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There's no question that the pandemic economy is hitting some families right in the wallet. With reduced hours and layoffs, and kids at home expecting three meals a day finances can get tight. On the other hand, less commuting, shopping, and pricey kid activities, could offer an opportunity to save money. In the spirit of making ends meet, or expanding your savings, we reached into the our site community and pulled out these tried-and-true tips for stretching, and saving every dollar.
Build up your savings
Potentially no income for 3 months? Save every penny you can. Money in the bank can buy housing and food, a paid off loan cannot.
Ideally, you should have about 3-6 months of expenses in your emergency fund. I say save all the extra money in your emergency fund for the remainder of the Covid-19 crisis. Once this time of uncertainty has passed, get back on track with paying off debt. If you find yourself unemployed, that extra cash is going to come in handy.
It helps to have a concrete goal in mind. Try to make goals you can attain on a quarterly basis, like I will save $500 in the next 3 months for the emergency fund, or to pay off part of a debt or whatever. And then set the next step towards whatever the bigger goal is. It'll help you to stay motivated and on track.
I have a separate account at a separate bank. There is no debit card. If I want that money, I have to physically go.
I put 10% of my pay into it, and dh (dear husband)puts $120/check. We recently had some issues, so I took out most of it.So now we’re rebuilding. We’ll have a few grand in there by the end ofthe year, and plan to put more in if we can afford to.This is the only way we’ve been able to save. If it’s linked to my regular checking account, we will spend it.
I commit $250 per month to savings and only touch it if absolutely necessary. The only way it worked was I considered it a bill and would move the $250 as soon as we got paid, and did the rest of the budget after. It was hard at first, but it's gotten easier.
Many people think you need to have money to even start talking with a financial adviser. You don't. It has helped us navigate finances tremendously, and as we have progressed financially, our adviser helped us find the right ways to put aside money. Now we have money pulled automatically into investments so we don't even count that as money coming in.
Have money withdrawn from the paycheck(s) go directly into savings. I have a savings account with no checks or debit card and at a different bank than we use day to day. If we get a raise, I try to put more in that savings. Because I have to physically go to the bank, I rarely touch the savings.
Try Dave Ramsey's envelope system. You take your budget and divide it up into envelopes. Once the money in that envelope is totally gone, that's it. No more money is to be spent on that category. So if you budget $100 to eat for two weeks and spend $98 in the first week, you only have $2 in that envelope for the next week. It forces you to stick to the budget.
Stop being impulsive. Easier said than done, but plan meals, plan daily expenditures, plan for one day to eat out a month. Stick to it. Direct your comfort to the amount in your savings account, not instant gratification from spending spontaneously.
Find smart ways to scrimp
Look into your health-insurance company's Rx-by-mail program. They usually have the lower rates than commercial pharmacies. Added bonus, it comes to your door. No trip to pick up your Rx and then spend money because you are out and about, or in a pinch because it's one more thing to do and you spend out of convenience.
Go green and stop using all things disposable. We use old rags instead of paper towels for most basic cleaning. DH(dear husband)cut up a bunch of old undershirts so no money spent there. I refuse to use Ziploc bags and use Tupperware or Mason jars for all food storage. We use wool dryer balls and I haven’t bought dryer sheets in years. It’slittle stuff but it adds up over the course of a year.
We buy in bulk where we can, ie. Costco. I’ve been eating a lot of oatmeal in the mornings which is a pretty cheap breakfast. Maybe make more meatless dinners if you don’t already? Instead of k-cups, we put coffee grinds in a reusable plastic thing that works with the Kuerig. I also stopped buying coffee out and make my own. Will bring my own coffee in a travel mug if we are going to the park, Work or road trip etc. I make some things from scratch. For example, I can make a very large tub of hummus for a lot cheaper than the pre-made hummus I buy at the store.
I procrastinate. No really. I don’t just “go shopping.” If I think Ineed something, I put it on a list. If I still need it in a week or so,then I’ll start looking for it. Eventually I buy it. But just spreadingout the process often helps me find out I don’t REALLY need it. Or maybeI find a cheaper option. Natural laziness for the win.
Walk, bike, and use public transportation as much as possible.
If you think you "need" something, first look around for something you can use as a substitute, at least temporarily (rags for paper towels, cardboard boxes for laundry baskets). If you find something, great! If not, maybe it's something you can borrow from a neighbor (tool you won't use often?). If you still need to buy, start looking for the cheapest way to do so. Hopefully, a substitute has bought you time to look for used, wait for a sale, watch for coupons, or arrange with a friend to go halfsies. Your creativity may also help you find a cheaper substitute.
