When facing a reduced income, one of the first pieces of advice you’ll hear is to simply “Make a budget and stick to it. Just spend less.” That’s easier said than done for a lot of us. Some savings tips are obvious (skip the daily latte in favor of coffee at home), while others might not be evident as you start to organize your new financial picture. And if that latte is critical to your well-being, buy the latte. Whether you’re in need of serious cutbacks to your lifestyle due to a job loss, or you could just use some helpful hints, we’ve compiled a list of ways you can reduce spending throughout–and after–the coronavirus quarantine.
• Put your savings to work. Hopefully you’re already working on–or maintaining–a budget (LINK) to track your spending. It’s important to maintain a cash reserve in an FDIC-insured savings or money market account, but in many cases, people are earning very little or even zero interest. Well known banks like American Express are offering much higher interest rates with no fees or minimums. American Express, for example, had a rate of 1.5% as of April 29, 2020.
• Get healthy. Your health will directly impact the cost of life insurance. Healthier people are likely to spend less on actual healthcare, too. And, in some cases, becoming healthier may reduce your health insurance premiums.
• Rethink your workout. If you have a gym membership, check to see if it’s been placed on hold until the gym is ready to reopen. While most gyms have suspended charging clients, if yours hasn’t you may save money switching to a less expensive gym. Explore home-based workouts; many gyms and fitness instructors are offering free and pay-what-you-can live fitness classes via video conferencing software.
• Prescriptions can be expensive. Ask your doctor to prescribe generic drugs whenever possible. You may also take a drug where you can be prescribed a higher dose and split pills in half to save on your expenses.
Savings Around the Home
• Keep your home organized. Sometimes you have to pay a bit up front to keep your home organized, but keeping things in proper places keeps you from buying more than you need, especially when a few taps on your phone can summon goods from Amazon in days, when you may have already had what you needed in house.
• Replace your paper towels. You can get super-cheap white towels for next to nothing from kitchen supply stores. In fact, many industrial kitchens don’t use paper products because they’d spend a fortune on them. Replacing paper towels in the kitchen and for cleaning can really add up. The next time there's a spill reach for a more eco and budget friendly option.
• Change your furnace filters. Keeping your furnace filters clean is important for maintaining your home’s air quality. It also saves money by keeping your system running efficiently. If you always forget to refresh your filters, consider having them automatically delivered by a service like FilterEasy.
• Wash your clothes in cold water. Today’s detergents typically do just as good a job cleaning on the cold cycle as a warmer cycle. And, in fact, this might make your clothes last longer.
• Budget for regular maintenance of your vehicle, home, and appliances. When you’re on a tight budget, it’s easy to ignore long-term expenses like car repairs and appliance maintenance, but it’s much cheaper to pay for an annual tune-up of your HVAC system than to deal with major problems down the road. Likewise, keeping your car in good shape is much cheaper, in the long run, than dealing with big repairs that could have been prevented. And along with regular maintenance on that car, don’t let the new car smell lure you in. Keeping your car longer and well maintained can save you in the long run.
• Learn some DIY skills. Doing some things yourself–whether it’s growing veggies in your backyard, making cookies from scratch, or doing basic home repairs–can save you tons of money over time. Plus, some DIY skills can become a fun hobby or even a money-making side gig.And you can turn your unwanted items into cash on sites like Ebay or Poshmark.
Insurance Savings. Double check your insurance policies. Don’t pay for more insurance coverage than you need.
• Shop your insurance policies around and consider combining them. You can often save automatically by insuring your home and vehicles with the same insurer. But every year at renewal time, you should call your agent to see if they can offer you a lower price. If not, it’s time to shop around.
• Suspend your insurance coverage when you’re out of town. Are you going to be leaving your car to sit in the garage for a couple of weeks while you go on vacation? Ask your insurance company about downgrading your coverage for that time. You can drop your liability coverage and reduce your premiums for a short time.
• Pay your life insurance annually. Insurance companies charge you more if you pay monthly, quarterly or semi-annually. Pay once a year, and you’ll pay less in premiums. You can run a new quote here to see if you can save on premiums, and SAVVI can recommend the right amount of life insurance for your needs.
• Pay car insurance semi-annually. With most car insurance, the company offers quarterly and semi-annual payment options. It costs more to pay quarterly, and twice a year is more convenient anyway.
• Increase insurance deductibles. Most of us don’t need to be insured for all losses over $100 on our car, for example. Although we wouldn’t want to pay a $250 or even $500 deductible, we could. If that’s you, find out how much you’d save from raising your deductible. Just be sure you always have enough money in savings to cover the deductible!
• Think twice before submitting an insurance claim. A good rule of thumb is to not submit a claim on a loss that is less than twice your deductible. So, for a $250 deductible on an auto loss, you pay out of pocket any loss up to $500. Why? The $250 paid receive from your insurance company is not worth the increased premiums you’re likely to pay. You may want to call your insurance agent to find out how a claim will impact your premiums before filing the claim.
• Get rid of Private Mortgage Insurance. If the down payment on your home was less than 20%, you are probably paying private mortgage insurance (PMI) as part of your monthly mortgage payment. Once you have 20% equity in your home, you should contact your lender to remove your PMI. You can build up this equity either as your home appreciates, or by paying down debt. If you have a newer FHA mortgage, you may need to refinance to get rid of PMI.
