Sneaky Pandemic Expenses
As states start to open up, the economy improves and that spring weather starts to peek its head, I can’t help but feel an excitement in the air. To say that the last year has been hard is an understatement. Since the pandemic started, the way consumers spend their money and where they spend it, has drastically changed. Shopping on line is convenient, saves time and reduces our exposure to the virus but is it costing you some hidden expenses?
Most of us saved money on gas, eating out and gyms and our bank accounts are looking nice but could they be looking even nicer? And for those of us that are trying to take control of our finances, small ways to save in multiple places can make a significant difference. Here are sneaky pandemic-related expenses that might be adding up for you.
Automated expenses are nice because you don’t have to worry about missing a payment. I automate all my expenses, it saves me time and money by not getting charged a late payment fee. But it’s also making it easier for companies to make money and harder for us to track. You give them your credit card information and then, are you like me that hits the automatic renewal button? Or you miss that fine print that says, you will automatically be charged every year.
It was so much easier to know where our money was going when we paid cash for everything. I play the credit card/points game. I charge everything to my credit cards so I can rack up the points and pay off the balance before I get hit with any interest charges. But if you have things coming out of different checking accounts and credit cards like I do, it’s easier to miss those $6 expenses here and there on services you aren’t using.
If you still have cable, that’s one expense that is costing you money and you should consider cancelling. As more people get rid of cable they are turning to streaming services like Hulu, NetFlix, Disney+ and HBO Max.
Here is how they get you: they offer it free for six months and nobody likes giving up free stuff! But after the six months is over, you forget to cancel it. Most of these streaming services don’t cost more than $8 a month so it’s not a noticeable amount coming out of your account. But if you have all of the nine main streaming services, it can cost you over $80 a month. That’s $900 a year.
Since most of us are trying to stay safe by not going out as much, the delivery apps have seen a boost, especially take out delivery and grocery delivery. When you use these apps though, you could be paying twice as much compared to buying directly from the restaurant and picking it up yourself.
Let’s say you order a sandwich from Subway that costs $7. With all the fees, that $7 sandwich will cost you $14.86 on Uber eats; and it’s not just the fees that you are paying for. Some restaurants and grocery stores (well I don’t know if it’s the restaurant or the app) is hiking up the price. I compared the price of a pasta dish on the app vs the menu on the website, and it was $4 more on the app, and don’t forget that isn’t even counting the delivery and service fees.
Instead of using the delivery app, see if the restaurant or grocery deliver or just pick it up yourself. If neither of these is an option, try another establishment. One last thing about this: I support small local businesses as much as possible, but did you know that when you order using an app, the restaurant loses anywhere between 30-60% of that profit and that’s on top of the fees that you are paying. So just take all those things into consideration before you place that order on Uber Eats or GrubHub.
With gyms closing down, we had to figure out different ways to stay in shape. Most people turned to fitness apps and for some people that meant downloading several fitness apps. Most of these are free but if you really want to unlock all the cool stuff they offer, it will cost you somewhere between $7-13 a month. And the more diverse you are in your workouts, the more apps you might need. But how many of these apps are you really using? Are you really getting value out of all the apps?
The kiddies have had to be home a lot more this last year and to keep them occupied, did you turn to some game apps? Or because we turned into teachers this past year, did you need some extra help for your daughters algebra class and downloaded a tutoring app?
Let’s not forget about communication apps like zoom. You got tired of getting cutoff after 40 minutes so you got the paid version. But as things start to open up, will you still be using it enough to justify continuing to pay that $15 expense?
Ways to Take Control
First, set aside a few hours sometime this week to figure out what subscriptions and memberships you are paying for and to compare prices and fees for delivery apps you use. Figure out which subscriptions you don’t really use and cancel them. Look for free or cheaper ways to get the same result, especially if you are tight on money each month.
YouTube has plenty of free workouts and although you can’t customize them, you can still get good results and save money. Going out to pick up your takeout might be inconvenient, but the weather is getting nicer so every so often, doesn’t have to be every time, take a drive and go pick up that food. You will get some fresh air and also save some money.
Companies bet on you not canceling subscriptions and of course they aren’t going to give you a heads-up that they are going to renew your subscription so they don’t. You only realize that you got charged if you are checking your statement line by line and let’s be honest, are you actually doing that? You should, at least for 3 months so you can find where money is leaking out of your accounts. So every two weeks, go line by line of every checking account and credit card that you have and see what you have been charged.
If you want to go a step further track your expenses on google sheets or excel. Use something to also track when offers are going to expire, how much they will cost and which account or credit card you used and set reminders on your phone to alert you when the offer is going to expire or when the renewal is going to happen.
Another thing you should do is to check to see if you can save money by paying the yearly subscription instead of the monthly one before you sign up. if a company offers a yearly subscription it will usually be about $10 cheaper. Just make sure it’s something you know you will use and get value out of. If it’s your first time trying out that service, the monthly subscription might be a good idea so you can cancel it at anytime, in case it doesn’t work out for you.
Third Party Billing
Have you ever wondered why you haven’t seen a payment for Disney even though the free offer is over. That’s because it is getting bundled up in your cell phone bill, this is known as third party billing. You won’t notice it unless you actually look at your cell phone statement.
Same goes for when you download apps on your phone, they get billed through third parties like Amazon, Apple and Google. If you have an iPhone, you can check what you are getting billed for by going to settings, click on your profile and then subscriptions.
If you have an android, go to the play store, tap on the menu icon (it will be the box with lines in the upper left corner, and look for subscriptions. For Amazon, go to the website then to “accounts and lists” drop down menu and click on memberships and subscriptions.
Do you have any other sneaky pandemic expenses you want to share with us, leave a comment down below. Small expenses here and there add up in the long run. It’s even more important for you to figure out where your money is going if you are paying for things you are not using or aren’t really providing you value. I hope you are enlightened by some ways to save money here and there.
To Your Finances,