Now that stores, restaurants, salons and gyms are opening up in various stages across the country, Americans are opening up their wallets as well.
But after the initial frenzy of returning to old spending habits, we might decide to hang onto some of the tactics we used during the days of doing without.
Here are some money-saving habits that are worth keeping around.
- We discovered that free cocktail hours in the driveway with friends who bring their own beverages are as fun as meeting a group downtown and racking up a $25 bar tab each.
- We learned there’s freedom in sticking with the wardrobe in our closets instead of spending a Saturday and our hard-earned money at the mall.
- We parted our hair a different way and looked past our exposed roots.
- Movie nights with pajamas and popcorn are easier and comfier than going to a theater. (And around $50 cheaper for a family of four.)
- When gyms closed we found a world of free online resources from yoga to boot camps and rediscovered the Vitamin D surge that comes with a run, walk or socially distant workout with friends outdoors.
So, as options beyond jigsaw puzzles and home dye jobs become more available, if we go back to our old spending habits even half as often there are thousands of dollars to be saved.
Americans spend an average of $3,459 annually on food and drinks outside the home, according to Howmuch.net. Cutting back on eating out doesn’t mean hosting a costly dinner party. Friends can BYOB and contribute a dish. (Remember potlucks?)
And whether it’s with a friend, the family or just solo, takeout costs less than dining out. There’s a lower tip or no tip involved, and the drinks at home are cheaper. Many of our favorite restaurants offer delicious and efficient takeout that will continue even as tables inside and outside become available.
Eating out half as often would save $1,729 a year.
Hair Care Services
Men spend an average of $350 a year on haircuts. If they continue asking their spouse, partner, child or mom for that monthly trim, that equates to a car payment.
Women spend an eye-popping $960 on hair care and products annually, according to the hair products company Prismaxusa. Stretching those hair appointments out from every six weeks to every 10 weeks cuts out three salon visits a year, saving around $400 a year.
Hair Care Products
Also, plenty of women who used to shampoo and condition every day realized their hair still looked good enough for a Zoom meeting when they washed it every three or four days. (Thank you, messy bun.) Less hair washing means those shampoo bottles, from $3.99 up to $25 each if you buy high-end stuff at your salon, need replacing less often.
Women also used less and less makeup as stay-at-home orders played out. It didn’t seem worth it for just one trip to the grocery store or a Zoom happy hour. A 2017 Groupon study found women spend an average of $91 a month, or $1,092 a year on products for their faces.
If you can get used to feeling more comfortable in your untouched skin — unless it’s a big night out — and use a third less makeup, that could save $364 a year.
Working from home and taking fewer outings have made pajamas the leading wardrobe must-have. As we all start venturing out, the clothes in the closet might seem fresher from lack of wear. While sheltering at home, the avid shoppers among us stopped going to stores and found alternatives like cooking, yoga or gardening — which are arguably more fulfilling activities anyway.
A Creditdonkey.com study found consumers spend an average of $161 a month on clothes. If we cut those spending habits in half that saves $966 a year.
The average American spends $1,860 annually on health and fitness, including gym memberships, GoBankingRates found in a 2020 study. When gyms closed, we learned about an array of free online workouts, yoga classes and meditation sessions. Before you go back to your pricey gym, consider whether those at-home workouts are good enough for the long term. Or, build a home gym for under $100, or make weights and other equipment with stuff you have in the house.
You’ll even save money if you hang onto a paid membership to online services, such as the Peloton digital app that costs $13 a month and offers hundreds of classes beyond spinning with no bike required. This costs $156 annually compared to $1,860.
Fewer Trips to the Market
We were urged by medical experts to limit grocery shopping to once a week. Morning news shows aired chefs teaching us how to use every morsel of our vegetables or make substitutions instead of going to the store for just one onion or a tablespoon of curry powder.
This tactic saves the cost of groceries that are supposedly “essential” to a recipe as well as the cost of the 10 other items we will invariably throw in the cart even though we didn’t have them on the shopping list.
If we continue sticking to one grocery store trip a week no matter what, the savings will pile up.
Sharing Toys and Tools
When stores closed and kids quickly became stir crazy, families traded toys that were carefully cleaned and shared with friends. Adults traded puzzles and books.
As shelter-in-place became a reason to tackle long-delayed home improvements, neighbors asked around to borrow a drill or hedge clippers instead of going to the hardware store to buy them. If these habits continue, that means more sharing and less spending.
Do It Yourself
Instead of hiring a plumber or calling a favorite handyman, YouTube videos stood in to direct us how to fix that leaky sink or find studs in the wall to hang a heavy mirror. Homeowners spend an average of $2,000 a year on home maintenance, The Penny Hoarder found.
If that’s reduced by just a quarter by more doing-it-ourselves, the result is an annual savings of $500.
Katherine Snow Smith is a freelance writer and editor in St. Petersburg, Florida, and author of the book Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker.