Just about everyone is feeling the pandemic’s financial pinch. With so much turmoil in the jobs market, the stock market and the overall economy, it’s hard to find anyone who isn’t re-examining their short- and long-term financial plans.
Many in Wilton are worried, understandably so, about the upcoming rent or mortgage, and basic necessities for their families. Amid all the financial pressure, here’s the GOOD news: there are at least a few things working in your favor.
No commute. No driving kids to and from all those practices, activities and playdates. No weekend road trips. You pretty much haven’t gone anywhere lately. Do you even remember the last time you filled your gas tank?
Don’t forget those gas points at Stop ‘n Shop. With your family’s meals all being consumed at home (and not to mention any extra “stocking up” you may have done), you’ve probably spent more at Stop ‘n Shop in the last few weeks that you usually do. Take a look at your next receipt… it just might say 50 or 60 cents off per gallon.
And that gallon might be relatively cheap to begin with. According to AAA, the cost of a gallon of gas (national average) recently dropped below $2.00 for the first time in four years. The auto club forecasts that price could reach $1.75 in April. So celebrate a small victory next time you fill the tank.
- Impulse Purchases
You know what happens: you go into a store and come out with a lot more than you went in for. Anyone who’s ever gone to Costco can attest to that. But in this pandemic, we are planning our shopping much more carefully. We go to the store less often, and with a list of what we need. We definitely don’t meander up and down the aisles. We aren’t taking impromptu diversions into a store we happen to be driving or walking by, “just to see”. We skip some of our usual stores entirely.
Perhaps our online shopping has increased. But probably not as much as we’ve saved just by being at home.
There’s a reason beans are almost as hard to find on store shelves right now as toilet paper or hand sanitizer. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably done some legume-loading since the pandemic began.
Beans are an obvious choice to stock up on: they’re cheap, shelf-stable, an excellent source of protein, and incredibly versatile. Chickpeas toasted in the oven with warm spices? Great for snacking. Black beans with cilantro and lime? Perfect taco topping. Lentil stew with ham, potato, carrots and spinach? Yes, please! And make it a big batch to freeze some leftovers and stretch that budget even further.
Just remember, beans are always top on the list for food banks. They’re a low-cost way to have a big impact on the neediest among us. If you find you have over-stocked during the pandemic, consider donating.
- Redefined “Necessities”
Sure, one person’s indulgence is another’s necessity. But right now, we are sorting out what we like from what we truly need. We like going to that spin class or commercial gym, but we’ve found ways to work out at home. We’d normally never go this long without a visit to our favorite salon, but we’re realizing it’s okay to just pull back a ponytail or (gasp!) show our roots. Instead of grabbing a latte on the way to work, we’re brewing our own cuppa joe at home.
“I can’t live without it” has become “Eh, it’s okay for now” or “I’ll do it myself.” That is pure savings.
Anyone who wears makeup will find their current supply of makeup is probably going to last a lot longer. CNBC recently reported that “social distancing and working from home present new challenges for the beauty industry.” Beauty chains like Ulta Beauty are expected to struggle in the pandemic, and not just because retail stores have closed. “Changes in customers’ habits, as people cut back on social gatherings and work from home” will mean a lot less makeup use.
Did you pay room and board for a kid at college? Most colleges have already committed to refunding room and board costs on a prorated basis. While many schools are still working out the details, they by and large are doing the right thing by their students. It’s a relief to know you will get some cash back or at least see some savings on next semester’s bill.
Expecting a tax refund? Calculate your tax liability ASAP so you can file quickly and get that refund in your hands. With the filing deadline extension offered as part of the COVID-19 economic relief efforts, many people will procrastinate, but don’t delay if Uncle Sam owes you! If you do owe taxes, take advantage of the interest-free loan you’ve been offered and wait to pay your bill until July 15.
Did you have upcoming travel plans? Many airlines and hotels are being flexible, despite the tremendous impact on the travel industry, and even in cases of “non-refundable” reservations. It’s worth an attempt to plead your case; a credit for future travel is certainly better than a sunk cost.
The economic pain in this pandemic is real, and for many, overwhelming. Any relief is certainly welcome. And now, perhaps more than ever, the little things really matter.
With all the pandemic’s lemons, how have you made lemonade? Share the little ways you’ve found to minimize the financial strain.