The COVID-19 lockdown has most of us at home, unsure when life will return to normal. The pandemic has affected our day-to-day as well as our finances. The stock market continues to dip and I’m not sure how I’ll be able to co-work with my spouse in the same 1,100 square-foot apartment.
Regardless of the setbacks, there can be some positive things you can do with your money. Check out the list below on 19 ways to save money during the COVID-19 lockdown. All of us are shut off from venturing out to shops and restaurants, so we might as well save some dough.
To get you started here’s a MU30 video that offers some tips to help keep your money (and your mind) well-taken care of during these interesting times:
Start a budget
If you haven’t started a budget by now, you should. A budget just means tracking your income and expenses regularly. You can do this each month or budget by paycheck, just use a method that works well for your brain.
Use a spreadsheet if you like to do things manually, but there are budgeting apps that can do the work for you.
PocketSmith has budget forecasting features that can show you how today’s activities will impact you tomorrow. See projections up to 30 years into the future so that you can adjust your spending for better results. As your income fluctuates, you can try out various budget changes and see where you can cut back.
Another benefit of PocketSmith is customizable summaries that arrive in your inbox on a schedule you specify. You can also set up budget alerts so that you’ll be aware when you might be at risk of spending too much. It also integrates with more than 12,000 financial institutions to help you get a better picture of your net worth.
You don’t need matching plastic containers or a boatload of kids in order to meal prep. Meal prepping is a great way to save money during the quarantine. It prevents you from buying too much food at the grocery store and gives you a structured food plan. There is no need to binge on Cheetos and ramen, guys.
Before you venture out for food essentials, make a list of meals you want to make. Keep it easy by cooking up casseroles or large quantities to make meal prep easier. I typically grill up chicken breasts, bake lasagna and hard boil eggs to eat all week long.
Contribute to your emergency fund
If you want to eliminate financial stress, you need to have an emergency fund.
The size of your emergency fund will vary based on your monthly living expenses, but try to aim for at least three months of expenses. An emergency fund can reduce the burden of an unexpected event, like sudden job loss or a medical-related event.
CIT Bank makes building that savings easier, thanks to competitive interest rates and freedom from the fees banks usually charge.
But the most useful feature CIT Bank offers is its Savings Builder, which offers tiered interest rates. All you’ll need to do is deposit $100 or more each month to maintain the highest interest rate: 1.00%. This gives you an incentive to keep socking money away.
If for some reason, you can’t make a deposit one month, you’ll still earn a base tier interest rate, which is better than you’ll get with many lenders. Once you’ve saved $25,000, you’ll earn the higher rate whether you deposit or not.
Cut back on subscriptions
At one point, I had more than 10 recurring subscriptions. Once I added up my subscriptions I saw just how much I really spent on things that I only used occasionally. While you’re on lockdown, make a list of your subscriptions. This includes virtual subscriptions, like apps and streaming TV, and physical subscriptions, like gym memberships or product boxes.
Figure out which ones you can part with, even if temporarily, to save some money. Maybe you don’t need five streaming TV subscriptions. Skip a month or two on box subscriptions. You could uncover a subscription that you haven’t used in months which can add up to big savings.
If you want help eliminating some of your subscriptions, try Trim. They can not only help you find and cancel your subscriptions, but they can also help you negotiate certain bills.
Keep your energy usage low
Every little bit counts and so does your energy use. Look up energy incentive programs in your area. In California, residents are encouraged to reduce energy consumption between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. each weekday. And it’s reduced energy bills that consumers pay.
While in lockdown, you may be using more energy since you are home 24/7, so be more mindful. Turn off the lights when you aren’t in the room. Grill or use a crockpot versus the oven.
Unplug electronics that don’t need to be plugged in. Turn off the heat and wear more layers. Every little bit adds up to savings on your next energy bill.
Explore your tax software options
Due to the coronavirus, the IRS has extended the tax return deadline to July 15th. That means you have more time to explore tax software options if you are DIYing your taxes.
There are a ton of options and I boiled it down to Credit Karma and TaxAct.
Credit Karma Tax
Credit Karma put in significant upgrades to its tax software this year. It is easy to use and understand. They took out complicated tax jargon which makes it easier for someone who didn’t graduate in accounting to do their taxes.
Plus, it’s 100% free regardless of your tax filing situation. Your federal and state returns are included, though Credit Karma does not support multiple state returns. The tax sections are uncomplicated and the dashboard creates a great user experience.
It’s possible to file your taxes for free using TaxAct. If you are a W-2 income earner who also wants to claim the earned income tax credit or the child care tax credit, you could file for free using TaxAct.
TaxAct is mobile-friendly, too. You can snap a picture of your W-2 and upload it to the dashboard. This feature is one of my favorites because it reduces the chance of error if you were to manually enter your information.
The dashboard is easy to use because the sections are organized and the interface isn’t cluttered. That makes it simple to start and stop your tax return at any time. You can jump right in without getting lost.
Grow your own food
Ever want to grow your own food? The soil is there for the taking! You can start small by planting some herbs. Mint, chives, and parsley are easy to care for and don’t require a lot of attention.
You can even fertilize old dirt by adding coffee grounds or eggshells. Turn the dirt every few days and make sure you give it some water. My husband and I did this and now we’re starting to see worms. We got worms!
Move money to a high-yield savings account
One of my favorite ways to make my savings grow passively is to use a high-yield savings account. A high-yield savings account typically earns more interest than the national average.
Look for online banks that offer more than 1% in interest. Take a look at Money Under 30’s favorite high-yield savings accounts.
