With no end date of the pandemic yet, we have to financially prepare for an uncertain future while also adjusting to a new normal of staying at home and self-isolating.
You’ll be relying more heavily on utilities are you stay at home since you and your family will be cooking more often, on your devices more often, and you might even be working from home. This shelter-in-place season is perfect for starting new eco-friendly and money saving habits, and that cash cushion will be so worth it especially after things return to normal.
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Here are small but sustainable household habits and practices that could go a long way, even when this crisis is over:
Here is how to be more sustainable and save more money, even after the pandemic:
To lower energy costs:
1. Invest in a power strip.
Your computers, coffee makers, video game consoles, DVD players, phone chargers, and even kitchen appliances are energy vampires, using power while plugged in even while the device is off, and these energy suckers take up 10% of household energy usage, according to the Department of Energy.
Stop the energy and money sucking by unplugging your devices when not using them or even connecting them all to a power strip and turning it off when you don’t use it, since less wasted electricity means a lower electric bill.
2. Use cold or warm water when washing clothes.
You still need hot water and even bleach to clean your clothes if someone at home is sick or working on the front lines, but in most cases, choosing warm water can cut your energy use per load by half and by even more with cold water. Most detergents work fine in cold water, and your clothes will still be just as clean.
3. Turn off lights and fans if you aren’t using them.
Make sure to frequently remind your family members to turn off lights and fans if they are not being used since simply switching off unused lights and fans can help you save more money on your energy bill.
4. Load up the washer or dishwasher before using.
Running full loads of dishes in your dishwasher or clothes in the washing machine can save you money on your water and electric bills. If you don’t have enough dirty stuff to load up or simply can’t wait, you can hand wash what you need and still save money.
5. Keep your bulbs clean.
Dirty light bulbs waste energy and emit 30% less light compared to clean bulbs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, so spend time dusting off bulbs and fixtures to get as much light as possible from your bulb.
6. Cut down your showers.
While long, steamy showers are relaxing and reinvigorating, letting it run can waste water and also your money. You can time your showers with a timer or your favorite song, or even turn off the water while waiting on your conditioner in order to stop letting water and money go down the drain.
To lower your grocery bill:
7. Ration the detergent.
You don’t actually need more soap to get extraclean; in fact, you can toss the measuring cup and just use a tablespoon of detergent per regular load to clean your clothes without leaving residue behind. Also, too much detergent can cause your washing machine to break, so your appliances and wallet will be happy.
8. Ditch the paper towels and switch to rags.
Paper towels are convenient but costly over time, so ration paper towels for spills like oil or grease that get thrown away. Cotton shop towels, bath towels, or even old shirts work great for cleaning and dusting, and you can wash these in the laundry. You’ll save more on a load for these reusable rags compared to buying rolls of paper towels you’ll throw away.
9. Switch to DIY cleaners.
Disinfecting and cleaning is even more important during this pandemic. If you find yourself at the store and all of the cleaners and supplies are gone, you can instead make your own cleaning products that are much cheaper than these commercial cleaners from things you already have at home like vinegar, lemon or lime juice, baking soda, and even essential oils. There are plenty of DIY recipes to disinfect and keep your house smelling amazing.
10. Reorganize your pantry.
Having an organized pantry and cabinet saves on food because you won’t buy things that aren’t necessary when you go shopping, and organizing will help you know what you have and avoid buying what you already have.
Have your most important items in a visible location in your pantry so you know when these staples are running out. Grouping items by category (e.g., baking, snacks, condiments, and spices) can help you find what you need and cut down on overspending because you couldn’t find something.
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11. Have a set meal plan and shopping list.
With daily trips to the store being nearly impossible, you have to be efficient in buying and remember to get what you need. Panic buying and hoarding will only make matters worse, even though having enough food for two weeks is a good idea.
Impulse buying during this pandemic is a bad idea. Just make a list of essential pantry items and staples like canned goods, grains, cooking oils, dry goods, healthy snacks, spices, and condiments and make sure you stick to this list.
Learning to make a meal plan and using what you have can reduce your food waste and save money, especially since you’ll be at home cooking.
12. Start a budget and stick to it.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to analyze your monthly and weekly spending and make a quarantine budget to manage spending during lockdown. You’ll have more money available because it is harder to throw away money without travel, movies, restaurants, and other social spaces, so you should put that extra cash into an emergency fund to manage the uncertainty of the crisis and money will likely be more of an issue later on.
With more time on your hands and everyone at home, you can even talk about how you all can save money as one family.