Although it has been months since the coronavirus started, the possibility that it will resurface makes budgeting during this time even more important than ever before.
Tips on how to save money during the pandemic
Saving money is not only necessary in an outbreak; it’s also crucial in today’s economic climate.
Start a budget
Budgeting is about spending what you have, saving where you can.
You need to set long-term and short-term budgeting goals to budget effectively.
The easiest and most budget-friendly way is by using the budgeting apps below, which work like the 50/20/30 budget rule: fifty percent of your income goes to mandatory expenses like rent or mortgage, twenty percent should go to financial goals (such as savings accounts), and thirty percent can be used on “wants” (luxuries):
- Money Dashboard – A free and user-friendly app, you can budget for specific categories such as groceries or home expenses, or your monthly bills and then divide that amount into weekly amounts to budget even more accurately.
- Pocketsmith – A free personal finance app, you input how much money you have, track your expenses, and tell you how much leftover money you have for other things.
- YNAB – You Need A Budget, another user-friendly app, is free, but you also can pay for an upgraded version that gives you more features. It allows you to see how much money is left over after each expense.
- Mint.com – Free and easy to use, you can budget monthly or set up a budget for daily spending. Once you set a budget, it will send you alerts if you go over your budgeted amounts for each category.
- PocketGuard – A mobile budgeting app that allows you to access your budget and accounts from anywhere, you can use it to budget, pay bills, and even set spending goals for your children if they receive an allowance. It is free and easy to use.
There are budget-friendly ways to prepare meals at home that won’t take a toll on your budget.
Stop eating out for lunch or dinner. Make it a habit to bring your lunch with you each day instead of buying it from the deli down the street.
If you don’t have time in the morning, pre-cook some food over the weekend and keep it in plastic containers in your refrigerator. You can prepare different kinds of foods like pasta, salads, stir fry veggies and rice in advance so that in case you get tired of eating sandwiches for lunch or eggs in the morning, there’ll be something else for you to eat.
If you do buy lunch, take leftovers with you instead of throwing them away. You can always eat these leftovers for breakfast; it may not appeal to some people, but it’s an option if food is scarce and budgeting becomes difficult.
Start saving even the smallest amount
If budgeting is still too challenging for you, try starting small by saving even the smallest amount of money you get from different sources.
You can save that extra dollar or two that’s left on receipts from restaurants or discounts from stores by keeping a jar at home and dropping your money in it every time you get home.
If that doesn’t work, try saving on new clothes or entertainment expenses; the amount you save each month will amount to something.
Contribute to emergency funds
Some budgeting apps work like payday savings accounts; they set aside your budgeted amounts and deposit them into a savings account to accumulate money for an emergency fund or other goals such as a vacation or a new appliance.
- Personal Capital – It is a financial management app that allows you to track and manage your finances through its dashboard. It shows how much you are saving vs. how much you should be saving.
- Digit – This budgeting app monitors your cash flow and moves a set amount daily to your emergency fund. t.
- Twine – It is a mobile app that allows you access to savings and investment accounts. It allows you to set up your savings goals which you can fulfill by enabling the auto-transfer feature. It was originally designed for couples, but individuals who are interested in it may also avail of the service.
- Qapital – This personal finance app is mostly used by millennials and has many impressive features that combine gamified and goals-based approaches. You can use this app to create rules that allow you to save money the way you want. The app also features suggested rules for saving that you can use.
- Long Game – This app allows you to play games to win cash and get rewarded for saving.
Cut back subscriptions
Some apps can help you monitor subscriptions and budget accordingly. These apps include:
- Trim – Cuts back subscriptions for you and offers to negotiate your bills with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Sprint, AT&T, and more.
- Truebill – Offers to cancel subscriptions for you and negotiate your bills with companies like Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, DirecTV, Comcast Cable, AT&T Wireless, Dish Network Satellite TV, Time Warner cable internet, etc.
- Bobby – Cancels subscriptions, offers to track your spending in real-time, budget for recurring bills, and saves up for something specific like a vacation.
- Subby – Budgets by category and for recurring bills and cancels subscriptions for you.
Chase refunds for services you can’t use
Suppose you suddenly need to cut your budget significantly because of the pandemic. In that case, you may decide to cancel services that take up a lot of your budget, such as cable TV or gym membership, several months or years before your contract with them expires.
When that happens, it’s best to contact customer service for those businesses and let them know why you can’t use your service anymore. Request a refund for the remaining period you will no longer use or ask for a savings deal if they feel bad about losing customers due to circumstances outside of your control; this could make budgeting much easier during crisis times.
Claim benefits you are entitled to
An easy way to save money during or after a pandemic is by claiming all benefits you are entitled to, whether Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid/CHIP, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), etc.
