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How Can I Stretch My Budget During COVID-19?

Updated: Mar 5

If you are already budgeting, keep going! If you don’t have a budget yet, now is an excellent time to get started; it can help you gain a sense of control in these times of uncertainty.

You may have heard the phrase “focus on your four walls” - it’s utilized by many personal financial gurus. It means that right now your money is most important for these items: food, utilities, shelter, and transportation (you may or may not need transportation right now depending on your situation). Those are your priorities.

Let’s talk food for a few seconds:

You will have to think about what’s best for you during the pandemic. If you aren’t normally a food planner (ME! It’s like pulling teeth!), it’s time to give it a try. What meals fit into the budget? If you would normally serve spaghetti with whole wheat pasta, organic meat sauce, and a fancy side salad, how can you switch that up? Maybe a cheaper pasta option, a little less fancy sauce, and some shredded lettuce with carrots?

For those chefs out there, keep on keeping on. The rest of us are going full

zombie apocalypse here. No shame.

My adjustment example centers around the stores where we would normally go grocery shopping.

Personal note: My husband normally does this. God bless him. I’m like a toddler in there, grabbing everything off the shelf that looks interesting. He’d rather not have me in the store. Phew!

Our local grocer doesn’t offer curbside pickup—no thank you. There is another store near us that does, but they lack the organic options I am used to. We adjusted. It’s for a short period of time (PLEASE, let it be for a short time).

What about everything else?

  1. Car Insurance: If you drive a car, keep the insurance active. If not (or if you have two cars at your residence and only use one), call your insurance agent and see if suspending or canceling your insurance for a few months would have any impact. Be careful not to cancel or suspend if your insurance will go up a ton when you’re ready to reinstate.

  2. Credit Cards/Loans: Only pay the minimums. If you can’t afford that, call the company and see what programs they are offering. Maybe 0% interest is available. Another option is to request forgiveness for a few months.

  3. Gym Memberships: Gyms have been closed around the country. If yours is, make sure you aren’t still getting charged; check whatever account this comes out of to verify.

  4. Entertainment: Do you have cable, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, etc.? Do you have a least favorite service that you can say goodbye to for a bit?

  5. Adult Beverages: Everyone is following “Vegas Rules” during the pandemic. However, those bottles of wine can add up. Keep tabs (pun intended) on what kind of impact this is having on your budget.

  6. Online shopping: Ask yourself: Do I need one more pair of trendy joggers? “Add to Cart” is not a replacement for therapy, even though it can feel like it sometimes. For a few more tips on how to overcome temptation and reduce impulse spending, check out "Strategies to Overcome Temptation and Reduce Impulse Buying."

Lastly, if you are hoarding items like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wipes... let me know which black market supplier you are using. JUST KIDDING, kind of. Please reconsider buying allllllll the toilet paper unless you really need it. Spending extra money just to spend it in the name of "the stores might run out!" is not great for anyone.

Keep your chin up. We’ve got this. When it’s time to come out of our hiding spots, you can firmly declare that you kicked your budget’s ass during this pandemic!

Here's to you!

Melissa Mittelstaedt

Money Coach | Accredited Financial Counselor®


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