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It's time to save and tighten your spending belt while sheltering at home

Right now, the savviest strategy is to save,

Right now, the savviest strategy is to save, period, and on everything, financial experts advise. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/LightFieldStudios

Extraordinary times require extraordinary action. Right now, the savviest strategy is to save, period, and on everything.

Maybe you’re sitting securely on your financial perch at the moment; keep in mind that a month ago more than 22 million people probably thought they were too. This pandemic is far from done wreaking havoc. Consider yourself vulnerable, in case it turns out you are. Tighten the belt because, whether you were already living paycheck to paycheck, a corporate titan, or running a thriving business, who knows how this torrid tale will end.

Survival of the fittest is about adaptation. Here’s where to adjust.

Focus on basics

“In these strange times keep things simple. Your money is needed for housing, bills and food. Everything else is a luxury. We don't know how long this could last. It’s essential to treat every penny like it could be saved,” says Ethan Taub, CEO of personal finance website Goalry.com.

Negotiate

See if your landlord, mortgage company, credit card issuers and other folks you owe money to are offering relief during this time.

Says Kacy Smith, a financial coach in El Cajon, California, “Whether it be a lower percentage rate, deferment of payments, or small monthly minimum payments, this will alleviate short-term financial pressure.”

“Ask Netflix, Sirius radio, utilities, cellphone provider or computer services if they can give you a better price during this time. If you say it's too much and you'll have to cancel, they may offer you a lower price to stay,” says Marilyn Anderson, author of How to Live Like a MILLIONAIRE When You’re a Million Short.

She asked and Sirius cut her subscription from $15 to $4.97 a month.

Nix extras

Just drop some things. “My husband and I cut any memberships, including clothing, cat litter, magazines and Apple apps. By doing this and other small things, we shaved $289 a month off our budget,” says Smith.

Scrutinize delivery details

Sheltering in place means going out judiciously. Delivery services have much appeal. But be mindful of shipping or delivery charges.

“Some online stores take delivery charges even for the smallest quantity and the shortest distance. Avoid ordering from those stores. Others don’t charge for delivery if you purchase a certain dollar amount,” says Silviana Barbu, online shopping expert at DontPayFull.com.

Capitalize on your extra free time

Maybe you didn’t have time to find coupons. Now, snip, snip. Also compare prices online to suss out where the steals are.

Treasure hunt in your house. Sales of clothing, video games, toys and athletic equipment are booming on online marketplace Mercari. “Spring clean while you’re stuck at home. Get cash for your purges,” says Huntington-based Patty Morrissey, chief organizing and selling expert for Mercari. Use the money to boost your emergency fund or pay bills.

Stack savings

“If I can buy something online, I always try to use a cash-back portal like Ebates (now Rakuten) and combine that with a cash-back credit card. I’ll do a quick search to see if there are any coupons I can apply too,” says Robin Saks Frankel , a personal finance reporter with Forbes Advisor.

Call your car insurer

“Ask for a 3-month retroactive discount, solely based on the fact that most Americans have had their cars sitting in the driveway for two months since the emergence of the coronavirus. Allstate insurance automatically deducted 15% off, but some of our clients called and got additional discounts,” says Adem Selita, CEO of The Debt Relief Company in Manhattan.

Some discounts will last 6 months. “This is by far the best way to save anywhere from $200 to $500 with a 30-minute phone call,” he says.

Ferret out fees

If you’re paying checking account fees, find a new bank or credit union. “Checking account holders who don't meet minimum balance requirements pay on average $15 per month. But there are plenty of free options out, shop around,” says Andrea Woroch , a money savings expert in Bakersfield, California.

“Don't forget to link your savings to your checking account to avoid hefty overdraft fees. If you’ve recently been charged overdraft or insufficient fund fees, call your bank to ask for those to be waived. Many will do so during this pandemic.”

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