Emergencies around the world, in your hometown, or your personal life, can upend your finances. Some emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have a huge impact on the economy, leading to closed businesses and lost jobs.
Have you been affected by this pandemic or another emergency? Many people have been laid off or furloughed, or have seen pay cuts or a reduction in hours. Unfortunately, emergency or not, we still have bills to pay and mouths to feed. You may not be able to get a new job or increase your income for the time being, but there are several ways you can go about cutting expenses so you can save money and stay financially afloat during these tough times. Now is the perfect time to figure out how to drastically cut expenses so you and your family can pay your bills and make it financially through this pandemic.
Cut Transportation Expenses
Transportation likely eats up a chunk of your budget every month, whether it is gas, car maintenance, bus fares, or ride-sharing costs. With businesses closed and everyone staying home, for now, this is the easiest place to make cutbacks when you’re trying to figure out how to cut expenses.
Your car is a money pit. If you can’t go to work right now and most places you’d want to be are closed, then stop driving your car. This will save on gas money, reduce your chances of getting in an expensive accident, reduce the need for repair or maintenance, and stretch the time between your next oil change and car wash. So how are you supposed to get anywhere? Try these ideas to reduce or eliminate the need to use your car:
- Walk: If you need to get out of the house to get away from the monotony of social distancing, go on a walk around your neighborhood. Walk to the nearest park, walk to get groceries (enlist family members to help you carry everything). Plus, the fresh air will do you good and lift your spirits.
- Take turns: When you are getting low on groceries, find a friend to team up with. Give them your list when they go to the store to do their shopping, and the next week it’s your turn to shop. This helps you both save on gas money.
- Carpool: If you and your coworkers are still heading into work every day, take turns carpooling to work. During the pandemic, be respectful and avoid any potential spread of the virus by sanitizing your hands and keeping them in your lap. Don’t touch your face while riding in someone else’s car, and make sure to wear a mask.
- Take public transportation: Use the bus or other public transportation options to save on gas. Keep yourself healthy by keeping your distance from others, wearing a face covering, and washing your hands before and after your trip.
Call Your Car Insurance
Your insurance rates are based on how much you drive your car. If you aren’t driving at all right now thanks to working from home or losing your job, give your insurance a call to update them and ask for reduced rates. If you can get by without driving at all at this time, cancel your insurance entirely. That’s one less bill you’ll have to worry about, but just make sure you aren’t driving. If you get caught driving without insurance, the fines will be steep, not to mention the costs if you are at fault for an accident.
Sell Your Car
Instead of dealing with all the costs associated with owning a car—gas, insurance, maintenance—just sell it. Especially if you have more than one car, because chances are you and your family can get by with one right now. Plus, the extra cash will really help out right now.
Cut Food Expenses
You have to eat, but that doesn’t mean you need to eat gourmet every night. Cutting expenses in your food budget can make a big difference in savings.
Plan Your Meals
The first step to saving money on food is to plan ahead. Plan your meals and snacks for the next week or two. Pick recipes that are simple, filling, and use cheap pantry staples such as rice, beans, and frozen vegetables. Eat your leftovers and don’t waste food.
Don’t Eat Out
Say “no” to takeout. Eating out is comforting, fast, and easy—but you are trying to save money, and looking to learn how to drastically cut expenses during this pandemic. Planning ahead reduces the need to order out. If you must eat out, pick one or two days in a month to order from your favorite local restaurant—chances are their employees are hurting as much as you and could use the support.
Cut Your Grocery Bill
Do everything you can to spend less on groceries. Try these ideas for cutting expenses:
- Buy store or generic brands
- Don’t buy anything not on your grocery list
- Compare prices
- Shop sales
- Shop at bargain stores
- Sign up for store discount programs
- Buy only what you need—don’t stock up or buy expensive snack foods
Cutting Entertainment Expenses
Entertainment is a luxury, even during the best of times. You do need a relaxing and creative outlet, so evaluate what sources of entertainment are most important to you.
Sports are canceled and many TV shows are cutting their seasons short, so there’s no reason to justify the cost of your cable bill. Pick a streaming service to replace it instead.
Reconsider Your Subscriptions
If you’re already streaming your TV, take a look at your subscriptions. Cut back to only one, ideally the cheapest or the one you use most often. Or, maybe now is the time to get cheap entertainment watching DVDs you already own and free videos on YouTube.
While saving money on cable and subscriptions, find cheap, interactive ways to have fun. Play games with your family and friends—over video chat if they live apart from you—and find creative and free ways to spend time together.
Cutting Expenses: Additional Ideas
These additional drastic ways to cut expenses will help you save money during this difficult time.
In the middle of an emergency isn’t the best time to move, but if you are struggling to pay your rent and your landlord won’t defer it, it’s best to get housing that you can afford.
Get a Roommate
Instead of moving, get a roommate or rent out a room to help you cover rent or mortgage payments during the pandemic.
Be Careful with Utilities
With everyone spending more time at home, utility bills are bound to go up. Be careful about turning off lights and appliances, and wear a sweatshirt or take off layers to save on heating and cooling.
Quit Your Vices
Addictive habits, such as smoking, too much alcohol, and even drinking soda, can be expensive. Time to do something drastic: quit cold turkey. The need to save money may give you the will power to finally give up your vice.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made life hard for millions of Americans. The one bright side: staying at home can promote money-saving habits. With movie theaters, restaurants, and malls closing, there are simply fewer places to spend the money you have. These ideas for how to drastically cut expenses should help you and your family get through this hard time.
Need even more help getting by? Look into taking out a loan at Lift Credit.