Tips to Make it Through the Pandemic Cash Crunch
As people around the world continue to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all looking for ways to stretch budgets and conserve resources. For Americans, a measure of relief is coming in the form of stimulus payments and enhanced unemployment benefits. Even with those safeguards, it just makes sense to exercise frugality and find creative ways to maximize funds. Here are some tips you might not have considered yet:
Use Those Gift Cards
Chances are you have at least a few gift cards you’ve forgotten to use. Now is the time! Use cards from Target, Walmart or Amazon to purchase online groceries or household essentials, like cleaning supplies. If you have gift cards from restaurants offering curbside pick-up or delivery, use them to purchase meals and stretch your food budget. Some local restaurants are even selling staples like milk, eggs and flour to make things easier for their customers.
Gather Up Change
What used to be a minor inconvenience is suddenly a valuable commodity. All that loose change you’ve been collecting adds up to real money you can use to purchase whatever you need. Empty out your change jars, piggy banks, wallets, purses and pockets (don’t forget all the change in your car, too). Roll it in coin rollers if you have them or count it out into baggies and mark how much is in each one.
Cook with a Plan
If you usually put leftovers in the fridge, only to end up tossing them a few days later, it’s time to break that habit. Maximize your food budget and limit trips to the grocery store by planning meals strategically and using every last bit of your ingredients. For example, leftover veggies and protein, like chicken or beef, become satisfying second meals when added to an omelet or tossed in a stir-fry and served over rice or pasta. And rather than experimenting with new dishes that might not be to everyone’s taste, stick with simple, tasty meals you know everyone in the family will eat.
Keep an Eye on Utilities
If you’re fortunate enough to be able to quarantine at home, you’ll probably notice a spike in your first month’s utility bills. Being home all day means using more electricity, gas and water than normal (especially with all the hand washing!). Make sure to only turn on the lights you need and turn them off when you leave the room. Run the dishwasher and washing machine with full loads only. Turn off the water during the 20 seconds you’re washing your hands. Unplug phone chargers and appliances when not in use to limit the usage of “phantom power.” If you have kids, make it someone’s job to routinely patrol the house to turn off lights and unplug things.
Keep Reworking Your Budget
As the pandemic continues, you’ll want to regularly rework your budget to see where your money is really going. Chances are you’re saving money on gas for your vehicle, and entertainment like movies and event tickets. Assign those funds to the budget categories you’re spending more on, including food and utilities. Detailed tracking of your spending will help you make the most of your money during the pandemic cash crunch.