To say that 2020 has not unfolded as expected is the understatement of the year. The Coronavirus pandemic has brought the whole world to a standstill. Companies and businesses are forced to resort to desperate measures like layoffs and pay cuts to survive the economic blowouts of the pandemic.
The time we are living now calls for drastic measures, especially for the salaried and middle class. While being careful with money is essential always, it's more important now than ever before, during these tough times.
Making changes to how you spend money at home will help you sail through these difficult times. The looming uncertainty requires some belt-tightening measures. You need to practice caution and prudence on how you spend your incomes.
Here, in this guide, we share the best money-saving tips to help you through these challenging times, without deepening your debts.
1.Maintain a Separate Savings Account and Prioritise Savings Every Month
If you decide to save after you have completed all your other expenses, you will notice that you have nothing left to save. So, make it a habit to prioritise savings. Set aside a particular sum every month and add it in a separate savings account.
Alternatively, you can set up a standing order to debit a fixed sum from your salary account to your savings account every month. There are also flexible recurring deposits like iWish from ICICI Bank that make it easy to build your savings. The sum you decide to save every month should be comfortable for you to set aside without pinching your other essential expenses like utility bills, groceries, etc.
The savings in your savings account can be used for big-ticket expenses like home renovation, family trips, etc.
2.Track Your Spending
To save, you need to understand where your money is going. Start this exercise on the first of the next month. Categorise your expenditures into two buckets – essentials and non-essentials.
Essentials are more or less fixed every month – rent, loan EMIs, utility bills, groceries, etc. Non-essentials are the other expenditures that you can do without. It includes luxury shopping, impulse buys, entertainment, dining out bills, takeaways, etc. Review the non-essentials – decide which ones you can forego. For instance, if you dine out six times a month, you can reduce it to once a month and save the rest.
You can also try the 50 – 30 – 20 rule. 50% of your salary goes for essentials, 30% for non-essentials and other miscellaneous expenses, and 20% towards savings.
There are plenty of apps that make it easy to track your spending every month. Some apps even alert you when you’re at the risk of overspending.
Additional Reading: COVID-19 Financial Resource Guide
3.Reduce Non-Essential Spending
With online shopping, it's indeed challenging not to give into frivolous purchases. Make sure that you always wait for some time before committing to a purchase. You may be able to find a better deal elsewhere, or you may realise that you don't want that purchase as much as you thought.
Resisting impulse buys can help you save a significant amount of your monthly budget. Here is an easy solution to avoid impulse buys – use the 24-hour rule. Make sure that you wait for 24 hours after adding an item in your online shopping cart. Chances are that the next day, you'll decide that you don't want the product at all.
4.Cancel Memberships and Subscriptions that you Don’t Use/Cannot Afford
Take time to review your existing monthly subscriptions and decide which ones you don’t use right now. For instance, if you have a gym membership, you can reach out to your gym to check if they can give you a refund. Several gyms are putting accounts on hold so that the subscription of customers don't go to waste.
Review your OTP (over-the-top) media platform subscriptions to decide the ones you want to keep. If possible, you can downgrade the subscription level to save a few hundred bucks every month.
The same goes for phone plans. Stop subscribing to add-on packs that you no longer use like national or international roaming. You can renew them later when you hit the road.
5.Limit Takeout and Look for Grocery Items that have a Long Shelf Life
Right now, one of the biggest expenses is food. However, the good news is that with restaurants and cafes closed for diners, you won't be tempted to splurge on expensive eat-out meals. However, make sure that you don't order takeout frequently as it can quickly drain your monthly budget. Limit ordering food to just one meal every week.
When it comes to grocery shopping, be mindful of what you're purchasing. Look for products that are versatile and come with a long shelf life. Throwing away foods because they have gone wrong or expired is equal to throwing money in the dustbin.
Make weekly meal plans so that you know ahead of time what you need to purchase. Sometimes purchasing in bulk can help you enjoy higher discounts. However, make sure that the ingredients you buy come with a long-shelf-life so that it doesn't go to waste. Store groceries in air-tight containers and away from sunlight to extend their durability.
6.Invest in Health and Life Insurance & Continue Paying Premiums
Health and life insurance are more important now than ever before. If you have not secured your life and your spouse's life with term insurance, make sure to start immediately. It would help your family be free from financial difficulties if the unexpected were to happen. The same applies to health insurance. Purchase health cover for all members of your family, including children and seniors.
When it comes to premiums, most people feel that it's a waste of money, especially when budgets are tight. Don't let your ongoing insurance plans lapse because you're facing a cash shortage. Reactivating a lapsed policy or starting again is not only tougher but also costlier.
7.Declutter your Home & Sell Things that you Don’t Use
Getting rid of old and unused things around the home not only clears up space but also can help you earn a few bucks. Try selling unwanted and unused gadgets like old mobile phones, the second TV, camcorders on OLX and other platforms.
Organise your closet and sell your old clothes online. Alternatively, you can also donate your clothes to charity organisations. Though these donations are free, it gives you the immense satisfaction of doing a good deed.
Don’t forget to Be Considerate and Lend a Helping Hand to the Needy
The pandemic has affected all. But, people from lower-income strata are much more affected by it than the middle class and upper class. Loss of daily income, coupled with a lack of savings, has dealt a significant financial blow to them.
Laying off your household driver or domestic help during this challenging time could deprive them of their lifeline. So, be considerate and do whatever you can to make their life a little better. The same applies to street vendors and small-scale sellers. Instead of haggling with them for a few rupees, try to help them in any way you can.
Additional Reading: COVID 19 Emergency Loans by Different Banks
Saving money is hard. This is why you need to get the whole family in. Discuss goals, budgets, and plans with your family – spouse and children. This way, you're all in it together, and you can share progress, jump hurdles, and save together as a family.