It's now been weeks since the COVID-19 outbreak escalated, causing a world of economic hurt on a nationwide level. And with health experts imploring people to stay home to flatten the curve, a large number of Americans have been stuck in their houses or apartments for what's coming up on a month now.
But being cooped up at home doesn't just mean going stir-crazy. It can also mean spending more money -- money you may not have right now, or perhaps just may not be eager to spend, what with talks of a major recession on the horizon. Here are a few home expenses that may be costing you more than ever -- and what to do about them.
When you report to work at an office, you basically don't use electricity at home for the bulk of your waking hours. But now that you're stuck at home and potentially doing your job from there, you may find that your electricity bills are already starting to climb. If that's the case, you can do your part to keep them manageable by being more mindful. Simple acts like turning off lights when you leave a room or unplugging appliances you're not using could result in modest but helpful savings over the course of a month.
You might think that working from home, or being home full time, wouldn't really change your water usage. After all, you were probably (hopefully) in the habit of taking showers and washing your clothes before social distancing started, so you may expect that things shouldn't be all that much different today. But remember, your water usage doesn't just relate to showering and laundry. Every time you go to the bathroom or wash your hands, you use water. If you have a family with children, that means all of you are around all day to add to your water bill.
The solution? It certainly doesn't entail skimping on hand-washing. Rather, think about ways you can reduce your usage, like running your dishwasher only when it's truly full or reminding your kids that while we're all supposed to wash our hands for a full 20 seconds, the water doesn't need to stay running during that time.
3. Cable and streaming services
Being stuck at home means you need access to more entertainment, so if you signed up for a beefed-up cable plan or extra streaming services in the past month, you're probably in good company. But before you continue adding to your household bills, think about ways you might score quality content on the cheap. HBO, for example, is giving Americans 500 hours of free content that's accessible on its HBOnow.com and HBOgo.com apps. Before you sign up for another paid service, see if this or other no-cost options can keep you adequately occupied.
At a time when there's so much economic uncertainty, the last thing you need is higher bills -- especially if your income has taken a hit. Be mindful of the home expenses that may be costing you extra money, and take steps to minimize them as best you can. And also, remember that if you're having trouble paying for basics like electricity and water, you shouldn't hesitate to reach out to your utility companies and ask for relief.