There are a lot of people who have seen their hours reduced, or worse yet, have even lost their jobs. Here are some ways to budget in order to save money in these trying times.
If you’ve seen your hours cut recently, or even lost your job, you’re probably wondering how to save money and budget when you don’t have much — or anything — coming in. The financial decisions you make at this critical juncture could keep you and your family afloat until you find a new position.
But, in the meantime, you need to spend the money you have wisely. You should obviously apply for unemployment benefits if you’ve lost your job, or even if you’ve only seen your hours cut, since you could still be entitled to benefits to make up for your lost wages. And, of course, you should also look into applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and any other assistance you might qualify for. Here are nine other budgeting tips to try now that you’re down a paycheck.
1. Ditch the Subscriptions
You probably pay for several subscription services each month that are nice, but not really necessary. You may even have multiple television and music streaming services, and you might support some podcasters or other content creators on Patreon. You might receive one or more boxes of goodies each month from services like Ipsy, BarkBox or Candy Club.
It’s time to trim the fat from your budget, and you can start by ditching these subscriptions. Your dog or cat will get along just fine without a monthly box of goodies, and you can probably get by on just one streaming service — or, if you’re really determined, none at all. You can listen to the radio; watch over-the-air (OTA) TV channels; or check out books, music, and videos from your local library. Most libraries these days even let patrons check out digital materials from the comfort of their own homes — all you need is a library card.
2. Cut the Cord
On the off-chance that you still have cable TV, now’s the time to finally cut the cord. You should keep your internet service, though, because you’ll need it to search for new jobs, if nothing else. Some internet packages come with a free streaming service included, so that’s something to ask about.
3. Work Out at Home
Got a gym membership? Time to cancel it. Or, if it’s expiring soon, just don’t renew it. You don’t need a building full of fancy equipment to stay in shape. You can train your muscles at home using calisthenics, like pushups and crunches, and you can go out for a walk, run, or bike ride to get your heart rate up. Take advantage of free workout classes offered online. You can do yoga, aerobics, spin classes and more, all without the pricey membership and gymtimidation.
4. Don’t Touch that 401k
Not all of the best money-saving tips are about what not to buy. Some are about how to manage the assets you do have. And one of those is your 401k, which you may be tempted to dip into to cover expenses. Cracking open your nest egg seems like a good idea on the surface, but if you can avoid it, don’t use that money. Dipping into your 401k now could mean losing a valuable opportunity to grow wealth for your golden years. You may not be able to replace the money later, and you certainly can’t get back the time it would have spent accruing interest.
5. Practice Your Cooking Skills
Now that you’re tightening the belt, it’s time to start cooking for yourself more. Cooking your own meals is obviously cheaper than ordering take-out or going out to eat, and you might enjoy it more, too. Use an app like Supercook to find recipes that work with the ingredients you already have. Save even more money by going meatless one or more days a week.
6. Grow a Vegetable Garden
Growing your own vegetables is fairly straightforward, especially if you choose easy-to-grow veggies, and you can buy vegetable plants and seeds using your SNAP benefits, if you have them. Now that you have some time on your hands, you can put in a vegetable patch that could yield enough free food to feed your family all season. Don’t have a backyard? Try container gardening on your patio, porch or balcony.
7. Downgrade Your Phone and Internet Plans
You definitely need a phone, but you might be able to save a few bucks by downgrading to a cheaper phone plan. The same goes for your internet service. You can definitely restore your unlimited data and high-speed connection when you get another job.
8. Cut Services You Can Do Yourself
When you’ve got the money, it can definitely be worth it to pay someone else to do things that you could do yourself, but don’t want to, like mowing your lawn, washing your car, cleaning your house or doing your hair and nails. Now that you’ve got more free time and less money, it’s time to take a hard look at some of those services you’re paying for and decide which ones you can do yourself to cut costs.
It’s important, though, to be realistic with yourself about what you can and can’t do. For example, if you’ve never changed your car’s oil before, it’s probably a good idea to keep paying your mechanic. Tackling a task that you can’t handle won’t save you money if you mess it up and end up needing to call for professional help. And you should definitely hang on to your home warranty plan so your budget will be protected from the costs of unexpected breakdowns.
9. Consolidate Your Debt
When you lose your job, it’s important to avoid taking on any new debt if you can help it. Try not to put expenses on credit cards if you can come up with the money some other way. And if you have credit card debt, now is a good time to look at consolidating it. You might be able to save on interest with a personal loan or low-rate balance transfer. If you must put expenses on a credit card, look for one with a low — or no — interest rate for an introductory period. At least then, you won’t be racking up interest while you’re looking for a new job.
With a little extra work and planning, you can stretch your dollars and your budget to get by while you’re in between jobs.