Cutting unnecessary costs is always a smart way to save—especially during a global pandemic that’s wreaking economic havoc. In the past few installments of our COVID-19 Financial Survival Guide, we’ve offered up a number of ways you can do just that. In this one, we’re going to focus on some less-obvious ways to adjust your spending habits and stretch your dollars further.
Are you not entertained?
It seems like one of the biggest quarantine activities is seeing who can finish all the content on Netflix first (or who can watch The Office in its entirety the highest number of times). If you’re in the mood for something new though, many streaming services are currently offering extended free trials or other special deals to help people pass the time during quarantine. If video games are more your thing, you can try Google’s Stadia gaming service for free now as well.
Just remember to avoid signing up for paid memberships on any services you try out, unless you’re replacing something you don’t use! We recommend setting a calendar reminder to unsubscribe from any service that asks for your credit card info before offering a free trial. Even if you decide that the service is worth the money, it’s nice to have a reminder before making that purchasing decision. You may even want to set a similar reminder for six months out, in order to evaluate whether you’re still getting your money’s worth.
Reevaluate your credit card rewards.
The COVID lifestyle has probably changed the way you spend money. That means it’s a good reason to look at your credit card rewards programs and see if they’re still delivering the most benefit. For example, this may not be the best time to use a card that rewards you for purchasing gasoline, but it’s probably a great time to reap extra rewards for online purchases.
Some cards allow you to choose different rewards programs every billing cycle, while others may be locked into a specific type of reward. If you’re using one of the latter, it may not be in your best interest to apply for a new credit card simply so you can benefit more from your quarantine spending. Instead, focus on paying off any debt you have so that you’re that much further ahead when this quarantine eventually lifts.
It’s also a great time to reevaluate any card with an annual fee. If you’re paying to use a credit card, but can’t reap the rewards offered by that card (such as airline miles or hotel accommodations) then why are you paying for that card right now?
Do you have your Library Card?
Speaking of cards, there’s one type that you should definitely get use out of at the moment—your library card. We love public libraries! They’re a nice holdover from the time when people both valued knowledge and weren’t trying to maximize profits at the expense of all else in society. Even though many libraries’ physical locations are closed at the moment, there are plenty of virtual options to keep your mind well fed during quarantine.
Virtual library services include audiobooks and ebooks that you can read on your favorite ereader, phone, computer, or tablet. You may have to wait a few weeks for some of the most popular content, but there’s such a rich library to choose from that we’re certain you’ll be able to start enjoying the benefits of your library card the moment you get it.
Learn something new.
The library isn’t the only free resource for nourishing your mind. Now is a great time to take advantage of free learning tools like Coursera or edX, which allow you to take free online courses from some of the top universities in the world. It’s also an excellent time to delve into the countless hours of tutorials available on YouTube, where you can learn everything from how to fix your transmission to how to play your favorite song on the guitar, or the harmonica, or the nose flute (maybe).
Build your resume by learning some programming skills from resources like freeCodeCamp or CodeAcademy or something similar—even if you don’t parlay these into a full-time job, they’re becoming more and more expected in the corporate world.
Not only could these new skills turn into some new income down the line, but the time you spend working on them for free is time spent actively not spending money, which is key. You just might be surprised at how much of your current spending is simply due to boredom, which these pursuits will helpfully eliminate.
As you try these new suggestions for saving money, consider booking a one-on-one with a qualified personal accountant to help you take an honest look at your spending and create a plan that will help you prosper now and in the future!