Back to Basics: Cost Cutting
It has become a challenge to share an article on personal finances each week that feels meaningful since the world we live in has changed so drastically. As a result of COVID-19, many jobs and businesses have been affected and uncertainty is in the air. We know we must move forward, but how and what that looks like is still unclear. It made me think that in some ways, we are going back to basics. And really, sharing the basics of personal finances is how this blog started. So in the coming weeks I’m going to revisit some of my original topics with a twist to reflect the pandemic circumstances we face today.
You can always count on coupons from your local grocers no matter what’s happening in the world. Although extreme couponing is a way of life that I don’t recommend unless you have a significant amount of time on your hands, the key to basic couponing is simply planning. Look at what’s on sale each week online and plan your meals around what is available. Most is by mobile device or by card these days at checkout, so you don’t even need to clip unless time permits. You’ll be surprised how much this approach to meal planning and keeping snacks, etc., stocked up will reduce your bill. If you enjoy grocery delivery, Instacart and other services are offering promotions for their services at this time.
Pandemic tip: Meal planning is a bit more challenging since some food items are in short supply lately. But, it’s worth the effort to get into the habit of planning meals this way. If you can’t get a certain sale item that was on your list, you’ll still be familiar with the shopping model. That’s a win/win no matter what!
Subscriptions and Memberships
When it comes to subscriptions, many of the things we consider ‘needs’ are probably wants in disguise if we really think about it. Gym, cable, music, audiobook and other subscriptions aren’t truly needed for everyday life. They simply make it more enjoyable. I’m here to tell you there are a plethora of free online options available in each of these categories. In fact, many people are offering free fitness videos, exclusive recipes, performances, and other entertainment options as people look to save or remain home.
Pandemic tip: Subscriptions are always challenging to cancel, as they purposely make it an effort so you will reconsider. Some have made it even more challenging due to increased cancellations related to the pandemic. If you can’t locate an option to cancel your subscription online through your account, contact the retailer directly through email.
Many people are saving on gas right now, but as orders lift and more return to their work locations, commuting will once again command a line item in the budget. Public transportation may not be an option, so consider filling the tank up now while the cost is lower, even if you’re not slated to return yet. Once on the road again, I recommend using an app like GasBuddy or something similar to find the most affordable stop on your travel route. It may not seem like much with each pump, but it can easily save you $50 or more per month with a little forward planning.
Pandemic tip: Consider loading up on fuel for your mower now to take advantage of the cost savings ahead of summer mowing season.
As I write this, I’m admittedly torn because I know businesses are desperate for financial support right now as well. That said, essentials like groceries and fuel are something you are going to purchase anyways, so doing so affordably is a win/win. In the case of memberships, I’m always going to advocate for personal financial security if you need to reduce your monthly spend right now. If you find that you’re really missing one of your memberships and your budget supports it, just know you can always re-add the service later in your entertainment budget.
Kat’s Money Corner is posted in the Kansas City Star every week. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, follow us on Twitter @CommunityAmerCU.