10 Ways to Cut Costs During COVID-19

It's another side effect of the COVID-19 crisis that has hit nearly 90% of Americans: financial stress.

According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, that's how many folks feel anxious about money right now. They worry about things like paying bills, losing their job, income changes, and more.

To make things worse, we're getting more reports that the recovery has slowed down. My senior analyst Matt Weinschenk and I never thought it would be a V-shaped recovery, but the "swoosh" shape I saw is now getting wider. (You can see all of our conversations about COVID-19 and the economy here.)

Whatever happens with our recovery and jobs, this is the time to think about spending and saving habits. That's why we've compiled the following list of cost-saving ideas...

1. If you don't have an emergency fund yet, start one today. I've written about the importance of keeping enough money to cover about three to six months of expenses in an emergency fund. It's important in any time for things like natural disasters, job loss, or other unforeseen problems. And with unemployment numbers still high and an uncertain recovery ahead, it's time to get this in order if you haven't already. We recommend a money-market account for easy access or a high-yield savings account.

2. Do an energy inventory. This is the hottest time of the year. And with so many of us stuck indoors all the time now thanks to shutdowns, your AC is likely running more than usual. Be sure to replace your filters, clean out your outdoor AC compressor, and seal up any cracks or leaks. A more efficient system means lower energy bills.

3. Get a car insurance rebate. Several insurance providers issued rebate checks during the lockdown since people couldn't drive anywhere. If you didn't get a check or a reduced rate automatically, call and request one. If you're met with resistance, it's time to change your insurance company.

4. Check your car, too. Just like checking your house's AC unit, you want to keep tabs on your car. Don't let it sit too long without driving it. You don't want to suddenly need it only to find a dead battery. Some experts recommend driving your car a few miles a couple times per month. Regular checks and keeping up with routine maintenance will keep unexpected bills at bay.

5. Join Amazon. Online ordering has skyrocketed in the wake of the pandemic. And even as restrictions lift, many still feel apprehensive about returning to retail stores. If you're in this camp, consider an Amazon Prime membership. Not only is shipping free, but you can save on grocery deliveries, watch plenty of free content on their streaming video service, and enjoy music and e-books, too.

6. For more money saving, use the browser plug-in, Honey. When you're about to check out on an online retailer, Honey automatically searches through all the codes on all those popular coupon sites to save you time. It tests out the best codes and gets you the biggest discount available. We've gotten discounts as high as 56% when we've tested it out, and it saves you from having to coupon-hunt yourself.

7. Skip the salon. Even as we reopen, sitting in a salon with poor circulation is a moderate-risk activity for COVID-19. If you just need a trim, invest in some hair-cutting scissors, and watch a few tutorials on YouTube. It'll save you time, money, and the risk of catching the virus, particularly if you're in the most vulnerable groups (those over 65 and folks with diseases like heart disease, diabetes, or immune diseases). My researcher picked up a $12 pair of Conair shears from Target to use for her son's hair.

8. Cancel or suspend in-person memberships. Activities like going to the gym still carry a higher risk than outdoor activities, so take the time to evaluate if you're really using that membership. The same goes for memberships to the movies, theaters, and museums. Take a look at your credit-card statement to see if you have recurring membership fees and consider canceling them. Some places may also offer to freeze or suspend your account, so consider calling and asking for this first.

9. Put your vacation funds to work. We know so many folks who either canceled or postponed their annual summer vacation due to the coronavirus. If that's you, then you have those funds saved up and waiting... So put them to work. Invest them in the market or use them to fund a high-yield savings account. Then next year, you'll have much more vacation money to spend.

10. Don't stop investing in your 401(k). We've had several folks ask if they should continue funding their 401(k) in light of the market's flux. The answer is yes, always yes. You invest in your 401(k) for the long haul. That means giving it plenty of time to grow and compound. In fact, investing now while stocks are cheap could be a great opportunity to fill out your retirement portfolio.

If you want to learn more about how to keep saving money if you're laid off, or how to navigate the government's CARES Act relief options, we've got you covered. We discuss these and many more topics on retirement, saving money, COVID-19, and more in Retirement Millionaire. If you aren't a subscriber, join now to access even more of our personal finance, investing, and health tips. Click here to sign up.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
July 23, 2020