It doesn’t matter if you’re only eligible for partial benefits, budget that amount just the same. Try saving even smaller amounts like 10% of what you are entitled to; this might be challenging, especially if you barely meet your financial needs. Work with something more manageable.
Keep energy consumption low
Turn off your lights when not in use. Keep your house at a comfortable temperature. Less energy consumption means lower utility bills which reduce expenses.
If you can’t afford to turn on the heater, then don’t; use blankets instead or try saving up for the next month so you can keep the heat on.
You may also use apps to help you save energy:
- WeSwitch4u.com – It helps you save energy by comparing electricity deals from different providers. It also lets you know how much carbon dioxide your household emits, calculates the cost of running appliances in your home, and reminds you to turn off devices when not in use via push notifications.
Tax software options
There is software that you can use to save for your taxes during budget-friendly months.
- Credit Karma Tax – This is an online tax preparation service that offers to do tax returns for you.
- TaxAct – This tax preparation software guides you through the tax preparation process and reviews your tax returns for errors to ensure you get the maximum amount of refund you are entitled to.
Grow your own food
Gardening is a great way to save money during and after a pandemic, because it’s budget-friendly, reduces food waste, is therapeutic, and can be done even if you don’t have a yard.
When you grow your food, you don’t have to worry about not having enough food during the pandemic or other crisis.
If you’re not the gardening type, consider buying a market stand at a farmer’s market or joining a garden community to cut down on your grocery bill.
Move money to a high-yield savings account
You may open an account with an online savings bank. Typically, these banks offer higher yields, which means better savings for you.
- CIT Bank Savings Builder – Apart from its great high-interest rate, CIT allows you to compound your savings interest daily, which increases your earning potential. It’s safe and offers convenient features like mobile app access, direct deposit, and even debit cards.
- Marcus by Goldman Sachs – Unlike other high-yield savings banks, Marcus does not require a minimum deposit or a maintaining balance – perfect for people who can only afford a small deposit amount.
- LendingClub – Another high-yield savings account with no monthly fees and maintaining balance. It has a feature, Goalkeeper, that determines how much you can save for a goal, e.g., a new bike.
- Alliant – It has an impressive 3.00% APY on $100,000 or more balances, which is way better than what most banks offer. It also allows you to earn unlimited cash backs on credit cards.
- Comenity – This budget-friendly online bank offers branded credit products, and high-yielding savings account to optimize your money’s earning potential.
- Quontic – Its high-yield savings account has an interest rate that is almost 9x the national average rate. It has no monthly service fees, and it features a compounded daily interest that is credited to your account monthly.
- CIBC – This budget-friendly online bank has no monthly fees, which allows you to save more. When you have access to the online or mobile banking facility, it will help you manage your bills payment and recurring transfers. It also allows you to set your savings goal.
- Vio Bank – Aside from budgeting tools, you can also get insurance coverage on your deposits of up to $250,000 per depositor.
- Ally Bank – This budget-friendly online bank pays you a high-interest rate of up to 2.50% APY, depending on your average daily balance. It has an Android app that makes budgeting convenient for its users.
- Citibank Accelerate – It is very easy to open, and it features a high-interest earning savings deposit. No minimum account is required.
Slow fun spending
Fun spending is when you buy or spend something for your leisure or entertainment. You may continue to spend for “fun,” but you just need to cut down on it. For example, if your brand of fun is going shopping at least twice a month, you may still do so. However, you need to stick to the budget you allocate for such expenses. So instead of shopping in department stores, you may opt to visit local stores, so you save, not only on transportation but also on the items you buy.
Rework vacation plans
Avoid going on long trips. Instead of going out of the country, visit places you have never visited in the country. Search the internet for travel promo packages that will significantly reduce your expenses for transportation, board and lodging, and the activities you intend to do while on vacation. The most important thing though, when traveling in times of pandemic, is to stay safe and healthy, make sure you know the best practice guidelines and healthy measures.
Rework student loan debt payments
If you are already struggling to pay for your student loans, you should avoid deferring your payments and instead focus on budgeting. You can ask your loan providers if they can adjust the payment terms or even lower the interest rate.
Tackle your debts
You may have a budget for your expenses and possibly even a budget for your savings. But many people pay off bills that require immediate payment while leaving the less urgent ones unpaid, which means some of your debts become overdue, which can affect your credit rating. To avoid this, you should budget monthly payments for outstanding debts to get rid of them faster.
Call service providers. Cancel or downgrade.
Although you may be looking forward to budgeting your cable or phone bill, you may find it difficult because these service providers don’t allow them to lower the cost of your plans.
To avoid this, you should call your service providers and ask for discounts on your monthly bills; if they’re not able to get a discount with one provider, then they may want to consider switching over to another provider that has budget-friendly rates.
Avoid retail therapy
If you get too stressed out with budgeting during the pandemic, and you are tempted to go into retail therapy, think again!
