Check Your Receipts
Now, more than ever, it’s important to watch where your money is going.
Despite all the fear and uncertainty around, the COVID-19 pandemic has had its bright spots: telehealth has boomed, visits to foreign museums are available at the click of a mouse, and daily hassles have slowed down, which allows us to focus on our health or the values that we hold dear.
And yet, one of life’s stressors remains constant: money!
Now, more than ever, as we deal with economic uncertainty, it’s important to watch where your money is going and to adjust appropriately. You may be spending less on gas since you’re not traveling as much, but that doesn’t mean you’re saving money. In fact, if you’re wondering why your wallet feels so light, you’re not alone.
Prices are skyrocketing all around. When the pandemic started, the price of meat soared. The cost of groceries in general surged 4.6 percent earlier in 2020—that’s well-above the rate of inflation and a huge strain when you live on a limited budget.
The trend is circling the globe, as people all around the world say the costs of food, goods, and services have gone up during the pandemic.
And the government isn’t helping much. The Social Security Administration announced in October that the 2021 Cost of Living Adjustment will rise 1.3 percent, which critics say does not keep up with mounting expenses like Medicare premiums.
Nobody wants you to pinch pennies so tightly that you skip out on essentials like food or prescription medicines.
So, let’s take a quick look at where the money is going. Let’s look at your receipts and see what extra costs you’re accumulating. Here’s a few to watch for.
While the price of breakfast cereal may not have changed at Costco, the cost ticks up when you decide to avoid other people and have a delivery service like Instacart pick up your groceries and deliver them to you.
Pro-tip: While most delivery services will add to your bill, mail order services (especially for prescriptions) can actually save you money. And, while we’re on prescriptions, insurance-approved generics and 90-day supplies can also reduce your costs.
“People all around the world say the costs of food, goods, and services have gone up during the pandemic.”
CLEANING SUPPLIES AND SAFETY EQUIPMENT
There's a reason Clorox’s profits are soaring these days. People everywhere are using more and more cleaning products. To keep the coronavirus at bay, it’s important to disinfect surfaces, to wipe down your car’s interior after an oil change, and to wash your hands frequently. Furthermore, as we spend more time at home and eat meals at home, we’re more likely to make messes and need to reup dish soap, all-purpose cleaner, and laundry detergent.
Then there’s the need to have a constant supply of face masks, which can really pile up as you cycle through them.
Pro-Tip: A good all-purpose cleaner will handle most jobs and eliminate the need to buy bottles for different purposes. Also, lemon juice, vinegar, or baking soda are great for a DIY cleaner, which will save a lot in the long run.
BYE-BYE BARGAIN HUNTING
During the pandemic, fewer items are getting a discount label and variety has decreased. That takes away leverage from the consumer. So, if you were not picky about, let’s say, butter, you’d likely buy the least expensive one on the shelf each week. Now that variety has decreased, it’s less likely that any butter will be marked down.
And if you were looking to save money by baking your own bread, yeast is incredibly hard to find.
If time at home means not spending money at a gym, the savings are deceptive. Exercise equipment, including bikes, dumbbells, and apparel, are priced at top dollar—that’s if you can even find them.
Pro-tip: Look at the bottom shelves since the most expensive items are usually at eye-level. Less expensive, generic brands are tucked down low. Also, check out your local grocer’s digital coupons. You’ll find some of your best savings from scanning your smartphone at the register.
THE UPSIDE OF AN UPSIDE-DOWN WORLD
If you’re working from home, the tax-deductible gas mileage you might have logged is gone. But the hand sanitizers, wipes, disinfectants, gloves, tissues, and face masks that you need to stay healthy are all legitimate tax-deductible business expenses to log in the “supplies” category.
It’s also a great time to consider your subscription services and ditch the ones you’re not using or forgot to cancel after the free trial.
Pro-tip: Insurance companies are bending over backwards these days to keep their clients. Use a service like Gabi or Policy Genius to find discounts on home, auto, life, or health insurance. Or just call up your insurance company and ask what discounts they’re willing to provide. They’ll likely knock a few dollars off your premiums just for asking.