The shutdowns and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced a lot of families to reexamine their budgets, either because they’ve lost income or because they want to be prepared for continued uncertainty.
Although my husband and I have had the good fortune of remaining employed, we still thought it’d be smart to comb through our expenses to see where we could simplify. For us, that meant cutting back on a few recurring costs that we always viewed as a necessary part of our budget.
As it turns out, when we had no choice but to cut back on certain expenses, we found we didn’t miss many of them — and seeing how much we’re saving gives us options for other goals we can put that money toward. Here are the cost savings we found when we reexamined our family budget, what we were glad to give up and what we’ll happily add back in when things return to normal.
FOOD: SAVING $300 PER MONTH
As the primary cook for my family, I used to grocery shop about three times a week. Our home doesn’t have much pantry space, so I've never stocked up on staples. I happily made regular trips to the store for milk, eggs and ingredients I needed to make a few meals at a time. The pandemic, of course, changed all of this. I now plan our meals, make extra to freeze and buy everything we need in one weekly trip.
Because I'm thinking ahead about dinner — and keeping the freezer well-stocked — we order in less now, too. Instead of getting takeout a few times a week, we’re more thoughtful about which local restaurants we want to support. My husband and I will now occasionally treat ourselves to dinner after the kids are in bed.
ENTERTAINMENT: SAVING $800 PER MONTH
My husband and I have a standing date night every Friday so we can spend time out of the house together as adults. For dinner and drinks plus the cost of a sitter, we used to spend about $200 a week.
For the past few months, restaurants in our area have opened only for pickup and delivery, and we've realized that we don't really miss being out on the town. On date nights now, we go for a walk or have a picnic at the beach. Being under lockdown has made us appreciate simply being outside.
CHILD CARE: SAVING $1,000 PER MONTH
One expense that we’ll gladly add back into our budget is our daughter's preschool tuition. Though we’d been paying a reduced rate for an online program with her teachers, we’ll pay the full cost again when her school reopens.
For our younger son, however, we had hired a babysitter for 12 hours each week so I could work uninterrupted at our local coffee shop. The pandemic taught me to think creatively about working hours, finishing up work at night and during his naptime. Plus, I won't feel comfortable holing up at a café anytime soon. When our family and our sitter feel it’s safe, we'll have her back, but for fewer hours.
EXERCISE: SAVING $120 PER MONTH
Before non-essential businesses closed, I used some of our precious sitter time each week for yoga classes. I used to think that I needed to get out of the house to feel rejuvenated. Since the lockdown, I’ve discovered that I actually prefer to exercise at home. Instead of being beholden to my studio’s (and my sitter’s) schedule, taking time to drive to the studio, find parking and secure my spot in class, I just open an app on my phone and roll out my mat in my living room. I'm saving time and money — and I'm doing more yoga now than ever before.
So, what are we going to do with our newfound savings? Given the unpredictable state of the world, our plan is to set it aside and let it accrue interest for the time being so we have an extra cash cushion in case we need it. But once the world opens a bit, we'll use some of the funds to do something fun — like a tropical getaway with the kids where we can really appreciate being somewhere that’s not home.