Some grim (but not surprising) facts from a Pew Research Center survey:
Of non-retired U.S. adults, 51% believe the COVID-19 pandemic will make it at least somewhat harder to reach their financial goals.
About 1 in 4 (24%) of those aged 50 and older expect the pandemic to affect their ability to retire. That includes 17% who think they’ll have to delay retiring and 7% who already have put off retirement.
Even if you are able to hold on despite the pandemic it is a good time to review your financial situation. Even if your finances are not in the best shape right now, Even more important is to look at the bottom line.
Here are some unusual strategies that can help you keep your retirement on track. We hope you won’t have to hear us repeat how important it’s to keep track of your expenses and to take advantage for catch-up contributions.
1. Stock up
Food Business News recently reported this about our groceries:
“With major grain, oilseed and edible oils prices at or near eight-year highs, crude oil prices six times the year-ago level, freight rates soaring and prices for materials (cardboard and aluminum, for example) and other input costs rising, can food price inflation be far behind? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and many food manufacturing companies, price increases may be greater in the future. If the expected post-pandemic demand surge develops, as many expect, price increases may be greater later this year and into 2022.”
That’s why you should buy as many shelf-stable groceries as you can at today’s prices. Even if you only have the budget for a few extra cans of tuna and boxes of pasta, you can slowly build up a stockpile. Stock up on pet food and supplies if you have them.
For tips on getting the best prices, see “15 Ways to Slash Your Grocery Bill You Probably Never Considered” and “8 Ways to Save Money on Pet Food.”
Think long-term in other ways, too. Let’s say you need new tires by the end the year. Start looking for deals now.
Look at your birthday/holiday/special occasion gift list and start scouting for things to give. Specifically, for discounted things to give. You can find great deals at thrift shops and garage sales. A pair of brand-new ski gloves was found at a yard sale. They would have cost $60 or more at the sporting goods store. I paid $5.
Buying at the lowest prices and then stocking up on them when they are available is a time-honored frugal trick. It can be used all year.
2. Join a Buy Nothing Facebook group
If there’s a Buy Nothing group on Facebook in your area, join it. These groups are similar in concept to Freecycle, but they are organized by area rather than by region. It is a way to give where you live
The people in my group have donated appliances (! Clothing, toys, clothing, accessories, garden items, crafts supplies, books and furniture were all offered by my group. Some of the things I wind up receiving are in such great condition that they become birthday or holiday gifts – which can be a major budget boost when you’re trying to save for retirement. The best surprise was the variety of food we have gotten. This includes pasta, milk yogurt, spices and dry beans. Sometimes people buy too much and sometimes they don’t like the item so they throw it away.
Not every group yields treasure. Sometimes you don’t need to have riches. You just need a lamp, some books, or a new snow shovel.
Learn about my article “Need something?” Buy Nothing!”
3. Learn to cook
This one can’t be overemphasized. The savings could be enormous if you cook even half the time.
Don’t tell anyone, “But, I don’t understand how to cook!” Until you decided to make it your business, you didn’t even know how to drive or how to use a smartphone. You can also learn how to cook.
Search online for “easy [whatever you like to eat]” recipes” and get in on the action. Online tutorials are available if this sounds too scary. You can watch the videos several times and then you can try it. It can be a couple’s project or a family one. Invite your friends to help you learn together.
Besides, at-home cooking is easy with slow cookers or multicookers for Instant Pot. There are tons of online recipes. There are entire websites dedicated to this topic. It’s possible!
HTML4_ 4. Don’t deny – delay
You want to replace your aging (but still functional) smartphone. You wish you could trade your 6-year-old car. You want to spend Christmas next year somewhere warm.
Or maybe you have smaller dreams: getting a cowboy hat or a kitten.
You can do most of these things, but not yet.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong in wanting things. Nonstop deprivation can cause depression, and sometimes lead to extravagant spending. (“This has been a stressful year, so I’m giving my family a great Christmas!”)
But delaying your purchases gives your budget a little breathing room. You can increase your retirement savings, liquid cash and emergency fund, as well as work on the stock-up plan mentioned earlier.
You don’t have to deny yourself anything. It’s just that you have a preference about when to purchase.
5. Start using shopping apps
Apps like Ibotta and ShopKick make it possible to save money when you shop online. The process is easy and you can trade your points for gift cards or hard cash.
These apps can also be used for daily necessities. These apps have helped me save a lot of money on food, drinks, and toiletries. Sometimes I get the item for free and sometimes, on rare occasions, I earn money. This is the best part! You can pay for these items using gift cards you have earned on previous shopping trips. Score!
The Swagbucks app offers another fun and easy way to earn points towards gift cards or cash. This is how I pay for a large portion of my holiday shopping.
HTML6. Take 20 minutes to save
Overhauling your finances and making savvy choices to keep them healthy can seem daunting. Don’t try to do it all at once.
Instead, get in the habit of spending no more than 20 minutes at a time to look for budget boosters. A few big-ticket items to start with:
- Am I getting the best car insurance rate?
- I wonder if I could get a better deal on cellphone service?
- Why aren’t I using a rewards credit card?
- How much could I save if I cut the cable and went with streaming services?
Doing 20 minutes worth of research once or twice a week is a lot less onerous than trying to do everything in one night. This makes it less likely that you will quit.
HTML7. Revive old talents (or learn some new ones)
Remember when you used to mow your own lawn, iron your own shirts, clean your own house and make minor repairs?
Question: Why have you stopped doing these things? How much does it cost to hire them out?
It’s one thing to suffer from serious back pain and not be able to work in the yard or spend your evenings with your children. Is there any reason why you can’t listen to an audiobook or podcast while ironing five shirts?
If you don’t have the skills or aren’t sure how to do them, there are many articles and step-by–step videos on the internet. A lot of us don’t know how to sew so it helps to watch a YouTube tutorial on “how do you sew a button” or “how make invisible repairs”. This will help your clothing last longer. This is a huge money-saver.
You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to make a quick patch of drywall, put in a garden container or groom a goldendoodle. You’ll be thrilled with the increase in your budget. As the savings add up, move some of that money to your retirement account to ensure the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t derail your future plans.
Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. Sometimes, however, we receive compensation if you click on links in our stories.
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