COVID-19 has affected every aspect of daily life, and a lot of Americans are probably feeling it in their pockets. I've personally struggled financially throughout this time and it's been important for me to get organized and do everything I can to save money. A recent survey found that 52% of Americans have cut back spending in the last couple of months, and that number is likely to grow significantly as time goes on.
The problem of reducing budgets hits parents harder than anyone else. Raising children takes money, and the coronavirus pandemic has made the arrival date of their next paycheck an open question for millions of families. For many, saving money right now is a must.
Now more than ever, your household needs to have a family budget. Identify expenses, separate needs from wants, and follow these four tips for saving money during difficult times:
1. Buy in bulk.
In some ways, buying in bulk can seem counterintuitive: trips to the grocery store finish with a larger bill at the end. While bulk purchasing may seem to increase your grocery bill, you are actually saving a decent amount per item and doing so can save you big bucks down the line.
The best way to buy in bulk is by joining membership-based warehouse chains such as Sam’s Club or Costco. If you have a business you can join a group purchasing organizations in order to save money on the goods they procure, so you should be using the same strategy as well. These organizations lower costs by buying in large quantities, allowing you to save money along the way — shoppers can save more by purchasing in bulk.
Buying large quantities necessitates having a long-term plan. Before you head to the store, identify everything your household is going to need for the next several months. Purchasing in this manner not only saves you money, it can prepare you for any future emergencies or shortages as well.
2. Cancel unnecessary subscriptions.
Subscription-based services are now commonplace in households across the country, with services like Netflix and Amazon Prime driving up monthly expenses for many. Families can save over $500 annually simply by cancelling subscriptions they’re either not using or underusing — a pretty big payday for simply clicking an “unsubscribe” button.
Thankfully, many devices come pre-equipped with services that allow you to know exactly what you’re subscribed to and exactly how much it’s costing you. Those with Apple accounts can easily get a comprehensive view of their subscriptions, with easy access to cancellation options. For those with a less unified payment system, there are a number of apps available that can identify and cancel your unused subscriptions for you.
3. Make use of what you already have.
It’s perhaps the single biggest way to save money out there: don’t spend it. When formulating a budget for your family, it’s natural to identify essentials and nonessentials, but every household should go just one step further: make notes of what must be bought new, what can be bought used, and what you already have in the house.
Try hand-me-downs or refitting existing clothes instead of purchasing new ones, or make use of dusty board games instead of spending $60 dollars on a new video game. A focus on reduction and reuse will give your cash allowance a boost immediately, but the benefits don’t stop there — avoiding new purchases can have a positive impact on the environment as well.
4. Talk to your kids.
Talking money is a taboo in many homes, but it’s a stigma that needs to be erased. Most of my friend's children say they don't regularly talk to their parents about money, meaning that over three quarters of kids are left in the dark regarding their parents’ finances. While that may not make too much of a difference in normal times, these are far from normal times.
Being open with your children about budgeting, saving money, and cutting back on regular purchases may be painful at first, but it leads to a more positive understanding of the situation later on. Talking to your kids about saving money doesn’t just help the current situation either: sharing your thoughts on budgeting and finances early on can help develop good habits they’ll carry with them forever.
Creating a new, tighter budget will be difficult for many. As tough as it may be, taking serious action now can help prevent serious financial troubles later — and help you weather the storm in the meantime.