The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly changed our lives and our spending habits. The stay-at-home orders make it impossible to do many of the activities we typically enjoy, yet with all the stockpiling going on, you may find you're spending just as much, if not more, than you were before. If you've lost your job due to the pandemic, you're probably especially concerned about how you're going to make ends meet until this all blows over.
You may have already located some obvious areas of overspending, but here are a few other places in your budget where you may want to trim back if you're trying to keep your spending to a minimum during these challenging times.
1. Foods you won't eat
You've probably got some extra food at home right now, so you don't have to go to the grocery store as often. That's not a bad decision, but you need to be realistic about the extra food you're buying. Focus on things you and your family will actually eat, even if the crisis passes and life returns to normal. Buying items that people don't want or can't eat because of food allergies is just throwing money away.
You should also make sure you'll be able to eat all of the food you buy before it expires. Check the expiration date on all of your items before you buy them. Consider freezing some perishable items you don't plan to use right away to help them last longer.
Grocery delivery is another option if you're not comfortable going to the grocery store, but you also don't want to stockpile food that could potentially go bad. Some popular grocery store chains offer this, and there are also apps where you can request that someone pick up your groceries and bring them to your door so you don't have to pay them. These delivery services are a little overwhelmed by demand right now, so it might take longer to get your groceries than normal, but if you can be patient, this can get you the food you need with less personal contact.
It's easy to lose track of subscriptions, especially if they only renew once a quarter or once a year. It makes sense to pay for them if you're using them regularly, but if you're not using them anymore, you may as well save yourself the money. Go back through your bank and credit card statements for the past year and look for subscriptions you may have forgotten about. Cancel them before they renew again.
You should also consider canceling subscriptions and services you can't use right now because of the pandemic. If you're paying a monthly gym membership, for example, see if you can cancel it until the pandemic blows over and your gym reopens.
Check to see if any of the subscriptions you're paying for are offering free or discounted services during the pandemic, too. If they are, you might be able to enjoy the services you're used to without having to pay for them for a month or two.
3. Loan interest
If you took out a loan for a home, a car, or just about anything else before the pandemic hit, your interest rate is probably higher than interest rates are right now. Refinancing can save you money over the lifetime of your loan, and it may also lower your monthly payments, especially if you lengthen your loan term.
The downside to refinancing is you must pay new closing costs, and you may have difficulty securing a new loan if you're out of work right now. In that case, you should see if your lender is offering any hardship assistance programs that will enable you to temporarily defer payments until you're able to go back to work. Interest will likely still accrue, but deferring payments can give you some breathing room until things get back to normal.
Credit card companies are also offering hardship assistance, and you're always free to negotiate with them. Try requesting a lower interest rate or transferring your balance to a new credit card with a 0% introductory APR. Try to avoid deferring credit card payments if you can, because the high interest rates could make it even harder to pay back what you owe later.
We don't know yet when the stay-at-home orders will be lifted, so we must conserve our cash to get us through until life goes back to normal. See if you can cut costs in any of the above areas so you can save more money to cover your essentials.