The pandemic sparked by the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in the winter of 2019-20 blindsided much of the world. Since the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March, millions of people across the globe have lost their lives, while hundreds of millions more have lost their livelihoods.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates the unemployment rate in the United States, which was lower than 4% in the weeks prior to the WHO’s pandemic declaration, was nearly 15% by mid-May. While that figure dropped to less than 9% by the end of summer, many families are still confronting financial challenges stemming from the pandemic. Some parents may still be out of work, while others are working on reduced salaries as their employers try to overcome the economic challenges posed by COVID-19.
No one knows when the pandemic will end and life will return to normal, so families facing financial uncertainty can benefit from tightening their belts for the long haul. Thankfully, there are various ways for families to cut costs that won’t adversely affect their quality of life.
• Plan more meals. Impulse buying is one of the most costly ways that families overspend. A 2018 survey from Slickdeals.net found that the average consumer in the United States spends $5,400 annually on impulse buys. More than 70% of impulse spending goes toward food. Families looking to cut costs can plan more meals so they know what they need when they visit the grocery store, which should reduce the amount of money they spend on spur-of-the-moment purchases.
• Simplify special occasions. It can be fun to go a little overboard for birthday parties, anniversaries and holiday gatherings. However, such spending should be seen as a luxury during a recession. Momentous occasions can be both special and inexpensive. Birthday picnics in the park or at the beach can be just as unique and memorable as lavish parties, and they won’t cost nearly as much. Parents can agree to forgo gift-giving on anniversaries or birthdays, opting instead for romantic homemade dinners.
• Think of new ways to get away. Many families canceled or postponed vacations in 2020 as travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines greatly limited travel options. While it might be possible to travel safely again in 2021, families still dealing with the fallout from COVID-19 may be hesitant to plan traditional vacations. Thankfully, there are ways to get away without breaking the bank. Many campsites are free or charge nominal fees to use their facilities, and such excursions can be great ways for families accustomed to flying and five-star hotels to enjoy new experiences.
The pandemic has posed financial challenges for millions of families. But there are ways for families to reduce their spending without cutting back on their quality of life.