Frugal Lifestyle Hacks
• Limit your spending with an allowance. It’s fine to spend some money on random indulgences. But you can keep it from getting out of hand by using an allowance system where you get a certain amount of money to spend on a weekly or monthly basis.
• Use the 24-hour rule. Before you make any impulse buy, make yourself wait for at least one day. You’ll likely find that by the end of that waiting period, you don’t want the item anymore.
• Drink less alcohol. It costs money and adds calories. When you do want a drink, learn to mix your own cocktails to save big.
• Skip the bottled water. Instead of buying a bottle of water every time you go to work, the gym, or wherever, buy a water filter and take your own water. You can save even more by making your own coffee to take along with you on the go!
• Shop your pantry and freezer. It’s really easy to forget about food stockpiled in your pantry or freezer. So, before you go to the grocery store and wind up buying more of what you already have, dig around your kitchen and make a list of what you’ve got.
• Cook from scratch. If you’re really busy, consider using your crock pot to cook from scratch and save a ton of time. Research recipes that use what you already have on hand, and save on future ingredient purchases. If your pantry and freezer are organized, this step is easier.
• Limit how often you grocery shop. Hopefully you’re already doing this to flatten the curve! Grocery shopping less often will typically lead to savings. Try to shop only once a week. If you often shop at warehouse stores, you can hit those up once a month and then just stop for your fresh items once a week.
• Use a grocery couponing app. Instead of printing and clipping coupons, use an app that does the work for you. This gives you the benefits of coupons without all the time to organize them.
• Buy the off brand. Many items are nearly exactly the same in off brand as in brand name. You can save a fortune by sticking with the off brands available at your local grocery store. You could save even more with options like Costco’s Kirkland brand or Aldi’s off brands. Check out bulk stores for more savings. Many foods can be bought in bulk for way less. For instance, you can buy frozen vegetables really cheaply in large quantities. Or buy your paper goods from a bulk store to save.
• Discover your local library. Local libraries often share resources with a larger regional library system, offering cardholders a wide variety of digital books and movies, not to mention newspapers, magazines, and music you can access from your computer or mobile device.
• Subscribe to magazines or read digital copies. If you must have a certain magazine each month, subscribe. Subscriptions offer substantial savings over the cost at the newsstand. Many public library systems have digital memberships through apps like Hoopla and Libby, where you can read magazines in-app with a library card. Amazon also offers some great deals, and Prime members get access to a few magazines per month as part of the membership.
• Especially with everyone shopping online right now: Price check. If you’re shopping for larger-ticket items, price checking comes naturally. But there are some great apps that let you do this in just a few seconds for everyday items, too. That way you can be sure to always get the best price. Use coupon codes and cashback sites for online purchases where you can. Send away for and follow up on rebates. After you buy a product with a rebate, send in the form that day. If you can, file the rebate online for easier processing. Then set a reminder on your calendar to follow up with the company if you haven’t received the rebate in a reasonable amount of time.
Stay on Top of Those Monthly Bills
• Always pay your bills on time to avoid added interest and late fees. Ask for reduced minimums if possible; you won’t always get them, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Paying bills on time not only saves fees but saves your credit report in the long run.
• Don’t overpay the cable/wireless company. Shop around for a package deal on phone, internet and cable. You could save a considerable amount each month. Look into streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or (especially if you’re already a Prime member) Amazon. If you’re already streaming media, take a look at non-essential or unused subscriptions you’re not watching regularly. Same goes for other subscription boxes and services.
• Transfer your credit card balances to 0% APR cards. Even if your credit score isn’t incredibly high, you may qualify for a lower interest personal loan or one of these 0% interest credit cards. Transferring your balances can save you a ton of money as you pay off debt. Another option is to ask your current credit card company for an interest rate reduction. As with a HELOC, it doesn’t hurt to ask!
• Pay your mortgage payments bi-weekly, rather than monthly. This lets you painlessly make an extra payment each year, which can add up quickly in the form of home equity!
• Request an interest rate reduction for your home equity line of credit. Even a 0.50% reduction can make a big difference in your monthly payment.
• Refinance your mortgage. If you can reduce your interest rate by 1% or more, it is often beneficial to refinance. This is particularly true if you have a high rate because your credit score wasn’t great when you took out the mortgage. If your score has improved, you may qualify for a better rate. Start by asking your current mortgage lender about lower rates. Here’s a table of refinance rates that is updated daily.
• Don’t pay interest on credit cards. This is obvious, but as soon as you fail to pay off the credit card in full, the high interest payments start to eat away at your monthly budget.
• Improve your credit score. A good credit score can save you thousands of dollars in interest on everything from a home loan to a car loan to credit cards. If you’ve never focused on your credit score before, the place to start is to get your free credit reports and FICO score. Once you improve your credit score, you can refinance your debts to save big money.
Not every savings tip will work for every household or individual, but even a few thrifty lifestyle changes can add up over time. You may find that a little saving inspires even more savings, and don’t forget as your frugality adds money to the budget, a SAVVI financial plan can help you choose how to allocate your funds to stay on track for your future.
If you've been financially impacted by the Coronavirus crisis, click here to take advantage of our free interactive tool. The questionnaire will help you determine if you qualify for assistance to maintain financial stability in this time. If you qualify, you will also have access to a free financial plan from SAVVI. Your SAVVI plan will take into account the effects of the current crisis, while helping you achieve your long-term goals.
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