Tips for spending and saving during hard times

Dominique Dragon |

Although some in the U.S. have been fortunate enough to make it through the past eight months with their bank accounts intact, there's no doubt that many of us have struggled financially this year. Many have lost jobs, been forced to temporarily move in with relatives, or just found that they couldn't quite make ends meet. While the end of the pandemic (or at least the worst of it) seems to be in sight, many of us will still be struggling with the financial fallout for some time. Here are some ways you can work to stay within your budget while money is still tight.

Put things in perspective...

If you have food to eat and a roof over your head, you're doing better than many other people. Without minimizing the real struggle that you and your family may be having, this way of thinking can help you recognize what you do have instead of worry about what you don't. It's important to acknowledge that these are indeed hard times but to look for the good things as well.

Scale back spending...

Even though politicians want us to spend money in order to boost the economy, right now is not the time for extravagant purchases. There are many ways to cut back on spending, so pick the one that seems most doable and won't make you feel like you're sacrificing so much that it's not sustainable. Here are a few ideas:

  • Buy generic brands instead of brand name items.
  • Cook at home instead of eating out.
  • Trade or borrow things you need but can't afford to purchase right now.
  • Buy clothing and other household goods at the thrift store.
  • Use the library or a free online borrowing service.
  • Temporarily cancel one or more of your online subscriptions.
  • Hack your grocery budget by getting back to basics like beans, rice, vegetables, and canned goods, and avoiding overly packaged and processed foods as much as possible.

Plan to save...

It might sound ludicrous to focus on saving during such a difficult time. But if you can make it work, saving even a small amount will boost your morale and put you in a better position for the future. Commit to saving a little bit from each paycheck, and don't touch it unless it's an absolute emergency.

Look ahead to the future...

When it comes to spending money, right now is a great time to procrastinate. But instead of saying "no" to everything, try saying "not right now." Start a wish list of things you would like to do or buy when your budget is in better shape. Keeping in mind what's ahead will help you to be optimistic about the future and might make it easier to say no to a few things in the present. And who knows? Maybe when your financial situation improves, you'll find that you no longer want those things, or didn't even need them in the first place.

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