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10 Hidden Expenses Since the Coronavirus Crisis Hit

Author: Rachel Warren | January 25, 2021

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The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has tested the resiliency of the global population on a multitude of levels. One of the most obvious consequences of the pandemic has been its economic impact, which has caused unemployment rates to hit all-time highs and forced millions of people into financial free fall.

However, some pandemic-related financial outcomes are far more subtle. Let’s take a look at 10 hidden expenses that have emerged since the pandemic began that may or may not take a chunk out of your wallet now or in the future.

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1. Higher utilities

With so many people at home as a result of lockdown orders, it’s no wonder that certain costs associated with owning or renting a home have risen in kind. As whole families have been forced to stay home to carry out both work and school for months at a time, daily usage of common utilities like electricity and water has skyrocketed.

And with routines disrupted in the stay-at-home era, basic costs like heating and cooling are also putting a significant strain on many families’ budgets. In normal times, it’s not uncommon for families to turn down or switch off their air-conditioning or heating during the day when everyone’s at work and school.

ALSO READ: Should You Rent a Home or Buy One in 2021?

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Delivery worker wearing mask and holding paper bag of food

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2. Food delivery services

If you’ve found yourself switching on your phone and opening one of your favorite food delivery apps multiple times a week since the pandemic began, you’re not alone. With something as simple as going out to eat in a restaurant becoming a challenge or impossible depending on your local restrictions, ordering food through a delivery app is an easy and convenient solution to enjoy your favorite meal from a local breakfast spot or bistro.

That being said, the cost of ordering through these apps is notably higher for the consumer than regular carryout would be once delivery and service fees are factored in. It’s also worth noting that these delivery apps eat up a significant portion of the restaurant’s profits from your order by charging high commission fees.

I’m not saying you should ditch delivery apps entirely, and these services are certainly of benefit to workers in the gig economy. But even dialing back your usage could leave you with some extra money in your pocket at the end of each month and also make a difference for a local business.

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3. More credit card debt

Growing debt has been an inevitable outcome of the financial strain millions are facing during the pandemic. From buying groceries to paying bills, many have been forced to amass a much higher level of credit card debt than they otherwise would simply to get by.

On the flip side, growing trends such as the boom of consumers shopping online has in some cases triggered a spike in unnecessary credit card debt. It’s a good idea to keep a detailed record of your expenses each month and potentially assess where you could possibly cut back certain discretionary expenditures. And if you’re working on whittling down existing credit card debt, make sure you pay at least the minimum balance each month so you can avoid excess interest payments.

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4. Higher internet costs

With millions of people working and/or studying remotely, many consumers have been forced to reckon with higher costs to accommodate this spike in internet usage. In addition to an increase in consumers upgrading their internet plans for enhanced bandwidth that can support the whole family working or learning at home, these costs can also be attributed to internet companies hiking their prices up.

ALSO READ: 8 Things Budgeting All-Stars Do

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5. Grocery costs are on the rise

With so many people cooking at home during the pandemic, it makes sense that households are spending more on groceries than they otherwise would. And the cost of groceries in general is also on the rise.

In December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service released its Food Price Outlook for 2020 and 2021. The report considered a range of metrics, including the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is “a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services.”

According to this report, the CPI for grocery and supermarket goods increased nearly 4% in November 2020 compared with the year-ago period. The report also noted that the cost of these “food-at-home” products could rise as much as 2% in the full year 2021. While these percentages may not seem like much, they can significantly boost your food bill over time and are worth keeping in mind the next time you fill your grocery basket.

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6. Streaming services

With so much time spent at home these days, streaming services are more popular and in demand than ever before. And with so many streaming options to choose from, the price of each monthly or annual subscription to your favorite services can really add up. If you want to cut back your streaming services spending, consider bundling your subscriptions to get the most bang for your buck.

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7. Increased demand has led some online retailers to drive prices up

From food to gadgets to furniture to clothes, online shopping is an easy solution to order both essentials and nonessentials from the comfort of your home and have your items delivered as soon as that same day. The coronavirus pandemic has only escalated the already exponential growth and demand that is typical in the e-commerce sector.

In some cases, online and third-party retailers have placed a premium on certain essential products and/or services, either to capitalize on demand or counteract other coronavirus-related costs their business is grappling with. That’s not to say that all of these actions have veered into price-gouging territory, but it’s not a bad idea to do a little comparison shopping when scrolling your favorite online store to ensure you’re not paying an unnecessarily high price for the item you’re buying.

ALSO READ: 20 Price Comparison Sites to Help Widen Your E-Commerce Distribution

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8. Some colleges have introduced coronavirus-related charges

The pandemic has had an adverse impact on a wide range of industries, and the educational sector is no different. In the age of COVID-19, many college students are facing a slew of new charges when they register for classes.

Many top universities are still holding classes wholly online. However, others are allowing in-person classes and a number have allowed students to move on campus, which brings up a host of COVID-19 sanitation challenges. Accordingly, a growing number of colleges are adding new coronavirus charges onto students’ tuition tabs. In some cases, these charges could amount to hundreds of dollars a year on top of regular tuition costs.

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9. Unforeseen medical costs

It’s no secret that the costs associated with coronavirus treatment and/or hospitalization can be incredibly steep. However, other unforeseen healthcare trends have emerged during the pandemic that could have a trickle-down financial effect on the consumer.

One of the most notable outcomes could be a spike in the cost of medical care in the future due to a significant percentage of people having postponed treatment during the pandemic, according to a September 2020 report by McKinsey & Company.

The report notes, “Once the immediate and direct impact of COVID-19 in a particular geography has passed, the effects from deferred care will likely create new challenges for individuals and the healthcare system that could increase annual costs in the United States between $30 billion and $65 billion.”

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Healthcare worker in personal protective equipment administering coronavirus test at COVID-19 drive-thru test site

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10. COVID-19 testing costs

COVID-19 tests are supposed to be completely free across the nation, but some patients have reported being sent bills for co-pays or costs that their insurers deemed to be out of network. Many times, this can be resolved by a simple call to the insurer, but it’s worth being aware of if you do decide to get a coronavirus test.

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The bottom line

While certain hidden expenses attributable to the coronavirus pandemic are more notable than others, some might be draining your wallet without you noticing it. Taking stock of these expenses could allow you to more effectively prepare your budget for the future or even determine a few areas where you can scale back your expenses. In some cases, you might even find yourself with a few hundred extra dollars at the end of the month to save or to pay bills with.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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