I sometimes would kid my wife about our spending during a typical week; at least I used to do it before COVID-19 that is. You see, we had become really predictable in our spending habits. Because we don’t work at a “job” outside the home, we save money by staying at home. But now you are, too!
Shaped over time by careful budgeting, and concentrating an awful lot on spending on our needs and not on wants, we came in pretty much like clockwork on our budget numbers for years. The only exceptions were almost always centered on medical expenses for doctors, tests, and medicines which ebb and flow on their own course and occasionally throw the budget out of whack.
Staying at Home and Saving?
Put aside for a moment that you may not be getting your paycheck right now. You will hopefully get a $1,200 stimulus check soon and even get unemployment compensation too if you aren’t getting paid from your job.
Being retired and my wife being disabled means that we don’t act like all of you do out there that normally get up every day at the crack of dawn and commute to work. Doing that actually costs money, more than you even realize. So now that you aren’t going to work, you may not see that you are probably saving some money just by sleeping late and watching TV for hours every day. How?
First, you are definitely saving on gas and wear and tear on your car. Even when the two of us were “stay at homers all the timers” before all this, we didn’t do much driving and when we did, we spent about $45 a month on gas. So far, since March 1st, we have filled the car exactly one time and we have almost three quarters of a tank left after some six weeks. That means we have spent about $7 during that period on gas. We are simply going nowhere and going nowhere fast! That figures out to about an $80 projected savings for us over March and April. For you, if you were working outside the home, it’s probably a lot more.
Now, add in two other possibilities. One, you may be actually working and getting paid and doing it now from home. Bingo, you are ahead of the gas curve right there and saving.
Or two, you are going to collect unemployment possibly at “full pay” and bingo once again you are ahead of the gas curve. In all ways, you are just not driving your car. See what I mean?
Other Ways We Are Saving
If you were working at a place of business before the stay in place orders were given, you probably had to dress the part. In my former life, I used to spend a small fortune on doing that and it involved buying clothes and dry cleaning them every week or so. If you did that then, you won’t have to if you’re not working now.
I’m guessing just on the cleaning of a few suits or dresses and some shirts or blouses over the course of a month the savings are at least $50 a month, and maybe even more. I may be a little out of the loop but friends have told me that they’re doing all their work from home right now and they are dressing in their sweats or PJ’s each day.
Food for Thought
One of the biggest ways you are saving is on your food costs. If you think, no way Gary, think again. It goes without saying that as a worker, you almost always make food purchases at lunches or coffee or some kind of snack or soda purchase every day when you are out and about. It just happens even when you don’t want to and even if bring your own brown bag to work. I know becasue I have been there.
Now, all of your snacks, beverages, and lunches are sitting in your fridge or pantry, so you are saving some money whether you see it that way or not. I’d say the amount is at least $20 bucks a week or $80 a month without even trying.
Dining Out and Ordering In
Now that you are eating at home, the daily cost of food at home is less simply because it is almost all now home prepared. We cut our dining out bills and ordering in bills by 75% last month and saved over a $100 by doing it. For your family, it may be even more than that. You have had no impulse spending now on food and basically your choices have been limited so whether you planned it or not, you and I are saving money.
Even More Savings
The list of savings as I write this is a little surprising. First, for us, we are doing mostly all telephone doctor visits and some routine ones have actually been postponed until June or July. Our elective tests have all been postponed too. Since we each average several doctor visits per quarter we are now saving another $100 a quarter in co-pays. Normally, they are just an “always” expense.
Suzanne, my wife, has a good deal at the gym that she uses to help do some walking and treadmill work that she really needs to do. That $20 a month expense has been suspended now because of the pandemic and the gym closing. So her walking has been limited to taking short walks right around our block now that the weather has begun to turn spring like.
This week, our auto insurance company GEICO informed us that we are now getting an extra 15% monthly discount when our auto insurance bill renews in July. That’s simply because we and everyone else are doing less driving and accidents are way down, so yeah, rates will be dropped too. Chalk up another $50 savings right there on our six month renewal.
Another savings or at least a freebie we’ve gotten came from our cable provider. Don’t beat me up for still having cable, I know we are spending way too much for it, but we’re old and very set in our viewing ways so we haven’t yet dumped it. The good news though this week is that we are getting Showtime, normally a $15 a month expense, free during the stay at home order as a complimentary offer.
Homeowners who have lost income or their jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak are getting some relief. Depending on their situation, they should be eligible to have their mortgage payments reduced or suspended for up to twelve months if they are Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac federal loans. The move covers about half of all home loans in the U.S. But regulators expect that the entire mortgage industry will also quickly adopt a similar policy. Under the plan, people who have suffered a loss of income can qualify to make reduced payments or be granted a complete pause in payments. You aren’t actually saving money, but it does greatly improve your cash flow.
Saving Money on the Kids
This savings concerns your mobile phone plan. Do your children have phones simply so you can keep track of them? If so, consider suspending the service on those accounts, at least temporarily. You know where your kids will be every hour of every day (for better or for worse) until these lockdowns are over, so do they and you really need them?
Now, if your kids use a phone to socialize, pass the time, or even do virtual schoolwork, the decision might be a bit harder to make. Since children are at home and have access to wi-fi, they’ll be able to do most of the same activities without a data plan, or on a computer or tablet. That’s why you should speak with your wireless carrier to see what options are available and ask for a suspension of some services and save.
Kids, in general, young or old, cost and spend money. That’s especially true when they go out like to movies, the mall, or to “hang” with friends. Since that isn’t happening right now, you are saving money here too.
Some Unexpected Extra Savings
Student loan borrowers will be able to pause paying their federal student loan payments without penalty for the next six months, under the new coronavirus stimulus bill and so one of the biggest weights on the backs of parents and college students has been lifted slightly. You can use some of your other savings towards those bills later when they resume, perhaps even earning some interest on the money in the meantime. No matter how you slice it, it’s a savings for you and a win too!
I know you’d rather be back right now to your normal routine and working and enjoying your friends and family, but try to stay positive and optimistic now. A positive spin on things can be the fact that saving a few bucks—even if it’s caused by an act of nature—is helping a little.
Remember, skipping those expensive wines and beers at your local restaurant or eliminating your habit of loading up on lottery tickets every week means huge savings. For others, it’s perhaps listening or watching one of your favorite superstars doing a concert on your computer screen instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars to see them live at the local stadium next month.
The important thing is you will find a way to make it through this all either on your own or with the help of local, state, and/or federal support. Stay safe, healthy, and in a better place by following all the social distancing and mitigation rules in your state.