People across the U.S. are practicing social distancing and following stay-at-home directives to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. One way to use this time at home is to evaluate your expenses and determine if there are ways to save money and be better financially prepared when the crisis is over. Here are seven ways that can help you save money while quarantined:
Call your auto insurance company to lower your premium. Several insurance companies such as Allstate, American Family Insurance, and Liberty Mutual have all stated that they will be giving their policyholders millions of dollars back because they are driving less, with other insurance companies expected to follow suit. Give your auto insurance agency a call to find out if they are giving money back for decreased driving time.
Take advantage of government aid programs. Most Americans should be receiving their CARES Act coronavirus stimulus checks in the mail or by direct deposit within the next few weeks. If you filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019 and received your refund through direct deposit, the IRS will use that banking information to deposit your economic impact stimulus payment. If you received your 2019 or 2018 tax refund via check in the mail, the IRS will mail the stimulus check to the physical address on file. You can easily deposit your funds and access them securely on most banks’ mobile banking apps. There are other programs as well that can help those in need during this time. If you have lost your job, you can file for unemployment with the state where you worked by contacting your state’s unemployment insurance program. The CARES ACT also provides an extra $600 per week to unemployed workers during the coronavirus pandemic and extends unemployment eligibility up to 13 weeks. The CARES Act also provides relief to those with outstanding student loans, placing borrowers on automatic forbearance until September 30, 2020.
Reach out to credit card companies. Most credit card companies offer hardship programs and many have already issued statements regarding their willingness to help cardholders having financial issues. Types of relief include waiving certain account fees and deferring payment. Check with your bank or mortgage lender for information on receiving a forbearance on your mortgage loan if needed.
Suspend unnecessary cell phone accounts. Many parents have purchased cell phones for their children to help keep track of them and for emergencies. If everyone is at home, those phones are not getting much use. Contact your carrier to see if you can temporarily suspend those accounts. Your kids can always use the home Wi-Fi to play games or do schoolwork on a tablet or laptop. And if you still have a landline, you may have discovered lately that the only people that call are solicitors, and it might be time to get rid of it. If you still want to keep the number because it’s tied to accounts, for a nominal monthly fee you can “park” and hold onto that number using a service like NumberBarn.
More home cooking. While there is good reason to support local businesses by purchasing delivered or curb-delivered meals, the fact of the matter is you’re going to have to cook more at home. And that’s a good thing! Make it fun, discover new recipes, and get the whole family involved in meal planning. Make more than you need for one meal so you can have leftovers the next day. You may find you’re not too bad of a cook and save money in the meantime. Seek out grocery stores that do home delivery, and if you must go to the store, practice proper social distancing.
Review recurring subscription services. There are probably more than a few homes that will not even consider getting rid of their Netflix or cable services, but do you have a good handle on all the services you subscribe to monthly? After a quick review of your monthly billing you may be surprised at how many services you have a paid subscription to and aren’t using. Right now there are plenty of free alternatives out there for entertainment. NPR.org has compiled a comprehensive list of fun things to do that were not free before the COVID-19 outbreak.
Apple Music is currently offering a free three-month subscription, Sling TV launched a “Stay in and SLING” promotion that gives you free access to some of Sling TV’s content including movies, TV shows, and news for a limited time, and ebook and audiobook subscription service Scribd is offering a free 30-day trial with access to over a million titles. Your local library probably offers free audiobook and music downloads as well, and if you have a Roku device, a quick scan will reveal quite a few channels that provide free content.
Teaching the importance of saving with your children. Having all this time together with family can also provide a savings benefit for your children. It’s never too early to learn about the importance of saving, and there are a number of resources available to help with that. There are apps available that can teach children financial literacy, like Savings Spree that helps kids aged 7+ to learn about earning, spending, and saving money. At NASB, we have a Stepping Stones savings account designed for ages 18 and under, and here’s an activity book you can download that helps teach the importance of saving, that includes coloring pages, fun games, how to build a piggy bank, and much more.