Retail therapy brings temporary relief. It might make you feel good now, but it might even lead to more stress when you realize that you have spent unnecessarily. In that case, you might want to avoid retail therapy and try doing a budget-friendly movie date with your significant other or a budget-friendly lunch with friends instead.
Buy in bulk
You can save by buying in bulk. Aside from reducing a product’s unit price when buying in bulk, you can enjoy further discounts from shops that promote bulk purchases.
Review insurance policies
Insurance benefits are intangible so that many people choose to drop them when they need to cut down on costs. But having insurance protects you from some unforeseen events. Instead of dropping them, review the cost of premiums you pay for and see if you can reduce the cost, e.g., reducing the amount of death benefit.
You can save more by using coupons that you can get online. Besides shopping in local stores in the comfort of your homes, you get to enjoy budget-friendly prices. You may use some of these coupons in multiple stores to enjoy large discounts.
By using online stores that offer cashback rewards, you only need to key in your credit card number and get some of your money back for every transaction you make.
Do your haircut at home
You can save money by learning how to do your haircut at home. Look up tutorials on YouTube and read blogs about hair products to maintain a good hairstyle.
Set up automatic savings contributions
You may save lots of money by setting up automatic savings contributions through a payroll deduction system. Be sure that your deductions are made regularly, and the right amount is automatically deducted from your account balance every payday.
Get a side gig
You can earn extra money by tapping into your talent and getting a side gig, like selling arts and crafts or becoming a virtual assistant. This side hustle will allow you to earn more and save. Sites like Fiverr and Upwork can help you do this more easily.
Instead of getting external help, do things yourself; it will save you a lot of money. This includes everything from cooking and laundry to renovation and car maintenance.
Doing simple tasks that don’t require specialized skills will allow even those without knowledge about home improvement projects to save a lot of money.
Shop for used items and special deals
You can go to used shopping websites and find great deals on household items. You can also buy second-hand goods during yard sales or thrift shops at your local churches and other community buildings. Second-hand goods are typically cheaper than the market price.
Use tech to shop around
Use technology to scout for the best deals on items you need. Compare prices across different websites before buying.
Return items even if shops are closed
Shoppers can still return goods even if shops are closed. You can contact the call centers of major stores and explain your situation. The store’s representative will relay this information to colleagues on-site who should help you with the return provided that you have original receipts or proof of purchase.
Practice gratitude and giving
Be grateful for what you have and give to those in need. Donate to charities, offer words of encouragement to those less fortunate, and share your resources with those in need.
Experience the joy that comes with giving and build a generous mindset that will dictate your behavior towards others even after the pandemic ends.
Coronavirus Financial Assistance
Individuals who cannot work during the pandemic because of their health condition can apply for financial assistance from the government.
This includes those who had to stop working due to a severe infection from the coronavirus and those who cannot pay for medical care and other necessities because they lost a loved one who was a breadwinner.
The government provides financial assistance through grants that can be used to cover the following:
- Medical Bills – Individuals who become severely ill from coronavirus infection and individuals whose family members died from coronavirus infections may qualify for financial assistance. If your health insurance does not fully cover your medical needs, apply for a Health Care Coverage Program (HCIP) Cash Card, which will allow you to pay for medical bills. You can also opt for food stamps or coupons, which will help you buy groceries at subsidized prices.
- Necessary Expenses – Individuals whose family members died due to coronavirus infection may be qualified to receive funds for childcare expenses so they could attend counseling sessions and therapy sessions.
- Shelter – People who lost their homes and had to find shelter during the pandemic may be qualified for housing assistance.
Outside of the pandemic, the same benefit is extended to those whose living spaces were destroyed by fire or flood, victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons, survivors of domestic violence, and more. But for now, those with severe coronavirus infections will be prioritized.
Loan, Tax, and Debt Relief
The government will also give out loans, taxes, and debt relief to citizens in dire need of money.
For example, if your properties were destroyed during or after the pandemic, you may be eligible for a property tax refund. If you have loans due on your credit card bills, you can apply for a temporary waiver so you would not have to pay interest until you can restabilize your financial situation. If you need money to pay your credit card bills, bank loans, and mortgages, the same applies.
The government can provide cash loans through the Social Service Department (SSD). If you are in dire need of funds to help you get back on your feet, you can apply for a loan used as working capital.
You must pay the amount you borrowed plus interest within a specific period. If you cannot repay your debts, you may suffer from wage garnishing or deprivation of privileges such as future government assistance.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and charitable organizations also provide financial assistance to citizens during the coronavirus pandemic.
This assistance includes small loans with low-interest rates, free food and clothes, employment opportunities, shelter, counseling sessions and therapy programs, and a lot more.
