December 18, 2020

Cutting spending can be mortgage's saving grace

As we near the end of 2020, many American homeowners are anxious about both their health and their finances.

Certainly, with much of the nation still in lockdown mode, it can be hard to see over the economic hurdles to any promising light emerging at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel.

Tough times are often a part of homeownership, so it’s important to keep an open mind. When it comes to the long term, making your mortgage payments is likely worth a few short-term sacrifices.

Some homeowners are renting out extra room in their homes or attached livable units. Whether family, friends or other well-vetted renter, sharing utilities and other expenses can be an excellent solution to financial shortfalls.

If that’s not an option, increasing your income is a straightforward solution. That’s easier said than done, especially in a recession. Next up, it’s time to consider ways to reduce expenditures.

If you’re determined to stretch your budget - look at your priorities.

Start with credit cards and other debt. High interest cards eat up an average of $1,000 a year. To save, pay off debts with the highest interest first. Talk to your Bay Equity loan officers about the possibilities for a cash-out home loan refinance to consolidate payments.

If debt’s not the culprit, work your way down. Nearly everyone has asked: “Where did that money go?” The answer is often; “discretionary spending.” Things you can do without – home entertainment, take-out food and new cars - are discretionary.

Most experts suggest making cuts in equal proportions from several parts of your discretionary budget, so it’s easier to cushion the blow. When make little cuts in many different places, you may find you don’t really miss the extras much at all.

Maybe cut your TV budget. In 2019, the average household spent $975 for cable or satellite service. Cut that in half with streaming services. Save more with subscriptions that include ads. Or cut the whole bill and use an antenna. There are dozens of free channels.

Don’t forget libraries. Most have gone to great lengths to remain safe and accessible during the pandemic. They all carry extensive collections of e-books, audiobooks and movies online.

The pandemic has made many of us more frequent grocery shoppers. But are you more discriminating, too? Plan and prepare healthy meals ahead of time with the help of household members. Pledge to shop half as much and make better use of what you buy.

Next, reconsider your car. A smaller car uses less fuel, and a used car likely saves you a monthly payment. During this low-mileage pandemic, ask your insurance company about better rates or discounts.

The average American spends $14.40 a week at the drive through coffee stand, one of the least affected businesses during the pandemic. You may say, “I deserve that little pleasure.” And you do. But you’ll spend less than half that amount drinking coffee at home –saving at least $375 a year. Not bad.

There are many mobile phone apps and software designed to make it easier to put your budget on a diet to make cutting household expenses easier. It’s not pure sacrifice, just giving up a little to cover priorities. Consider an auto-payment deduction for your house payment to avoid temptations.