Frugality serves you well at every point in life, but in a pandemic, it's more of an essential than an option. With millions of Americans struggling to cover their bills with a piecemeal of tax refunds, stimulus checks, unemployment, and whatever cash they can scrape together, any opportunity to cut costs is on the table.
Banks and other service providers are offering unprecedented levels of hardship assistance, but there are also some steps you can take to save your family a little money without making any drastic lifestyle changes (other than the ones the pandemic has forced upon us).
1. Plan your meals in advance
Planning your meals in advance is almost a necessity these days as people try to limit their trips to the grocery store. But it can also help you out financially. You can plan several meals that use similar ingredients, so you don't have to buy as many different things. Planning out your meals can also ensure you don't waste money on things you don't need and can't use, like too many perishable items that could go bad. If you choose to make all of your meals on one day and freeze them, you could also save some time during weeknights.
2. Shop generic
If your store is still sold out of some items, you might just have to take what you can get for the time being. But if you have a choice between a few different brands, go with the generic version unless you know there's a significant difference in quality. Usually there's not, and generic products can save you a little bit of money. Even if it's just a couple of dollars here and a few cents there, it'll start to add up over time.
3. Use coupons
Coupons might not be all that useful to you right now if some of the on sale items are sold out, but you should still try to take advantage of them if you can. Check your local newspaper and the internet for deals on items you buy normally. Have these ready when you go to the store, so you can save on the purchases you were going to buy anyway.
4. Try making or fixing things yourself
Rather than buying something new or hiring someone to fix something that's broken in your home, use your extra time to learn how to make or fix the item for yourself. This can give you something to do to assuage your boredom while also saving your household a little money. But be reasonable about what you're trying to do. Fixing a leaky faucet is one thing. Redoing a lot of the plumbing in your house is quite another. Trying to do too much could just lead to a mess.
5. Quit cable
You might have done this even before the pandemic, but if you still have a cable subscription, consider canceling it unless you use it often. Try just getting by with your streaming services or get an antenna so you can access local channels for free. If you're really ambitious, you could try a month without TV at all and use this time to get closer to your family or explore some other hobbies.
6. Turn down your heat
Lowering the temperature on your thermostat can help you save money on your heating bill without causing your household too much discomfort. Even changing it by a degree or two can make a difference in your monthly bill. You can try lowering the temperature on your water heater to save even more money.
7. Cancel unused subscriptions
Go back through your bank and credit card statements for the last month and make note of every subscription you pay for. There might be a couple you forgot about. Cancel any that you're not using or that you cannot use because of the pandemic, like a gym membership. You might also be able to downgrade your cellphone data if you're not using as much right now because you have WiFi at home.
This is far from an exhaustive list of money-saving tips. But it can give you a few ideas of how you can save a little more money without making major changes to your lifestyle. See if you can brainstorm a few more and then put them into action.