If you applied for a credit card loan from a bank, you could instead opt for a loan from a charity organization if you wish to have shorter repayment periods.
Additionally, charitable organizations and NGOs may offer emergency cash assistance to those in need. The cash may be used for groceries, transportation fees, medication expenses, shelter costs, and utility bills.
Tips on How to Save Money After Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic did a lot of damage to our economy. People lost their jobs, money became scarce, and a lot more. If you aim to be financially stable after the pandemic has ended, here are some tips on how to save money:
Set your goals (long-term and short-term)
Set a target number that you want to achieve. Remember that this is not the final goal that will determine whether or not you succeed because it can be changed if possible. Also, plan ways to achieve your goal so it would be easier for you to save money.
Review pandemic spending habits
Inspect your daily spending habits and go back to your spending history because this will help you identify ways to save money starting from this day.
Look for unnecessary expenses such as subscriptions, add-ons, and more because these are the ones that you should stop immediately.
Review cash flow and spending
To know whether or not you can achieve your goal, assess your current cash flow and spendings. Estimate the amount of money you have and plan ways to save more without making yourself feel bad about it.
Also, do not forget to calculate the amount of money that you have spent on unnecessary expenses. Do not forget to review how much money is being added to your account from investments and other sources.
Live within your means
Once you have set your goal and identified ways to save money, live within your means.
Avoid buying products that are way too expensive because this will only result in debts and financial issues later on. Look for bargains whenever possible as well as discounts because these will help you save a lot more.
Emergency funds (6 months to 1 year’s worth)
It is necessary to have emergency funds that can last for six months or one year. You should not rely on assistance from the government nor charity organizations because this will just run out eventually. You need to earn more money on your own to save enough money in case of emergencies.
At least six months’ worth of emergency funds is necessary because you will never know when the market may fail or something else that could cause your income to plummet.
You need to have enough time to find a new job so you can still cover your expenses without rushing things. Banks might also be closed, which means it will be harder for you to receive assistance from them, even if they are open during this time.
Having one year’s worth of emergency funds is not bad either because this will give you more time if something unexpected happens.
Have fun, but don’t go crazy
It is perfectly fine to have fun, and you do not have to deprive yourself. Look for inexpensive ways to have fun because this will help you save money in the long run. However, do not go too crazy with your spending habits because it could result in debts again.
Move excess savings to your retirement
Instead of keeping an excess amount of savings in your checking or current account, transfer it to your retirement fund instead. It will provide you with more protection against financial issues that might occur during emergencies. Also, this is a good way to save money effectively because this will allow your savings to grow.
Set up autosave
Set up an automatic transfer so you can easily save money without much effort. If you find this hard, do it once per week or month instead to help build your savings gradually. This will also prevent you from spending the money that you have saved automatically.
Don’t go back to bad spending habits.
You might not be able to avoid all the expenses that you had before the pandemic. However, make sure not to go back to your old ways of overspending because this will lead you straight back to where you came from. Keep in mind that living within your means is a great thing, and do not neglect it.
Cut the cable bill
Nowadays, you can watch TV for free as long as you have an internet connection. Cut the cable bill and opt to use the internet instead. Go back to reading books or newspapers so you can save a lot more money. Also, do not forget to cancel subscriptions that you are no longer using.
Think twice before buying a house
Even if you have a stable job, do not rush into buying a house because there might be a possibility that the pandemic will slow down business. Stay in the rental market until the economy gets better.
Do not forget to check the foreclosure listings because this might also be a good option for you and your family.
Think twice before buying a new car
Brand new cars are not necessary during this time because it is just an unnecessary expense that you should avoid at all costs. Think twice before buying a brand new car unless you need one.
Be mindful when shopping online
It is best to avoid shopping online right now because this will result in many unnecessary expenses. Be mindful when shopping online, and make sure to prioritize your needs. Also, do not forget to check coupons and promo codes before making a purchase.
Spend on bettering yourself
Instead of spending money on material things, spend it instead on bettering yourself. Take a class, learn to play an instrument, and even take up training for your hobbies. These will help you save more money in the long run because this will improve your skills and knowledge, which can be instilled into your work.
Cut your gym and pool memberships
If you are into sports, that is fine. However, it would be good to cut your gym or pool memberships because this will become another unnecessary expense. Instead of spending money on these things, spend more time with your family and friends outside the house instead.
COVID has taught us the importance of being adequately protected, both health- and life-wise. If you do not have health insurance, take the time to look for one now. Also, if you have a home or car, get insurance as it would be beneficial if something happens during a crisis.
Clean up your debt
Take some time to clean up your debt and avoid getting into more of it. Ask the banks if they can rearrange your payment plans so you can pay them off faster without hurting your credit score.
You can opt to consolidate all your debt into just one payment per month, so you have a better hold of your budget.