference and work your way down to cutting back on the smallest expenses. Here are 12 simple ways to save money during coronavirus.
Create a Budget or Financial Baseline
Before you start cutting expenses to save money during coronavirus it’s helpful to know first where you are spending money today. How much money are you spending on housing, transportation, bills, food and other items? This is helpful whenever you’re looking to start saving money, but even more important now with all this uncertainty. Even if you don’t know exactly how much you’re spending in each category a ballpark number or a range will help you prioritize where you should look first to cut expenses. Then, start looking at simple ways to save money on household expenses. Household expenses are usually your largest expenses and provide the most opportunity to save money.
Reduce or Delay Mortgage Payments
The CARES Act recently put in place two protections for homeowners with federally backed mortgages. The first is a foreclosure moratorium and the second is a right to forbearance for homeowners who are experiencing a financial hardship due to the virus emergency. The Consumer Finance Protection Board shares more information along with helpful resources on what you need to know, which options you qualify for, how to get mortgage relieve and more.
Reduce or Delay Rent Payments
The CARES Act included a little bit of protection for renters. For renters that are renting from an owner who has a federally backed mortgage there is a suspension or moratorium on evictions and you can’t be evicted for non payment of rent for 120 days beginning March 27,2020. In addition, many states have suspended all evictions and foreclosures due to the pandemic. For more information, go to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. You are also always able to call your landlord and see what options there are for flexibility. Having a conversation with your landlord instead of assuming you’re out of luck is always best.
Creative Ways To Save Money on Rent
There are creative ways to save money on rent in the short term if your landlord is willing to negotiate. For example, can you pay less rent now and make up the payments later? Pay less rent now and extend your lease? Help with maintenance like painting or yard work in exchange for lower rent? Are there construction projects the owner wants to do in exchange for lower rent?
One time I was renting and our landlord wanted to expand a half bathroom to include a shower. This would have been a significant living disruption for two months. As a result our landlord offered us a rent reduction. Our landlord wanted to do this because once our lease was up he’d be able to charge a lot more for rent. We ultimately declined the offer. In times like these there are situations where both you and your landlord can come out winning.
Come armed with data to the conversation with your landlord, especially if your lease is ending soon. Know current market rates and how much your landlord would be able to get if they listed it now or in a few months. If your lease is ending soon negotiate a better rent. Ask if you can go month to month so that you have flexibility to move if you need to.
Reduce or Delay Student Loan Payments
The CARES Act passed in the United States included a provision to help student loan borrowers. All federal loans are temporarily suspended retroactive to March 13th and interest will not accrue through September 30th. Most federal loans qualify but not all so make sure to check the details before making any assumptions. For loans that do qualify, this should happen automatically but make sure to continue checking your statements. If you can afford to continue making your federal student loan payments during this time consider doing so. All payments will go towards paying the principle and you’ll be able to pay down your balance faster.
Even if your debt payments aren’t covered in the stimulus bill that doesn’t mean you don’t have flexibility. You always have the option to call your servicer and understand what options you have.
Reduce Transportation Expenses
Data shows Americans spend roughly 13% of their income on transportation. When you’re looking at options for cutting your expenses, transportation is one of the top household expenses to make an impact.
Negotiate or Reduce Car Payments
Don’t forget, it’s always better for both you and the lender to work together. It’s more expensive for your lender to repossess your car. Even though the CARES Act didn’t provide specific relief around car payments you still have options. To see what options are available to you, you must call your lender. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends asking to change the date your payment is due, request a payment plan or ask for a payment extension / deferral. Here is their advice on how to handle these conversations with your auto loan servicer.
Reduce Auto Insurance Payments
If you’re in a shelter in place area and are driving way less you have an opportunity to save money on car insurance. Don’t hesitate to contact your car insurance company and negotiate. Several car insurance companies such as Progressive and Allstate have already announced they will be offering partial refunds to customers. While this is a great proactive step, you may be able to negotiate more if you’ll be driving less for longer than they’ve assumed.
Trip of a Lifestyle called their auto insurance to let them know they were driving way less due to social distancing. Their provider ended up giving them an immediate partial refund on their current 6-month billing cycle, in addition to the automatic discount they are giving everyone next billing cycle. It only took them 7 minutes and was well worth it!
