How to Make a Budget for Your Family During COVID-19

“How can you budget your money when you have the same amount coming in as you did before, but now you have everyone at home using more electricity, gas, and water and eating more food?”

Submitted by Kelly B.

A budget is nothing more than deciding how you will spend money before you get it.

How you spend money will change as your life changes. During COVID-19, that means changing how you spend and your family changing their behavior, especially when using food and utilities.

Keep your spending on food in check

I’ve found that it’s harder than before to control our food spending. Below are a few suggestions based on what has worked in my house:

Buy food in bulk and bag the food yourself

Consider buying food, particularly snack food, in bulk. This may be cheaper than pre-packaged food and you just need to bag the food yourself. We do this with chips and fruit like grapes. Bagging the food myself helps me control how much each person eats and helps the food last longer.

Stick to a shopping schedule

I create a weekly meal plan, including snacks, and I shop only once a week (I have a family of five, with three teens). My family knows that if they eat all of a food before my shopping day, they will have to wait until I shop again to get that item. To save time, shop online at your favorite grocery store and use the free curbside pickup to get your groceries. Curbside pickup saves time and money because I only buy what is on my list.

Create rules for when and what your kids eat

I found my kids ate out of boredom and thirst. I told my kids they must drink a glass of water and wait 30 minutes after eating before eating again. This rule helped to cut down on “boredom” eating, and our food lasts longer.

I also realized that a box of cereal only lasts a day in my home. My kids were consuming cereal for breakfast, lunch, and as a snack. I put on our refrigerator what my kids can eat for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Limiting breakfast foods to only breakfast and including fruits or veggies with every meal helped our food last longer and helped my kids eat healthier.

Monitor and limit your utility bills

Like many of you, I nearly passed out when I saw the dramatic increase in our utilities. The following are changes you can make to help lower your utility bills:

Limit shower time

We have three teenage daughters who take long showers, so we limited shower time to 10 minutes. We put timers in their bathrooms. By the next month, we saw a difference in our water bill.

Use fans and kept the thermostat above 70 degrees

Fans cost less than an HVAC. When our kids complained about being hot, we noticed they were wearing hoodies, and we told them to dress for summer inside the house and turn on a fan.

Contact your utility provider

Ask for discounts and special programs to save money on your utility bills.

Research utility companies

In our area, we had multiple choices for providers and found there were cheaper services. Call different utility providers, price shop, and ask for discounts for switching services.

Other ways of saving

Look at spending in other areas, and see where you can lower your expense. Ask your cable, internet, phone, and insurance providers for discounts. If you have credit cards, ask for a lower interest rate.

With everything happening today, I understand how life may feel out of control. The key surviving tough season is working as a family to change your spending and your family’s habits.

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