Many of us are facing an unexpected economic crunch and are facing an uncertain economic future: will my employer still be in business or will my small business be able to survive? To help in the short-term, to help right now, I’ve brainstormed 17 ways you can start saving money immediately.
They may not apply to everyone but they are worth a read to help keep some money in your pocket.
First off I’ll mention that I’m writing this during the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
A week ago I never thought I’d be needing to write a post like this…at least not under these circumstances.
I sincerely hope you and your family stays well during this confusing and uncertain time.
Table of Contents
- 1 Research Unemployment Insurance if Necessary
- 2 Negotiate your Housing and Utility Bills if possible
- 3 Reducing Food Costs and Grocery Bills
- 3.1 Start making your own meals from raw ingredients
- 3.2 Make large inexpensive dinners that’ll feed you for a few meals
- 3.3 Switch to Oatmeal or Porridge for Breakfast
- 3.4 Reduce Food Waste by using up what you already have
- 3.5 Don’t Overeat
- 3.6 Choose Cheaper Snacks
- 3.7 Bake your own treats, bread and granola bars
- 3.8 What are you drinking?
- 3.9 Pack a Lunch
- 3.10 Write a Shopping List and Stick to it
- 3.11 Don’t shop when you’re hungry
- 4 Home Costs
- 5 Bike or Walk more and drive less
- 6 Things for the Future
Research Unemployment Insurance if Necessary
Many States in the United States and provinces in Canada are amending their usual unemployment insurance programs to deal with the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If your employment has been negatively impacted, check with your local jurisdiction to see if they can help.
If you are an American, this site may help provide some guidance.
If you are a Canadian, then this site will help provide some information concerning the employment insurance program and the impacts of the Coronavirus.
Negotiate your Housing and Utility Bills if possible
Many banks, mortgage companies and utility companies understand that their customers are facing a sudden, incredible financial shock.
And several of these companies are discussing delaying mortgage payments or other loan payments.
If you have been adversely effected by the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic then you should contact your banks, mortgage holder, or landlord to see if you are eligible for payment deferrals.
Right now it is all about cash flow, and stretching the money we have.
Making sure we have enough money to keep our family fed and safe.
But negotiating is a tactic you can always try. It isn’t exclusive to our current situation.
Reducing Food Costs and Grocery Bills
One of the quickest ways to start saving money right now is by reducing your grocery bill.
Below are several ideas on how we can reduce spending on food and lower our grocery bills.
Start making your own meals from raw ingredients
Instead of buying processed foods or pre-made foods you can start making your own meals.
It doesn’t have to complicated.
It could be as simple as making your own chili instead of buying a pre-made canned chili. (Here is a link to an cheap chili recipe.)
Make large inexpensive dinners that’ll feed you for a few meals
The meals I listed above can be made vegetarian to help you stretch your dollars further. Or you can add a small amount of meat to them to add a little extra protein.
And the staple ingredients of the recipes are either pantry-stable or can be made from frozen vegetables.
And after you’ve prepared the meals you can eat it at lunch for leftovers, or freeze it in portions.
One website I’m loving right now is BudgetBytes.com
On their website they have tasty meals for the budget-conscience person.
If you want to make some meat dinners that’ll last a few meals you can try slow-cooked beef roasts or oven-roasted whole chickens.
Switch to Oatmeal or Porridge for Breakfast
You can usually buy oatmeal in bulk for cheap.
Try substituting oatmeal for your usual breakfast a few days a week if you tolerate it.
This should help cut down your grocery bill right away.
Top it with a little cinnamon or fruit for flavor and some inexpensive seeds – like sunflower seeds – for some crunch.
(Obviously if you have health conditions that limit your intake of oats then skip this suggestion.)
Reduce Food Waste by using up what you already have
Food waste is just like tossing your money into the garbage or compost bin.
The US Department of Agriculture estimates that 30-40% of food in the USA is wasted at the retail level or by the consumer. (Reference)
So this isn’t all waste by people in their homes, but it is still a large portion of it.
In Canada it is estimated that 470,000 heads of lettuce and 2.4 million potatoes are thrown out every day. (Reference)
Instead of tossing your food into the trash, try tossing it into a soup or freezing it BEFORE it goes bad.
Take stock of what you currently have in your fridge.
Do you have veggies and fruit that are aging? Do you have meat that is approaching its “Use Before” date?
If so, make a homemade soup. Or a casserole.
“But I don’t feel like soup tonight,” you say.
You’ve got a couple easy options:
- Make the soup anyway and then freeze it in individual portions
- Or you can cut the veggies and meat now, but freeze it before you cook it. Then later you can thaw it and cook it.
A big culprit behind food waste is people simply buying too much food.
Buy what you’ll use and use what you buy.
Another cause of food waste is people not knowing how to properly store or preserve their fruits, veggies, dairy, meats and leftovers.
