Soaring unemployment in the wake of COVID-19 has left millions of Americans in an emergency financial crunch. Besides the government, lenders, landlords and other businesses are chipping in by dropping penalties and even forgiving missed payments for those in need (who ask).
But when every penny counts, it’s critical to find (and plug) even small leaks to your cash flow. There are lots of ways to clean up your finances. But a key place to look is monthly subscriptions that slowly drain your bank account.
It’s always a good idea to cut recurring payments for services you don’t use — or don’t even remember you have. (This tool can help.) Of course, it’s important to strike a sensible balance between must-haves and nice-to-haves, especially if you have kids.
Here are some ways you may be able to stop your drip.
Yes, it’s hard to look away from Tiger King. But subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu and other services can be a big drain on your budget. Instead, check out less-robust but free streaming services offered through your local library, like Kanopy Opens in new window and Hoopla Opens in new window. (The free versions of music services like Spotify Opens in new window and Pandora Opens in new window are fine as well.)
The same goes for satellite radio — particularly if you get yours in the car you’re barely using. For example, Sirius/XM Opens in new window will suspend your account (and payments) for up to six months. (They’ve also cut promotional rates on their plans significantly, so if you don’t want to quit, you can still save by switching.)
Similarly, while online newspaper subscriptions are great ways to stay informed, some of the best news apps Opens in new window around won’t cost you a dime.
We’re looking at you, Amazon Prime. Yes, its free shipping/streaming/sales combo can be a good value. But with apologies to Mrs. Maisel, consider whether Prime — or monthly shipments from other services, from cosmetics samples to doggie treats — is worth the price if you’re out of work for who-knows-how-long.
If you’re paying a lot for a big company to monitor your home security system — and, like most people, you’re home all the time these days — consider whether you really need it right now. Call your provider to see if they’ll suspend your service, lower your payments or switch you to a cheaper plan. Alternatively, shop around to see if another company will monitor your system for less. Or look into a DIY system like SimpliSafe Opens in new window or Ring Opens in new window, whose lower overall costs could pay for themselves.
As good as it is to pay others forward, if you’re unemployed and haven’t saved for this kind of crisis, job #1 may be protecting your own finances. So, besides cutting back on individual donations, check your bills for recurring gifts you give to charity. And don’t worry about karma — there are other ways to give back. For example, even if you can’t be there physically, consider opportunities to volunteer virtually Opens in new window.