With restaurants, retail stores and other nonessential businesses closed to due to the coronavirus pandemic, a growing percentage of Americans are out of work. The number of unemployment claims in the U.S. recently surpassed 16 million.
If you're missing paychecks, it may be necessary to reevaluate your budget and look for ways to free up some extra cash.
Here are three simple ways to save money right now, from early retirees Justin and Kaisorn McCurry, who live in North Carolina with their three kids. The couple managed to save over $1 million in 10 years by consistently banking 70% of their income. Today, they stick to an annual budget of about $40,000, thanks to savvy savings strategies.
When it comes to insurance, it's smart to shop around for a better deal every year, says McCurry. That's especially true now: "If you're sitting at home, it's a good time to pick up the phone or send an email to see if you can save money on your insurance," he tells CNBC Make It.
With fewer people driving, many auto insurers are already cutting premiums on car insurance. If you haven't been offered a discount yet, call up your provider, explain that you're driving less or no longer commuting and ask for a cheaper policy. While you're at it, review all of your insurance policies, from home to life, and understand what you're paying for. Insurance policies are largely personal. To get the best coverage for your specific situation, educate yourself by shopping around, getting multiple quotes and reading your policy closely before signing on.
You may also be able to save on your phone plan right now, says McCurry: "If you're at home all the time, do you need the big data plan? Probably not." Look into cheaper data plans offered by your provider and compare them to deals from other providers.
Besides housing and transportation, food may be your biggest monthly expense. The good news for your wallet is that you don't have the option of overspending at bars and restaurants right now. But if you still find yourself frequently ordering takeout, try cutting back and cooking more meals at home, says McCurry: "The tips and the delivery fees really add up quickly, on top of the fact that the restaurant food costs a lot more than grocery store food."
When it comes to grocery shopping, keep it low-cost by being mindful of what you're putting in your cart. Once you've planned out what you're going to cook for the week, make a list of the ingredients you'll need. Then, when you're actually shopping, stick to the list and avoid impulse buys.
You may find that complex meals with a lot of spices or sauces can get pricey. Stick with simple recipes for now, and when it comes to buying flavor enhancers, pick out condiments that are versatile — like salt, soy sauce, or olive oil — and can be used on multiple foods.
Read more about how McCurry and his wife feed a family of five for just $500 a month.
An easy way to get more money back in your wallet is to cancel monthly subscriptions, such as streaming services, meal subscription boxes or iCloud storage.
"Look at any recurring charges that you have on your credit card," says McCurry. "It could be YouTube Premium, Spotify, Audible, Amazon Prime, Netflix. Do you use all of these things that you've been paying for? Are there any that you may not need as much these days?"
You don't have to scratch them all, but if you're paying for three different video streaming platforms, keep the one you use the most and cut the other two. Eliminating these expenses doesn't have to be permanent, but could free up some much-needed cash in the meantime.
For more resources on how to make ends meet because of the coronavirus pandemic, check out:
- How to budget the money you have if you lose your job during the COVID-19 pandemic
- What to do if you can't make your rent or mortgage payments because of the coronavirus pandemic
- Here are 8 steps to take if you can't make ends meet because of the coronavirus