Again, one of the best accounts to check out is the CIT Bank Savings Builder. You’ll need to maintain a balance of $25,000 OR deposit just $100 each month to get the highest APY offered. But that’s a great kick in the pants to get started saving.
Slow fun spending
Save money by slowing your fun spending. Make a point to remove saved credit card information from retail sites. Eliminate marketing emails from your inbox by using Unroll.me, a free email filtering tool.
Quarantine might be a good time to give your wallet a rest so you can reassess your budget.
Rework vacation plans
As much as you may be tempted to keep your vacation plans, it might be time to rework them. Your health and safety are more important than holing up in a near-empty hotel anyways.
Take a look at your calendar and figure out which plans you can rework. Many airlines and hotels are offering free cancellations or rescheduled plans.
Rework student loan debt payments
On March 13th, the Trump administration agreed to waive federal student loan interest. In addition, the Federal Student Aid office confirmed that you can place your federal student loans in administrative forbearance.
Administrative forbearance means that you can temporarily stop making payments on your federal student loans. Your loans won’t accrue any interest either. You can take that savings and use it to cover your basic needs while in quarantine.
Call service providers
Many service providers are providing relief options to those impacted by the coronavirus. Call your providers to see what options you might have.
The Keep Americans Connected Pledge provides no disruption to internet services on unpaid bills due to the pandemic.
Avoid retail therapy
Are you prone to scrolling through Amazon or your favorite retail site when you’re bored or stressed? This activity could put a wrench in your savings while in quarantine. One of my favorite ways to avoid retail therapy is to focus on contentment activities.
Contentment comes from doing things that don’t cost money and that also gives you joy. I often refer to a written list of activities that I come up with first so I never run out of ideas.
While I’ve been on lockdown I have completed a puzzle, colored in my adult coloring book, and read my Kindle instead of shopping.
Buy in bulk
Buy in bulk, but avoid hoarding. The jumbo-sized container of cottage cheese is a better buy per ounce versus single servings, plus it saves on plastic. Bulk buys work well for things you can stow away in your pantry or freezer for later use.
I typically like to bulk buy various meats, like chicken breast, ground turkey, and canned tuna. Be sure to check the per pound or per ounce price and compare it against single-serving prices.
Reduce your car insurance premium
No one likes to hassle with car insurance premiums, but now might just be the best time to see if you have a good rate. Consumer Reports found that Allstate tried to engage in discriminatory pricing and many consumers didn’t even know it.
Make sure you aren’t taken advantage of by figuring out how much car insurance you really need. Compare rates by gathering multiple car insurance quotes.
Then call up your current policy provider and ask them what other discounts they can provide. I did this with my own insurance provider and I was able to get a $31 discount just by asking.
Invest in the stock market
As counterintuitive as this might sound, now is the time to scoop up some stock deals if you can. Right now, stock prices are falling dramatically which means you have a chance to buy stocks at a discount.
Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban revealed that he bought stock in Live Nation amid the pandemic, according to a CNBC article. One way I like to invest in the stock market is by checking the stock prices of companies I know. I’m a huge Disney consumer, so I saw that their stock price had fallen more than 40% over the past three months.
If you want some help investing in stocks and want a low-fee account (who wouldn’t, right now!), check out J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing and Get up to $700 when you open and fund with qualifying new money. Offer expires 4/13/2023. If you don’t want to pay anything and you’re looking for an account with no fees or minimum balance required, J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing may be the right choice. But you will need to do the work yourself.
If you want help managing your account, you can opt for J.P. Morgan Automated Investing, but you will need to pay an annual fee of 0.35%.Disclosure – INVESTMENT AND INSURANCE PRODUCTS ARE: NOT A DEPOSIT • NOT FDIC INSURED • NO BANK GUARANTEE • MAY LOSE VALUE
Many major grocery chains offer digital coupons on their respective apps. Download your local grocer’s app to take a look prior to hitting up the grocery store.
You’d be surprised how much you can save just by clipping digital coupons.
Earn cash back
What could be better than clipping coupons? Automatically earning cash back on your purchases.
One way is to use a cash back app, like Fetch Rewards, which uses your store receipts to give you rewards. When you spend at grocery stores, big-box retailers, and convenience stores, you’ll get credit for buying from brands that are on Fetch’s partner list. Once you’ve earned enough points, you can cash them in for gift cards for major retailers.
Upload your grocery receipts
When you’re done with your grocery run, upload your receipt using the Fetch Rewards app. Earn points on the app and redeem them for a plethora of gift cards.
It’s a great way to get money back on things you already bought.
Do your hair at home
Yes, you should probably still brush and style your hair unless you enjoy the gremlin look. But you’re probably not headed to the salon any time soon. Instead, look for ways to color and cut your hair at home.
Personally, I’m a big fan of at-home hair coloring kits, like Madison Reed, which is delivered to my front door. The formula is ammonia-free, and the quality is a step up from what you can find at the drug store.
You can also trim your hair at home. I recommend looking up some YouTube videos prior to having your way with the scissors.
Set up automatic savings contributions
Set up automatic savings contributions with your bank. It’s a great way to get in the habit of saving without manually moving money.
I have several automated contributions set up, including contributions towards retirement, vacation, a Jeep Wrangler (let’s make this a reality), and a down payment.
Make the most out of your time at home by saving money. Whether you decide to cut out spending or set up automatic savings, you can put your money on lockdown the right way.
In times of uncertainty, taking control of your finances can give you peace of mind.