Six Ways to Shore Up Family Finances During Quarantine
If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably safe at home right now (it helps us to reframe the idea of being “stuck at home”). Unfortunately, millions of people are losing their incomes, at least temporarily, due to these safety precautions. And if navigating financial insecurity isn’t stressful enough, most families are having to do so while also keeping kids at home, healthy, entertained, and, for some, homeschooled. That is a lot to deal with.
So, here are six things you can do that could save you a lot of money, both short-term and long-term and alleviate some financial stress.
Dial back your subscriptions.
You’re probably doing a lot more streaming these days, but there are ways to downgrade your subscriptions to save money. Maybe you don’t need unlimited data for your phones since you can be on WIFI all the time. And cutting back the premium fees for ad-free Hulu, Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube can save you hundreds of dollars per year. Canceling or pausing any gym memberships will save you money, but be sure to still get moving through free workouts (check out this list of top YouTube workout channels from Paste Magazine) or subscribe to affordable digital memberships like Peloton (who’s offering a free 3-month trial membership right now).
Refinance your house.
The Fed has cut rates to zero, and you can definitely take advantage of that as a homeowner. Lenders are pretty swamped at the moment, so it may be difficult to pull this off immediately: contact your bank or mortgage broker to assess your options. Refinancing can lock in lower monthly payments for you in the short term, which can help relieve financial stress. OR, if you can still make your monthly payments now, you can take years off your loan and own your house faster. We like these tips on refinancing from Nerd Wallet.
Shop around for car insurance.
Just like finances, car insurance rates change over time. So, while companies like ours (ok, we’re biased!) offer all kinds of discounts and benefits to reward our loyal members over time, not everybody does. Take a look at your current plan, and then get a quick quote with a couple other companies. And if you’re not already an Apparent member, you can start here. Most families find they can save hundreds of dollars a year with us (and even more if you have two cars)!
Make your student loans work for you.
As of April 7, 2020, all student loans have officially been placed into forbearance until September 30, 2020. Your payments are automatically paused, and no interest accrues. Which is great if you have, a) lost your job or income, or b) don’t have enough savings to get you through 3-6 months of family expenses. Forbearance gives you an opportunity to start saving as much money as possible in your emergency fund.
However, if you are still earning money and can make your payments, do it! Since interest isn’t accruing, your payments will go against the principal, which means you can pay your loan balance off faster. So, if you want to keep paying off your loan, contact your lender to reinstate the payments.
Ask for refunds on any childcare or activities, if they have not been offered yet.
We don’t have to tell you how much gymnastics, soccer, daycare, and piano lessons add up. Many of these organizations are already offering refunds, changing their services to virtual lessons, or applying your balance to future sessions. But if your family is facing tight financial circumstances, go ahead and ask for your money back. If you continue to take advantage of virtual activities, your fees help these companies pay their employees, which means a lot right now.
Turn spring cleaning into a pay day.
This is a great time to clean out all the clothes, furniture, and toys that your kids have outgrown, or grown tired of. If you can, donate them to local charities. But if you are facing financial hardship, sell the items on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or ThredUp. You can save the money you earn or turn this into your budget for this season’s clothes shopping. Pro tip: buy your “new” family clothes from these same sources to score major savings.
And what’s the best thing to do with the money you’ll save? Try a high-interest savings account, like:
Marcus by Goldman Sachs
The interest rate on these savings accounts can be 20-25 times higher than a traditional savings account, and you can set up easy electronic transfers between the checking account at your traditional bank and the high-interest savings account of an online bank.
And while history shows that our economy will eventually come back, the best thing you can do right now is to evaluate family expenditures and trim where you can. And once we’ve made it through this pandemic, you can use some of your savings to take a much-needed family vacation!