As you’re well aware, a state of emergency has been declared in Michigan. Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order on March 23 ordering all Michigan residents to stay home, limiting gatherings and travel, and requiring all “non-essential” workers to refrain from going to their workplaces. Undoubtedly, this “shelter-in-place” mandate has been tough on everyone, emotionally and financially. To help ease some of the burden, we’ve compiled some tips for reducing costs and saving money while quarantined at home.
Reduce Water and Electricity Use
There’s no denying it — when you’re at home more, you use more of your residential utilities. Instead of washing your hands (which you should absolutely do often!) at work or school, you’re using the plumbing in your house or apartment. You’re flushing your home toilet. You’re making coffee using your water and your gas or electricity. This could cause your utility bills to be higher than usual during this time when money might actually be tighter. So, what can you do about it?
Start by considering which energy-guzzling tasks are essential to your health and happiness right now. Washing your hands, brushing your teeth, using your computer for work or school — these are all essential. Now consider which tasks you can cut back on. Showering is important, but do you need to take a 20-minute shower? Reduce water usage by shortening your shower time. You may want to cook a steaming hot pot roast for dinner, but are there other dishes you can make that require less gas or electricity?
According to the Department of Energy, the average household spends between 5% and 10% of its budget on lighting alone. It stands to reason that if you’re home more than usual, you’ll be using more electricity. Curb your energy use by keeping lights off during the day — open the curtains and let in the natural sunlight. Fortunately, as the seasons progress, we’ll see more and more daylight, making this change in habits a bit easier to manage. And as the weather warms up, you’ll find you can ease up on your HVAC usage. Turn the thermostat down a few degrees to save on heating bills.
Save on Groceries
One way to save on food is by eliminating food waste. Buy only the amount of fresh produce, for instance, that you know you will consume in the next week or two. Fresh fruits and vegetables are extremely healthy for you and your family, so you don’t need to stop buying them altogether. However, they do go bad rather quickly. Don’t put yourself in the situation of having to throw out rotten food. An alternative to fresh produce is frozen veggies — these are just as nutritious and will last longer.
Speaking of frozen foods — if you cook several meals at once, package them up, and put them in the freezer, you’ll have pre-prepped meals ready to go for at least a couple weeks. This will help you save money and trips to the grocery store.
Also, if you’re the kind of person who eats most of a loaf of bread and then throws out the end pieces, reconsider. The end pieces may not seem as appetizing, but they make perfectly good toast (or french toast!). Find creative ways to use food you would normally discard.
Certain groceries make a better investment than others. Look for foods that are packed with protein and nutrients, have a long shelf life, and can be used in a variety of meals — like eggs!
Limit Non-Essential Spending
Over the past decade, spending money has become extremely convenient. We can purchase what we want, when we want, from the comfort of our couches. And it’ll be delivered to our doors! Subscription services have grown in popularity, offering a fun surprise at regular intervals; we’re talking BarkBox (a package of goodies for your dog), Birchbox (for makeup and beauty enthusiasts), StitchFix (for fashionistas), Winc (for wine connoisseurs), and even Mouth’s Pickle of the Month Club (exactly what it sounds like). Subscription boxes are fun, but they can cost anywhere between $20 and hundreds of dollars a month. If you’re looking for costs to cut, this might be a good place to start.
We’re living in unprecedented times, and things may look bleak — the average hospital will own or rent more than 35,000 SKUs of equipment at any one time, but this isn’t proving to be enough as the number of coronavirus cases increases. Many people are out of jobs, causing financial hardship — in 2015, there was a daily average of 3,422 bankruptcy filings; however, experts are predicting bankruptcy cases to increase in the wake of the global pandemic. Fortunately, on March 27, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), a $2.2 trillion stimulus package intended to mitigate the widespread economic effects of COVID-19. The CARES Act includes temporary changes to chapter 7 and chapter 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
Whether or not the global pandemic is having a major impact on your family’s finances, it’s still smart to take measures to reduce your costs while sheltering in place. Shop smartly, reduce water and electricity use, and limit your non-essential spending.