With my husband and I working from home and the kids in virtual school, we’re saving money on some things like gas, clothing, and those $8 salads we’d normally buy from the deli below the office. But other expenses are creeping higher.

Home 24/7? Simple Steps to Avoid Cost Creep and Save Money

This blog post is in partnership with Metromile Auto Insurance.

With my husband and I working from home and the kids in virtual school, we’re saving money on some things like gas, clothing, and those $8 salads we’d normally buy from the deli below the office. But other expenses are creeping higher. 

With our family of four under one roof most of the time, we’re working hard to keep a lid on energy and grocery costs. We’re also noticing all the little ‘problems’ around the house like the fact that I really don’t like any of my furniture and want to remodel the whole place. 

Sound familiar? I’ve got some saving advice.

Reduce energy via programmable thermostats, unplugging electronics and more accountability

In the first few months of the 2020 quarantine our energy bill shot through the roof, with our entire family (and my brother and his girlfriend) living and working at our home all day. We have five heating and cooling zones throughout our house, and we had them all running for most of the day. 

We started making a few adjustments which led to a nearly 50% reduction in our energy bill within a couple of months. The first was to completely turn off at least one or two of the thermostats in areas of the house we weren’t really using, such as the dining room and formal living room. The next step was regulating the temperature using our programmable thermostats so that cooling would only turn on if temperatures surpassed 72 in a particular zone. 

We also started unplugging some appliances that were rarely in use but continue to use energy and drain power, so-called ‘energy vampires.’  That includes phone chargers, our blender, and other cords.

Finally, we had a conversation with all members of the household to explain just how much energy was being consumed and that we all needed to be more conscious and accountable for its usage. Even the little kids could help with turning off lights before leaving a room.

Stock up on “private labels” to cut your food bill

Grocery bills are increasing in the pandemic, as we spend more time at home. In some households, adult kids are also returning from college, which adds to the budget. 

One of my personal favorite ways to save money at the grocery store is to shop private labels. Large grocery chains and discount stores like Target, Walmart and Costco carry their own private labels for many items from food to household products, which are priced anywhere from 30 to 50% less than competing name brands because the products don’t require as much advertising or research and development costs. There’s also no middle man, as the product is going directly from the store brand to the customer, so no need for a big mark-up. 

In most cases, I find that the quality is just as good. For example, Whole 365 is the Whole Foods label, and it’s become our go-to for organic milk, bread, eggs, and pantry items like pasta, baking ingredients and snacks. My kids can’t tell the difference, and I’m loving the savings.

Review your insurance policies and consider making a switch

Working from home should work in your favor when it comes to the cost of certain insurance premiums like home and auto. If you’re home most of the day, that would make your home more guarded, which should help to reduce the cost of insurance. Let your insurance company know and ask for a discount. 

And if you’re now a low-mileage driver and exposing the vehicle to fewer scrapes and accidents, your car insurance should reflect that. 

The good news is that you can always shop around for new car insurance policies. We just migrated over to Metromile, a car insurance company that offers pay-per-mile car insurance, which means our bill is based on the miles we drive. 

The fact is: More than 100 million Americans drive 10,000 miles or fewer each year but don’t know it. And Metromile customers save an average of $741 a year. In our case, the savings looks like it will be more than $1,000 a year.

One reason why you can save so much: Most car insurance companies don’t know for sure if you’ve stopped driving, which is why paying per mile can be a better option. 

Another reason we made the switch to Metromile: The app. You can manage your policy and proof of insurance, see your trips, and even file a claim from your phone.  

If you want to figure out if a switch to Metromile makes sense for you, check out Ride Along, a free new feature from Metromile. All you need to do is download the Metromile app and drive as you normally would for about two weeks. Afterward, Metromile will tell you if you’re a good fit and what your rate will be if you sign up with no obligation to buy.

Opt for used furniture to spruce up your house

As we attempt to update our home, the Facebook Marketplace feature and I have gotten quite friendly over the last several months. There I can scour my area for gently used furniture and decor. And the best part is that the furniture is already assembled, and I can have it much faster than the standard 4-6 week shipping time it takes for a desk or table purchased from a store.

Bonus: You’re helping out the environment.

The savings are incredible. Whether it’s furniture or books, clothes or tech, buying second hand could save you up 30 to 50%, maybe even more. In addition to Facebook Marketplace, I recommend checking out local neighborhood listservs and a new resale web site I discovered called Mercari that has gently used everything – clothes, toys, electronics.

On the flip side of this, I’ve also been selling some gently used furniture out of our garage, and it’s been selling like hotcakes because people are looking to remodel their homes and set up home offices. It’s just another way to put more money back in your pocket. 

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