Here's How I Saved $2,400 During the Pandemic

by Christy Bieber | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on Sept. 10, 2020

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A husband cooking at the stove while his wife looks on, both of them smiling.

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COVID-19 helped me break an expensive habit, and I've saved over $2,400 as a result.

COVID-19 has been an unquestionable tragedy, with devastating public health and economic impacts. But while the pandemic has made life worse in so many ways, it did help my financial life in one key area. It prompted a lifestyle change that saved me $2,400 -- and may lower my spending for many years to come.

Here's how I saved all that cash.

How COVID-19 prompted me to slash one big expense

When the novel coronavirus first hit hard in the U.S., local governments began to issue stay-at-home orders and require businesses to close. My county was no different. Most retail businesses shuttered their stores, and restaurants switched to take-out only or closed altogether.

It was this closure of restaurants that prompted a major lifestyle change. My husband and I are pretty careful about spending. But we used to eat out a lot, largely because we love food and we justified this as our one big "splurge".

But when COVID-19 forced the restaurants we enjoy to close their doors, we had to go cold turkey. And once we stopped dining out, it was easy to see what a huge impact it had on our bank account.

We've always budgeted around $500 a month for dining out. It's not an expense we'd ever really tried to cut because we enjoyed it so much, but suddenly that budget plummeted all the way to $0. Left with no choice, we started trying to recreate our favorite restaurant meals at home.

To our surprise, we were able to do so for much less money than we'd previously spent. And we found that challenging ourselves to cook exotic meals was actually more fun than going out -- and took less time than driving to and from the restaurants.

Of course, our grocery budget did rise by about $100 a month once we embarked on our cooking endeavors. Even with this added expense, we had an extra $400 to put into our bank account between March and August -- which adds up to $2,400. And we have no plans to resume dining out any time soon. In fact, when restaurants began to open up again, we talked about trying a few but decided we prefer our culinary adventures at home.

Don't be afraid to re-examine your spending habits

You may not be able to save as much as we did on dining out. But there's a good chance there's an item in your own budget you consider sacrosanct and might not actually miss as much as you think.

The pandemic forced us to re-examine spending that we'd never have considered cutting. Our experience underscores the way spending patterns can become so deeply ingrained that we don't question them even when we should.

To find your own ways to save money, take a real look at your budget and examine it with fresh eyes. If you have discretionary spending you consider "necessary" because it's essential to your quality of life, brainstorm a cheaper alternative for just a month. You may find it really is worth the splurge, in which case you can go back to it. But you may just have the same experience as me and discover you can get the same pleasure -- perhaps even more -- while spending a whole lot less.

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