With millions of Americans isolating themselves at home during the coronavirus pandemic, people have a lot of free time. Coupled with the fact that many workers have lost their jobs recently due to "shelter in place" orders, now is a good time to be looking for ways to save more money.
It's more important than ever to be saving a little extra cash, too. There's no telling exactly how long this pandemic will last, so it's a good idea to establish a solid emergency fund in case you're stuck at home for longer than you think. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do right now to save at least a little more money.
1. Establish a budget and start making cuts
Most people don't enjoy budgeting — in fact, a quarter of Americans would rather get a cavity filled than prepare a budget, according to a survey from Capital One. But now is as good a time as ever to create one so you can figure out exactly how much you're spending.
The good news is that there are several apps that can make it easier to manage your money. Some apps will even divide your expenses into different categories, so it's a breeze to see where the bulk of your cash is going each month.
Once you've mapped out all your expenses, the next step is to determine where you can cut back. Start by eliminating any unnecessary expenses, such as that gym membership you don't use or subscription services you forgot you were paying for. Next, see if you can cut back on any essential costs, such as groceries. Search for coupons to save money at the store, or use cash-back apps or credit cards to save a few bucks with each purchase. Every little bit counts, so if you can save just a few dollars in each category of your budget, that money could go a long way.
2. Find ways to earn extra cash online
If you've lost your primary source of income, it may be a good idea to look for a side gig that can earn you some extra cash while you're stuck at home. One option is to seek out temporary ways to earn a few extra bucks, such as taking surveys online or getting paid to review websites. Just make sure these opportunities are legitimate before you sign up for anything, because the last thing you want is to get scammed while you're trying to earn extra money.
Another option to boost your income is to start a side business from home. You may choose to start an online tutoring business, for example, offer web development services, or begin freelance writing or editing. If you've got loads of free time on your hands, now is the perfect opportunity to get your feet wet with a new side hustle. If you're lucky, you may discover a new passion that could lead to a full-time opportunity down the road.
3. Take a deep dive into your fixed costs
When you're creating your budget and cutting costs, you're probably most focused on expenses that change month to month. But it's also important not to overlook fixed costs, such as insurance, utilities, and cable.
Not many people particularly enjoy haggling with the cable company or reviewing insurance rates, but doing so could potentially save you hundreds of dollars per month. Once you've established your budget, look for these fixed costs and examine them one by one to see if you might be able to save a few bucks. You may consider changing cell phone plans if you find you're paying for more than you use, for example, or you might think about ways to lower your water or electric bill. Even something as simple as sealing air leaks in your windows and doors can help you save 10% to 20% on your energy bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
These are uncertain times, and there's a good chance the country may be headed toward a recession. That can be a scary thought for many people, and if you're stuck at home and money is tight, it's easy to feel helpless. But even if this situation is out of your control, there are still things you can do to boost your income, save more money, and improve your overall financial health.