There are hundreds of tips out there to help you save money – but what about right now? Chances are, COVID-19 might have given your accounts a blow, whether from making less while on unemployment or seeing savings yields decrease due to low interest rates. Here are some rules of thumb to save some dough until the economy returns to normal.
DON’T spend unnecessarily: This might seem obvious, but start with canceling any memberships that don’t make sense right now (that gym you haven’t been to since pre-pandemic, perhaps) and any subscriptions you rarely use, like music streaming services. The top priority is to make sure your bare essentials – rent or mortgage, utilities, food – are covered, so you might even need to consider not paying off your credit card in full during hard times.
DO budget: Whether you create a spreadsheet or use your bank app’s budgeting feature, there’s an easy way to think about this: the 50/30/20 rule. Fifty percent of your budget should be spent on “needs” like groceries, utilities, housing, insurance, transportation, etc.; 30 percent (or less!) should be spent on “wants” like shopping, dining out, or hobbies; and 20 percent should be saved (though during a crisis, that number might be adjusted; see further down).
DON’T dip into savings without a plan: If you do have to take from savings, make sure to think ahead. How much do you really need to withdraw? What will you be spending it on? Settle on a minimum you want to keep in your account, and make a plan to replenish.
DO adjust savings goals: You might have a certain dollar amount you’re putting away each month, but reset expectations – it’s okay to change that number to fit your current needs. Also note that, as mentioned above, lower interest rates means your savings account might not yield as much growth as before, but don’t worry, this won’t be forever.
DON’T underestimate energy savings: You can lower your energy bill by up to 30 percent by making even small changes. Shorter showers and washing laundry on cold can reduce your hot water bill while adjusting your fridge/freezer temp and keeping the thermostat 10-15 degrees lower while asleep or away can reduce your heating and cooling costs. Plus, National Grid offers no-cost home energy audits to provide you with a plan to save and become more energy efficient.
DO tap into local resources: If you find yourself struggling financially to provide the basics for you or your family, don’t be afraid to seek help from the community, whether it’s through food banks, mental health services, or childcare.
1. Stop Making More: This one might be obvious, but it’s also difficult, so take measures to make sure you don’t rack up more debt by cutting up your cards or freezing your credit.
2. One at a Time: Pick one debt to focus on paying off and stick with minimum payments on
3. Seek Help: Consider consolidation (combining all debts into one payment) or seek credit counseling (trying out a debt management plan). Both options help lower the interest rate and make monthly payments more affordable.
“Don’t like the weather? Wait a minute!” is a popular joke here in Little Rhody. Even on those mild days, temps can quickly plummet to freezing, and that adds up when it comes to keeping your home comfortable. Energy.RI.gov is a great resource for things like the Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps income eligible households reduce heating bills by providing whole house energy efficiency services. Also find information on heating assistance, sales tax exemptions, and more. To determine how much energy you’re actually using and what to do about it, schedule a no-cost home energy assessment: An energy auditor will complete an attic-to-basement evaluation and provide a custom home energy report outlining recommended energy efficiency improvements. They will even install a few no-cost energy saving products which may include ENERGY STAR-certified LED light bulbs, seven-day programmable thermostats, faucet aerators, or low-flow showerheads. Based on your assessment, you may be eligible for rebates, a 0 percent interest HEAT loan, and thousands in savings towards a new insulation installation. 1-888-633-7947
Get a College Grant
Fun fact: Every child born to or adopted by Rhode Island families is eligible for a $100 CollegeBoundbaby Grant to be used for higher education. Parents apply for the grant right at the hospital by checking the box on the Birth Worksheet. Parents may also complete and submit the enrollment form before their child’s first birthday or within one year of the child’s adoption date. Learn more at CollegeBoundBaby.com.
According to Treasurer Seth Magaziner, more than 300,000 Rhode Islanders have unclaimed cash and assets waiting to be returned, so he developed YOUR MONEY, a program that reunites Rhode Islanders with missing funds. Think this could be you? It doesn’t take long to search the database and could end up being totally worth your time.
If you are a homeowner and are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19, you may be able to receive a forbearance plan, which means your mortgage payments are temporarily suspended or reduced. Begin by calling your mortgage company to see if this is an option for you. At the end of the forbearance plan, you must repay what you missed, but not necessarily all at once. During tough times, not having to pay your mortgage can really lighten your load.