A woman wearing a mask during a pandemic

Saving Money During A Pandemic

The Coronavirus has brought with it some very unique time and some real challenges. For many, it simply means having to bunker down and stay at home. For others, it means a loss of income and increased costs. If you are in that second category, we have some tips that can help you reduce your costs and make it through this situation that we find ourselves in.

This Coronavirus Problem

For many Americans, this problem is nothing more than an inconvenience. They are still getting paid and only have the inconvenience of dealing with their kids all day. Others have lost their income and face increasing costs at home from those same children. No school means increased expenditures at home. If you are having trouble seeing how you are going to make it through, it is time to make some changes. Here are a few place to look.

Cut Electricity Usage

With everyone at home all of the time, you are assured of a higher electric bill. If you let things go unchecked, it can really get away from you.

If you live where it is still cold, turn your heat to a lower temperature and have people bundle up. A quarantine is a good excuse to stay bundled up on the couch all day. If you live where it is warm, turn the air conditioning up a few degrees and dress cool. That or turn to ceiling or box fans to keep you comfortable.

Another big electricity user is your hot water heater. Most people have it set too high which can waste a lot of money and can even be dangerous. Set your water heater at 120 degrees. Most units come from the factory set at 140 which is too high. Also, limit shower time. A hot shower is nice but every gallon of water that flows is a gallon that you have to pay to heat.

Finally, be vigilant about turning things off when they are not in use. This means lights and televisions that are not being actively watched. While you are at it, unplug electronics that you do not use often. Most devices and appliances use some electricity even when they are turned off.

Be Frugal With Entertainment

This means many things. First and foremost, you should make now the time that you cut the cord. With cable and satellite subscriptions costing, on average, 100 dollars a month or 1200 dollars a year, you can save some good money. Switch to a streaming service for just 10 dollars and save almost 100 dollars a month. Even better, sign up for the free one month trials that most of these services offer and you could avoid entertainment bills for several months.

Another way to save with entertainment is to simply do without. These are tough times so there is no need to be renting movies or purchasing any digital music or game downloads. Stick to free games on your phone or device and the free versions of music streaming services.

Finally, replace expensive forms of entertainment with free ones. Now might be a time to dust off the board games and find the playing cards. Being stuck at home with your family might just bring you closer together.

Defer Some Payments

Creditors can be surprisingly easy to work with as long as you are not behind and in default. Before you get to that point, contact them and try to defer some payments.

In particular, auto finance companies are usually more than willing to help. Simply call them up and ask to skip a payment. They will simply move it to the end of the loan, slightly extending your term. Some will even let you skip multiple payments as long as you are current and can explain your situation.

Other creditors like credit card companies are not as flexible, but they may have options for you. Some, for example, will offer you the ability to make interest only payments.

In any case, if you expect to be missing some payments to creditors, you need to address the situation head on. You might be shocked at how willing they are to work with you.

Negotiate With Your Landlord

If you rent, you might be particularly nervous about getting evicted during this crisis. While some cities are passing laws to prevent evictions temporarily, you need to handle your situation so that you are set up for the long term. This means contacting your landlord and making arrangements.

Understand that, if you are a good tenant, your landlord does now want to lose you. They do not want to go to the expense of evicting you and even if they did, there won’t be as many new tenants available to take your place.

Call your landlord and make arrangements for paying your back rent after the crisis is over.

Don’t Hoard

The grocery stores are packed with people buying up everything that they can. Why? Because they expect some massive shutdown of the entire country. This is credulous. While shelter in place orders might go out, the stores will continue to be stocked.

Those who have been hoarding will find themselves with shelves loaded with food that will take months or even the better part of a year to get through.This is wasted money that could be better used for paying your other bills.

The government will not let you starve. It didn’t happen in China, so it certainly will not happen here. Relax and use your money in a smarter way. Don’t go out and buy up 800 dollars in supplies that it will take months to get through.

Slash Your Food Budget

This does not mean starving yourself, it means shopping smartly. First, you need to start meal planning so that you only buy what you need to cook and prepare your meals. When you do this planning, think about cheap and versatile staples.

Beans, potatoes, rice and pasta should be your focus. With these four things, you can make hundreds of different meals. Meals that are not only filling and nutritious, but also cheap. They can allow you to feed your family for just pennies a serving.

You also want to cut out the non essential food items. This means ditching the soda and juice, prepared food and even meat. Cutting your food budget to the bare bones can easily take a food budget of 250 dollars a week and slash it down to 50 bucks or less.

Wrapping Up

There are a lot of ways to cut your costs if you need to get through a hard time. The key is to take an honest look at your situation and determine if you will be able to make it through the next one, two or even three months of hard times.

If you think you will have trouble, you need to cut your bills and costs before you run out of money. Save as much as you can now so that you will have extra reserves to make it through the long haul.

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James Car is a finance, loan and budget expert based in the United States. After attending Brookhaven college, he went on to become a successful entrepreneur. He now enjoys writing articles that help people save and make the most of their money.