The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our economy at large since the beginning of March and individuals and families are suffering in different ways.
According to an April survey from the Pew Research Center, 43 percent of all U.S. adults say that they, or someone in their household, has lost a job or taken a pay cut since the outbreak began. Moreover, 52 percent of adults in a low-income bracket reported the same. This has left many American families in a bind: COVID-19 caused many jobs to disappear, but the relentless virus has done nothing to make our bills go away.
If you’re on a tight budget, finding a way to make your money stretch is crucial. The following tips may help.
1. Make small changes to your budget across all categories
Amy Maliga, a financial educator with Take Charge America, a Phoenix-based nonprofit credit counseling agency, says that making some tweaks to your budget is crucial when you’re trying to get by on less.
For example, if you haven’t already, it’s time to cut the cord and go from paying a monthly cable bill to using streaming services.
“If you plan carefully, you can easily get a few months of free streaming by using the services’ free trial programs,” Maliga says. “Sign up for one trial at a time and be sure to put a reminder in your calendar to cancel before you’re billed.”
Once you’ve made your way through all the free trials, decide on one or two you like the most and start paying for a subscription.
You can also shave dollars off your utility bills by keeping an eye on when and how you use electricity. Run major appliances such as the dishwasher, washer and dryer during off-peak hours — usually early in the morning and later at night. You can skip the dryer altogether and hang your clothes outside to dry.
2. Shop around for insurance rates
Maliga also recommends reviewing your auto insurance to make sure you’ve received the rebate or credit most major insurers have provided.
Also double-check to make sure you’re receiving any discounts you’re entitled to, such as discounts for insuring multiple cars or being a safe driver, she says. Finally, consider raising your deductible, which will lower your premium.
“But be sure you’re able to cover the higher deductible amount in case of a claim,” Maliga says.
Finally, shop around and compare rates for other insurance products you have, such as homeowners insurance or renters insurance.
3. Get a bank bonus
Some banks offer a bonus if you open a new account and meet a few basic requirements like setting up direct deposit or maintaining a minimum balance. At the moment, some of the best bank bonus offers let you earn $500 or more within a span of just a few months.
If you decide to sign up for a bank bonus offer, read the fine print so you know exactly how to earn the bonus and how long you need to keep your account open. Also watch out for minimum balance requirements that might make it difficult to open or maintain your account, as well as account fees that could eat away at your bonus amount.