Reduce Spending on Gas
Since you’re likely driving less you should automatically be spending less on gas right now. In addition, oil prices have drastically reduced due to a combination of oversupply and reduced demand. Even when areas start opening up again expect to pay less at the pump. Do your best to estimate how much you were previously spending on gas per month and how much you expect to pay a month in the next few months.
Reduce Spending on Ride Shares and Public Transportation
With only essential businesses open in many places and many businesses moving to work from home the amount you spend on ride shares and public transportation should automatically be reduced. As areas begin reopening, continue to look for ways to keep this expense at a minimum. For example, now that you’ve shown you can be productive working from home, can you continue to work from home a few days a week?
If you aren’t commuting and normally have a monthly ride share pass or monthly train card don’t forget to cancel or pause it.
Reduce Spending On Food and Alcohol
Instead of ordering takeout cook as much as you can. It’s harder to use coupons and sales to get good deals on food right now but it is still cheaper to cook yourself than ordering takeout. There are plenty of tips for beginner cooks to help you get started. If you’re used to cooking but aren’t sure what to make here are meal ideas for breakfast, ideas for what to cook for dinner and recipes with few ingredients.
To reduce your food spend even further, consider buying less alcohol and planning out all of your meals so you waste as little food as possible. Food costs are rising at grocery stores but by planning as much as you can you can mitigate the amount these costs rise. Not sure how much you were spending on food in the first place? If you don’t document where you spend your money look at your last few credit card statements or think back to where you have spent money the past month on food and restaurants. This will help you develop a baseline.
Reduce Additional Household Expenses
Staying at home full time may actually increase some of your household expenses such as electricity, gas and water. When you look at your total household spending it’s important to take these potential increases into account. To make up for these increases can you cut your expenses anywhere else?
Reduce Internet and Cable Bills
A simple way to save money during coronavirus is to make a quick call or email to your internet and cable provider. Call and see if there are better deals on your internet and cable package. If you can’t negotiate the amount you spend, can you negotiate a better internet speed or cable package for the price you’re paying today? With no sports on, can you move down your cable subscription or even cancel it entirely? Many of the streaming services offer a week or month free if you’re not a current customer. You can take advantage of these one at at time.
If you already have streaming services and taking advantage of the free month isn’t an option look at how much cable, internet and streaming services cost you today. Cutting the cord may not save you as much money as you think if it’s bundled with your internet. Your Average Dough created a breakdown of every single cable, streaming and internet expense to see how much money they could save (without negotiating).
Reduce Cell Phone Data Plan
Are you using less data on your cell phone because you’re always home and connected to wifi? Consider reducing the data package on your cell phone plan and using your wifi for data more often.
Remove As Many Non Discretionary Expenses as You Can
Every purchase you avoid to save money during coronavirus, even if it’s only $5, will help create a financial cushion. It’s easier to avoid non discretionary expenses now because so many businesses including bars and restaurants are closed until further notice, travel is restricted and sports are paused. If you’re not sure how much money you spend on discretionary purchases every month look at your last few credit card statements or think back to where you have spent money the past month or two. This will help you develop a baseline. If you’re still not sure think about a few things you bought recently and ask yourself if it was a purchase you could have delayed or went without.
Delay Purchases Until Later
Because of the situation we are in, there may be necessary expenses that you can delay until later. For example, do you really need a new pair of pants or shoes when you’re working from home or can that wait? Is that thing on Amazon truly a need or is it a want that can wait a couple of months? Personally, I need a new pair of running sneakers but since I’m socially distancing I’m going to hold on this purchase until I see a good sale.
Call Someone Instead of Buying Them A Gift
A simple way to save money during coronavirus is to call someone instead of buying them a gift. A call or video chat is a great way to show someone you care about them and they’ll probably treasure it more than a material item.
Don’t Avoid Spending Money At the Expense Of Your Mental Health
It’s important to not take cost cutting too far. Mental health is really important. The virus, cabin fever, worrying about the health of your friends and family and job changes is a lot all at once. Don’t completely deprive yourself of happiness to save a few dollars. Be smart with your spending and wait a few days before you hit buy on the discretionary purchase.
What are simple ways to save money during coronavirus that you’ve found?