This new life we live in has caused many people to change their spending habits and we are no exception. We found creative ways to cut costs and adapt to stay-at-home life that will help us save money long after life gets back to “normal.” Like millions of other people impacted financially by Coronavirus, we have been tightening our budget and finding new ways to save money. Whether it was due to scarcity in stores or non-essential businesses being closed, we discovered many expenses that we can live without that will lower our costs for years to come.
Our Usual Spending Habits
Just as background, we make it a priority to spend our money wisely. Aside from fixed living expenses, like our mortgage, we spend the most each month on food and household items. We shop almost exclusively at discount stores, like Aldi and Walmart, and tend to buy store brand alternatives rather than more expensive brand name goods. Even before the pandemic, we packed homemade lunches and did our best to only eat out on occasions.
Some things we always have done ourselves to save money are: 1) clean our own house, 2) wash our cars, 3) spray insecticide in/outside our house, 4) make most meals at home, 5) make drinks instead of going out to bars. For many people, they may have just started to do these things themselves out of necessity due to Coronavirus. If you are trying to be mindful of your spending, we challenge you to continue doing some of these things in the long-term and see how much you can save.
All that being said, we didn’t have much to cut from our budgets once we really needed to spend less so we had to get creative, take some risks and make some sacrifices. Below are a few expenses that we have learned to live without during these challenging times and we will continue to do so to save money in the long run.
Estimated Yearly Savings For 2 People: $250-300
With barber shops and hair salons closed, we broke out the buzzer and scissors and turned to each other for help trimming our hair. This was definitely a risk, but the worst that could have happened was we needed to wear hats for some time. What takes about 15 minutes at a barbershop took us an hour or 2, but came out nearly as good. Obviously this is a time commitment, but we think we can cut down on the time once we get used to it. After our first try, we agreed that we could go without professional haircuts from now on. Cutting your own hair or having your partner cut your hair could save you quite a lot over the course of just one year.
For just us 2, we estimate that DIY haircuts will save us about $250-300 a year depending on the frequency and price at the barbershop/salon. If you have kids or if you like to get your haircut more frequently, you could really save a lot each year doing your own haircuts.
The big picture is that you probably have services that you usually pay for that you can do yourself or get family/friends to help with. Think of the lifestyle changes you have made recently due to the pandemic and see which changes you can continue to do yourself to save money.
Books To Own
Estimated Yearly Savings For 2 People: $200-$250
We usually buy a couple books each month, preferably used or digital rentals. In an effort to fill extra free time without spending tons of money, we decided to find a cheaper alternative and we hit the jackpot. Luckily our county library has an app that has ebook and audiobook rentals and it’s absolutely FREE. This has proven to be one of the best cost cutting solutions for us and has allowed us to read/listen to more books than ever before.
The library app has doubled or tripled the number of books we are reading/listening to (plus we have additional free time for now). If we had to buy or rent all of these books the total would probably be $500-1000 a year, but the estimated savings is based on what we were paying for previously.
Search online to see if your local library has a similar app and watch the savings add up.
Brand Name Toilet Paper
Estimated Yearly Savings For 2 People: $60
Although nearly every other good we buy is the cheaper store brand alternative, toilet paper was one item that we refused to skimp on. We tried several off-brands before and deemed them unfit for the job. However, for a short period during the Coronavirus chaos toilet paper was very difficult to find in stores. Out of desperation, we tried toilet paper at Aldi (Willow Ultra Premium Ultra Strong comparable to Charmin Ultra Strong) and we were pleasantly surprised. Comparing both 12 pack mega rolls, Willow actually had more sheets and square feet and was about $3.50 cheaper per pack (only $0.01 less per square foot but had 29.4 sq ft more). Toilet paper might seem like a small expense, but it really adds up - especially if you’re buying for a family.
According to about 5 sites reporting toilet paper usage, the average person uses about 100 rolls of toilet paper per year. To make it simple, we estimated the savings based on 17 packs of the previously mentioned brands. Saving $60 a year doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s about the same as getting a $5 coffee at Starbucks each month. For a family of 4, the savings are about $120 a year or $10 a month - which is a significant amount to save or simply allocate to something else you’ve been wanting.
Consider trying a few off-brands until you find one you like - you might be surprised like us and decide to stick to the cheaper option going forward.
We don’t expect that all of our cost saving ideas will apply to everyone, but we wanted to share how we think about cutting costs, especially during challenging times. This way you may be able to identify unnecessary costs that you can cut from your expenses in order to save money over time.
If you have been financially affected by the pandemic, don’t put your credit on the back burner while you’re trying to manage your money. Read Stop Coronavirus From Impacting Your Credit Now.