Here is a link to a great resource on how to properly store, use up and/or preserve the food you buy.
Simple Tips to Reduce Food Waste:
- Take stock of what you already have in your fridge, freezer and pantry
- Make soups, casseroles, stews or stir-fries from “mature” food
- Blend up tasty smoothies from fruits and berries that are going mushy
- Freeze vegetables and fruits before they rot if you aren’t going to use them to prepare a dish (check here on how to freeze produce)
- Freeze your bread and buns. We rarely eat a loaf of bread before it molds, so to reduce waste we freeze it and take out just what we need
Below is photo of some fruit I had that was starting to go soft. So I put it into a small bowl along with some spinach and then I froze it for my smoothies.
I know this can be easier said than done. Especially if you are bored and facing unexpected self-isolation or home-bound.
But overeating (particularly if you are overweight) is a sure-fire way to blow your grocery budget.
Choose Cheaper Snacks
I realize that I just mentioned don’t overeat.
But sometimes we just feel like having a snack.
You can still snack, but choose snacks that don’t break the bank.
How much money do you usually spend on snacks per week? (Think of the granola bars, the cookies, the chips, the fancy cheese snacks, and more…)
Cheaper snack options include:
- slice up your own cheese to put on your crackers
- Ants on a Log (peanut butter on a celery stick dotted with raisins)
- home made trail mix (seeds, raisins, peanuts and/or other nuts)
- Chopped up veggies
Bake your own treats, bread and granola bars
If you have a bit of sweet tooth you can try baking your own cookies (like oatmeal cookies), muffins or granola bars.
I’m curious to try these Oatmeal Pumpkin cookies from BudgetBytes.com
And many folks have a bread machine that they simply don’t use.
(All said and done baking your bread may not save you money, but many grocery stores can’t keep bread on their shelves right now.)
What are you drinking?
This may be a forced option for some people because their favorite coffee shop may be closed, but brewing your own coffee or tea at home can save you money.
And reducing the amount of alcohol you drink can be an instant wallet-bulging option.
These liquid expenditures can really add up.
You may still want to have some beer, but try having a glass of water between every glass of beer.
You’ll get so tired of getting up to use the washroom it may curb your drinking.
Or for a real cheap and healthy option just drink water (most of the time).
Pack a Lunch
If you are fortunate to still be working right now (March 2020) then you can save some money by packing a lunch from home instead of eating out.
In fact, this once again may be another forced option for you because many restaurants and delis are closed.
But bringing a lunch from home (such as leftovers from last night’s dinner) can save you about $6-14 per day (or more).
Write a Shopping List and Stick to it
Grocery stores are very good at trying to separate you from your money. That is why they have those impulse buys by the cash registers and in the middle of the aisles.
But let your shopping list guide you. It will lead you through the valley of grocery store temptations.
Don’t shop when you’re hungry
This is an oldie, but a goodie.
When you shop when you’re hungry you’ll suddenly want to stuff your cart with a whole bunch of items you don’t need.
Believe me I know…it may be months from my birthday, but Rainbow Bits cake and icing will suddenly find its way into my cart.
So make sure you eat a filling meal before you head out grocery shopping.
Are you spending money on things you don’t use or need for your home?
Is there money being wasted right inside your home?
Review your Subscription services
This is kind of “low hanging fruit”: easy to pick and maybe a little obvious. But it’s still worth mentioning.
Do you pay for subscription services like TV streaming apps, online memberships or even home service subscriptions that you don’t really need?
If so, cancel them for now. You can always start them back up in the future.
Look at your Energy and Gas Consumption
Are you heating or cooling rooms of your house you don’t use?
Is your hot water tank set higher than you need?
Are you throwing money out the window because your doors and windows don’t seal properly?
These are some things to consider to help reduce your energy and natural gas bill.
You may want to check out my article on how to weatherproof your house.
Hang your Clothes to Dry
This is something I had to start doing following the Great Recession of 2008.
And I’ve continued to do so.
It has saved me lots of money over the years.
Clothes dryers are usually among the largest energy-eaters in your home.
Hanging your clothes takes a bit extra time, but it’ll save you money.
Bike or Walk more and drive less
Even though the price of gasoline has fallen right now you can still save some money by walking or biking.
Things for the Future
I don’t know about you, but my lack of control over my own food sources has shaken me.
I can’t start a full-blown farm in my house, but I do want to start growing more vegetables in my yard or even in containers on my deck.
Even some fresh herbs to liven up a cheap dinner would be appreciated.
That is going to be my next research project. What can I grow at my home to provide healthy and tasty vegetables and fruit for my family.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this article.
If you have any suggestions that’ll help your fellow readers (and me) save money, please comment below.
I appreciate it.
Tim from LearnAlongWithMe.com