Even before the COVID-19 crisis, 50% of Americans were concerned, anxious, or fearful about their financial well-being? Thirty-one percent had less than $500 in savings and 19% had no money to cover an emergency.
Yet for many of us, it doesn’t take a lot to improve the situation. Here are seven changes that are very easy to make now that can be financial habits to keep after the crisis passes.
1. Write Everything Down
Do you know where your money is going every month? Sure, your bank and credit card statements can tell you where you spent most of the money, but what did you buy? Try getting into the habit of writing down every penny that you spend. You don’t need software or spreadsheets for this, pen and paper are fine. This helps you save money two ways:
- You get to see all the little things you spend money on. The things you don’t really need, don't necessarily want that bad, and may never use. You’ll become more conscious of how you’re spending and what you can cut out.
- Let’s be real. Keeping a sheet of paper and writing down all your spending takes some work. If you have to write down everything you spend money on, you won’t want to spend as much.
2. Ditch the Fast Food
By now, you’ve probably gotten used to home-brewed coffee. And it’s costing you a lot less than the average cup of restaurant coffee: $2.99. The money you’re not spending amounts to $14.95 in a 5-day workweek, $59.80 a month, $717.60 a year. You can buy an incredible grade of coffee and brew it at home for a lot less.
Also, those quick lunches you’re not grabbing from the local fast food joint or nearby cafe are saving you up to $200 a month. Brown bag home-made lunches when you go to work. YOur bank account and waistline will both thank you.
3. Take Advantage of Coupons and Sales
Every week, Emily and Zack check the circular from the local supermarket to see what’s on sale. They clip coupons from the Sunday paper. They look at personalized offers in the loyalty programs they’ve joined. And that’s how they decide what yogurts and cereal the family will eat for breakfast, what sandwiches they’ll pack for lunch, and what most of the week’s dinners and snacks will be.
This little bit of strategic shopping and dining cut the family grocery bills by $40 a week, $2,000 a year.
4. Save Money the Old-Fashioned Way
Our great grandparents didn’t have paper towels; old tee shirts work as well today as they did a century ago. After you use them a few times throw it in the wash with the rest of your clothing. (Caution, if you use a rag with a bleach based cleaner, wash it with whites, or separately in a sink.) If old tee shirts replace one roll of paper towels a week, that’s an extra $150 a year in your pocket.
You can even cut your purchases of expensive household cleaners down to one or two refills a year. Good Housekeeping says you can clean hard water stains, trash can stains, smudges and more with a mixture of one part white vinegar and one part water, plus some lemon rind and rosemary sprigs for scent. For granite, marble or other stone surfaces, mix two drops of dishwashing liquid with 2 cups of warm water. Homemade cleansers cost pennies.
Use these generations-old formulas for everyday cleaning and save the store-bought stuff for when you really need it.
5. Don’t Spend “Unexpected” Extra Cash
Sometimes a gift, tax refund, or even a government stimulus check can turn into a bigger disappointment than pleasure. That’s because while you’re deciding to spend the money on a new phone, you also realize that you had to choose it over a new recliner.
Maybe the best way to spend your windfall is not to. Long term, you’ll get more satisfaction if you put it into your savings account or pay down a debt: a credit card balance or a student loan. You’ll be that much closer to achieving your financial goals, and get some motivation to keep saving.
6. Splurge Once in a While
Strange as it might sound, it may be a lot easier to stick to your goals if you treat yourself to modest rewards along the way. That brown-bag lunch tastes a lot better, the desk-brewed coffee is a lot smoother, if you set some of those savings aside for a new dress or special treat. Even though you’re saving for the long term, you don’t want to forget to live for today.
7. Focus on Value, not Just Costs
Saving money isn’t only about saving money, it’s about what you get for it. Consider the Alliance Value Plan. For just a few dollars a month, you can talk to a doctor without a copay, get emergency roadside assistance anywhere in the U.S. and Canada and obtain free or discounted legal services. Any one of these benefits can pay for your membership many times over.
And you get some extra peace of mind in the bargain. Learn more about the Alliance Value Plan. For more information on becoming a member, visit us today.