Transportation: We share a car. I take my husband into work on Friday and run all our errands/appointments on that day. It takes a bit of planning, but it works. This cuts car payments, insurance payments, and gas. Also where I live, Sam's Club has the cheapest gas, and that saves a ton, too.
Cut the utilities bill
Cell phones: Shop the cheapest plans with appropriate coverage in your area.
We use drying racks for a lot of our laundry. Keeps the gas bill lower and extends the life of the clothing.
Save on food shopping
Don’t over buy baby clothes. The first few months especially in summermy babies live in onesies or sleep and play outfits. They grow so darnfast chances are you’ll end up with outfits you never put them in.
Remember, groceries will be more if you and the kids are home all day now and weren't before.
Analyze your receipt. Look at what you are spending on what. Are there things you can cut like juice, Coke, chips, and snacks? Can you cut back on meats and do a meat-free night once a week? Also, are you using everything you buy? If you are throwing out produce, leftovers, or stale snacks, that's wasted money. So watch what is going into the trash. Make plans for or freeze leftovers and produce that is getting too ripe.
I find that planning better helps us save money. Meal planning (and knowing what we have on hand) ensures that we are less tempted to go out to eat.
Ask/look at your local grocery store for Manager Specials. Mine offers one shelf in the meat dept., one for bread, etc. Note: you might also ask in each department what time of day they put things on the specials shelf, so you can plan your shopping at that time.
When using coupons, only buy types of products you normally would use. If a different brand of toilet paper is cheaper, that's great, but don't start buying canned chili or Hamburger Helper just because it's on sale if no one in your family will eat it! (It's tempting sometimes when you find a great deal.)
I noticed that the more trips I make to the market, the more I spent. Limit your trips (also save on gas), and you are less likely to buy things you don't need. Keep track of what you buy to see whether you can find alternatives or make them at home cheaper or buy in bulk.
I allow myself small splurges. For example, even though I know frozen pizza isn't the best nutrition-wise, spending $10 on frozen pizza saves me from spending $35 on pizza delivery. Spending $4 on bagged salad at the grocery store saves me from going to a restaurant and spending $10 on a salad for lunch.
Save on clothes shopping
I go to the Goodwill, where they sell clothing by the pound. It really is helping us clothe our baby at an affordable price.
For online shopping. Fill up your cart and wait 24 hours or morebefore buying. When you go back 24 hours later you can better decide ifyou really need it or not.
I used to have a bit of a clothes-shopping addiction, nothing over-the-top crazy but it was making things difficult for me. Now if I feel like I need to impulse buy, I set a $5 limit. Then, if I feel like I can't find anything I really like, I don't buy anything.
I love to save money by shopping at thrift stores, consignments shops, garage sales, and online auctions. I love sifting through things for great deals on brand-new or almost-brand-new items. I also love to refashion things I find at Goodwill.
There are many baby items with tags for less than retail price on Poshmark and Mercari. From clothes, to shoes, baby bottles, bottle warmer, blankets, wipes, and diapers, etc. Brand new, unopened. Just have to do your search.
Socking away for college
We have a 529 for our little one. When he was baptized, and almost any other time he receives money, we put it in there. We also put some money in for holidays – if, say, at Christmas we planned to spend $100 on him, half goes toward gifts and the other half goes into the college fund until he's older and actually knows the difference between three gifts and ten.
Grandparents have access to our child’s savings-account number IF they want to put money in. I also have a small amount going out of my pay each pay period. That way I don't miss the money and it will accrue interest over time.
Once our mortgage is paid off and we are debt-free, we will bump up our retirement savings and start to think about college funds. Our financial planner said it best: "Your kids can always borrow for college, but you can't borrow for retirement!"
Even if college as we know it now changes, I'm not seeing analternative as useful as the 529 for saving kid specific funds. Itseems worth the risk.
We haven't started saving yet, but currently pay over $18,000 per year for daycare. When our little one starts school at 5 years old, we will take the money we were using towards daycare to save for his tuition.
We save whatever we get back in taxes for our son’s college every year and put in extra when we can.
Don’t forget to have fun
It was rare for us to do date nights even before quarantine, so there'snot much change. Usually on Saturday nights we feed the kids early andthen do our own "adult dinner" with a movie after they're in bed.
Literally anything can be a date night. Bake cupcakes or cookies together. Find a new recipe on Pinterest. Turn on some music and dance in the kitchen while you decorate your cupcakes. It’s just about being together in the moment and having fun. It doesn’t have to be some lavish dinner out.