Extra Fees You Took on During the Pandemic That Are Still Worth Budgeting For
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives, and even though days are slowly creeping back to the way they were before March 2020, things are far from “normal.”
So, Americans are adapting to a new normal — and that includes the way we spend money. Over the past year, our budgets and priorities changed, and for many people, the shift was positive. So just what are some of the spending practices we adopted over the past 18 months that we might want to carry forward?
Budgeting 101: How To Set a Realistic Budget You Can Live With
Without the ability to see a movie in person for most of 2020, Americans turned to streaming services for their entertainment — and saved money in the process. Movie ticket prices, including for matinees and at discount theaters, average $9.16 in the United States, according to The Numbers, a film-industry business information website. HBO Max offers new Warner Bros. movies the same day the films debut at theaters, plus thousands of hours of other entertainment content, for $14.99 a month, for example.
Tip: Save a trip to the theater for a special date night or family night every few months. Instead, pop some popcorn, turn out the lights and shut off your cellphone to enjoy an in-home movie experience.
Those members of the workforce who were fortunate and could do their jobs at home saved on the costs of commuting, dry cleaning, lunches out, new clothes and more. For some, those savings went straight into the bank. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City reported that in December 2019, Americans saved 7.2% of their disposable income. By April 2020, that percentage was at a record high of 33.7%.
Even as you begin to incur some of those work-outside-the-home costs again, rethink your spending. While you can’t do without gas for the car, you can fuel yourself for less if you make your own lunches. Make your lunch for $3 each day instead of spending $10 at the fast-food place next door. That’s a saving of $35 per week — or about $1,800 per year.
Tip: Ask a work friend or two to join you in the brown bag club. In nice weather, socially distance and eat outside. For an additional treat, take turns packing the lunch for your group. That way, you aren’t stuck making lunch every day.
You undoubtedly have noticed the costs of groceries have risen while doing your weekly shopping. The Consumer Price Index for all food went up by 0.7% from May 2021 to June 2021, and by 2.4% from June 2020. Still, eating in is less expensive than eating out, and it isn’t expected that shoppers will slash their food budgets. Americans intend to keep eating at home at least as often or more often in a post-COVID-19 world, according to “COVID Dining Journey: Eating at Home and Away From Home,” a recent report from sales and marketing firm Acosta.
During coronavirus times, nearly two-thirds of shoppers have eaten at home more, and in fact, Acosta’s research showed 92% of families plan to eat at home at least as often as they do now post-pandemic.
Tip: To help manage grocery costs, sign up for your store’s loyalty programs and register online for access to downloadable coupons, with discounts applied automatically at checkout. No coupon clipping!
You might not have been a workout warrior pre-pandemic. Maybe you always intended to join a gym but couldn’t fit it into your schedule or didn’t have child care. The pandemic changed things as people ramped up their fitness routines from home. The Washington Post reported that revenues of providers of at-home health and fitness equipment more than doubled to $2.3 billion from March to October of 2020. Chief among the sales were equipment for workouts you could do alone, such as treadmills, stationary bikes, snowshoes or kayaks.
Tip: With the investment made in gear, why abandon it now? But if you’re one who didn’t buy fitness equipment for home, preferring a gym workout, take caution as you return. Johns Hopkins Medicine advises that even people who worked out at home should be careful when they return to the gym, starting slowly before going too hard.
Spending more time at home gave do-it-yourselfers the urge they needed to fix up their houses, and that’s expected to continue post-pandemic, according to research from The NPD Group. One in 10 consumers handled projects they would have contracted with a pro to do, and more than 40% of homeowners have post-pandemic DIY home improvement plans. Home hardware stores saw an 11% growth in purchases during the first seven months of 2020, the organization reported.
Tip: Keep going with your projects. Though you might not be in the market to sell right away, your home probably never has been more valuable than it is now. In March, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index reported that in its 20-city composite study, prices in March 2021 were 13.3% higher than they were in March 2020.
We have gotten quite an education in a variety of ways since the pandemic started, and some of the best lessons involve spending. It’s time to keep practicing what we learned when it comes to the household budget.
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Last updated: Aug. 13, 2021