Slash and Save
Whether your budget and income have already taken a hit from living in a pandemic or you’re just concerned you could be next on the COVID-19 chopping block, there are a number of ways you can start to cut expenses and live with less budget-related anxiety. From more drastic measures such as selling your home and relocating to steps that can start saving you money today, here are steps you can take that could help brighten your financial future.
Related: 50 Ways to Prepare for a Recession
Refinance Your Home
Mortgage interest rates are at a historic low right now, and a refinance could be one way to save a significant amount of money. “Generally, if you can decrease your interest rate by 1% to 2% by refinancing, it’s worth it to do so,” said Chane Steiner, CEO of the personal finance site Crediful, in Cheapism’s guide to the pros and cons of refinancing. “You’ll most likely save hundreds on your monthly mortgage payment.”
Plan a Move Guided by Cost of Living
If moving is an option, you might consider relocating to an area with a lower cost of living. Sites such as Sterling’s Best Places give insight not only into what a specific city’s overall cost of living might be, but also other, more granular factors that should be taken into account, including food, utility, and housing costs; taxes; health care, weather; the job market; and much more.
Or Downsize and Downgrade
If you’re tied to a location by job or other responsibilities, you could consider downsizing into a smaller, cheaper home in your area, especially if you feel like your current mortgage payment is hurting you. But keep in mind that even selling a home comes with costs. As Beatrice de Jong, consumer trends expert for Opendoor, noted in Cheapism’s guide to downsizing mistakes, there are other costs sellers need to factor in, including cleaning, touch-ups, and minor repairs to get a home market-ready.
Related: 13 Little Home Improvement Projects That Make a Big Impact
Refinance Your Car
An auto refinance might not be as significant as refinancing a home, but it’s still worth looking at. As noted by Christian Lavender of RateGenius in Cheapism’s “26 Tactics for Getting Out of Debt:” “Most people continue to make payments with a very high interest rate, unaware that they have an option to refinance their car at a lower rate. Auto refinancing, on average, can save you as much as $78 a month,” or nearly $1,000 over 12 months.
Sell Your Car
Got a set of wheels in the driveway that you can sell? Especially if you have an alternative method of transportation, that can put a significant amount of money back into your pocket. Just make sure you know the “17 New Rules for Buying and Selling a Car During the Pandemic.”
Related: 18 Cities Where You Can Live Car-Free
Carrying credit card debt and other loans can be one of the biggest drains on a budget. If you’re paying a number of different balances each month, consider transferring those debts to a credit card with a zero percent introductory rate, which will simplify paying off loans — and save money on interest at the same time. Sites such as Creditcards.com regularly update the best deals available for transfers.
Related: 32 Credit Card Mistakes You’re Probably Making
Cancel Subscriptions and Other Recurring Payments
Paying for a streaming service you rarely use? Not using that pricey gym membership? Lots of people pay for subscriptions they might not even be aware of, much less use, and they can add up fast. It can take some time, but pore over your bank and other financial statements to find these charges and cancel what’s not being used or that you’re not really benefiting from.
Shop Around for Home and Auto Insurance
When was the last time you shopped around for better insurance rates? Investopedia recommends reviewing those policies every year for savings opportunities, Call your insurer and ask them if you qualify for discounts you’re not getting. If you feel your premiums are too high, let them know you’ll be shopping around for a different carrier, and see if they’re suddenly more willing to work with you. If not, sites such as ValuePenguin can help you get started on finding better rates.
Related: 12 Tips to Keep You from Buying Too Much Insurance
Use Technology for Savings
These days, there’s no shortage of websites and apps to help you save money, whether it be by helping create and stick to a budget or save money while shopping online. Finding just a handful of these resources can make a difference over the long term. Get started by checking out Cheapism’s “24 Money-Saving Tools That’ll Keep Your Budget on Track” and “75 Websites That Can Save You Money in a Recession.”
Maximize Your 401(k) Contribution
If you’re not already contributing as much as you can afford to your company’s 401(k) — at least the percentage your employer will match — you’re missing out on long-term tax-deferred savings. Review what you’re contributing against what you can afford to contribute, and increase it if your budget allows.
Related: 11 Ways to Jump-Start Your Retirement Savings If You’ve Been Procrastinating
Meet With a Financial Adviser
Financial advisers aren’t free, but it’s money well spent if it means saving even more in the long run. An adviser can help prioritize spending, set up automated savings, and more. As Willie Greer, founder of The Product Analyst, noted in Cheapism’s “How to Salvage Your Finances During Economic Uncertainty”: “If you have retirement accounts or investments, and are scared of how the fluctuations in the market can affect you, expert help is available. Most decisions regarding money can seem risky at this time, and you can benefit from a second or even a third informed opinion.”
Create Additional Income
These days, there are lots of ways to make additional income, from renting a room in your home to taking on a part-time gig economy job to selling items on Craigslist, eBay, or Nextdoor or using your professional skills to start a home-based side hustle. As Chris Panteli, creator of LifeUpswing, told Cheapism: “You should definitely have at least one side hustle going on at any given time. This could be making money online by blogging; doing surveys, or being a virtual assistant. The point is, the more varied income streams you have, the better protected you are from a recession.”
Examine Your Spending Habits
Taking financial inventory is a gimme in a list such as this, but it’s one that’s easily overlooked or rushed enough to be virtually meaningless. Truly examine what you spend your money on, and openly and honestly decide whether those expenses are necessary. Get in the habit of doing it with each and every potential purchase. Jon Dulin, creator of MoneySmartGuides, noted in Cheapism’s guide to getting out of debt that when he did this, it hit home that he was spending money on clothing and electronics when what really made him happy was “spending time outdoors and with my friends. When I took the time to understand my values, I quickly stopped unneeded spending.”
Related: 80 Things You Don’t Need to Buy