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7 ways to cut your household budget in this pandemic

By LEI DIMARUCUT-SISON Published Sep 24, 2020 10:00 am Updated Oct 02, 2020 7:24 am

You can count on moms to come up with the most practical (and quite unusual) ideas for saving money.

One realization we all surely have come to in this pandemic is that we could live with so much less. Suddenly, there is nowhere to go and wear your stylish clothes. You find yourself having to start your expensive car every few days to prevent engine damage now that it’s just been sitting in the garage for months. And no, you didn’t really need another pair of shoes.

With unemployment rates rising and the future still looking uncertain with COVID-19, it’s prudent to hold on to the resources that we currently have and use them sparingly. These homemakers share a few tips that worked with them.

1. Downgrade your mobile phone plan

One of the first expenses we cut down on in our household was our mobile data plan. Since work-from-home in the new normal requires a stable internet connection, which we already have at home, there is no need for us to subscribe to a separate mobile data plan.

By downgrading his monthly mobile postpaid plan from P1,299 to P599, my husband easily made savings of P700 a month, which translated to a faster fiber internet service that all three of us at home can enjoy.

Savings: P700 a month

Stretch your budget: P700 a month = an upgrade on our internet speed from 25 Mbps to 50 Mbps with PLDT's Unli Fibr plan (from plan 1699 to plan 2399)

2. Eat two meals a day instead of three

The hospitality industry was one of the worst-hit during this pandemic, so Redgz de Leon, a membership accounts officer in a country club in Taguig City, considers herself lucky to still have a job.

However, this meant working on shifts to accommodate all the employees as their company implemented a no-work-no-pay arrangement after Metro Manila was placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from March to May, 2020. Rather than feel bad, the mom of two took this as a cue to catch up on sleep instead.

Redgz says she would wake up later than usual and skip breakfast, from which she saved approximately P40 a day. “Nakatipid ka na, nakaiwas ka pa sa dagdag na timbang,” she quips.

Savings: P1,200 a month

Stretch your budget: P1,200 = multivitamins for 3 persons for a month (Centrum Advance costs about P12 each)

3. DIY a birthday cake

Redgz's family also had to let go of some luxuries during this time, including birthday celebrations, but she insists on marking these special dates with a feast, no matter how scaled down. A cake version of the "Dalgona coffee" trend costs only P150 to make, following a three-ingredient recipe from the Internet.

Savings: From P180 (vs Goldilocks chocolate overload cake roll at P330) to P366 (vs Goldilocks Coffee Crumble round cake at P516)

Stretch your budget: P180 = one more Dalgona coffee cake; P366 = one small bilao of Pancit Classic, good for 3-5 persons, at Pancit ng Taga-Malabon (P350)

4. Wash your car at home

Cooped up at home for months, the most driving that people do is to the supermarket and back. However, this does not translate to less frequent car washes because the vehicle gathers dust and grime even when parked at home (and especially if your garage is not covered).

Pre-COVID, restaurant owners Michael and Angela Agero went on weekly trips to Manila, where they get their supplies, to Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, where NYOrK Cafe is located, so they brought their car to the neighborhood car wash quite often, too — about three times a week.

Since car wash facilities were closed during quarantine, the couple had to do the chore themselves. As it turns out, the savings were quite substantial.

Ginagamitan namin ng timba at tabo imbes na hose, kaya damay na din 'yung dilig sa mga halaman," says Angela, adding that they used to spend up to P600 a week on car wash. Now, besides getting some exercise, washing the car has also become a bonding activity with their five-year-old daughter Donut.

Savings: P2,400 a month

Stretch your budget: P2,400 = 20% of the payment for a brand-new road racer bike, which costs P12,000 on Lazada (they could already purchase the bike just from the car wash savings now that we've been on lockdown for five months).

5. Cook in big batches once a month

With everybody staying home, spending is down to the bare necessities. However, it does not mean people are spending less. In fact, some moms say that their expenses have gone higher during the months of ECQ, especially for food. That, plus planning the weekly meal, going to the market, and actually cooking the food can be time-consuming and exhausting.

Encar Reyes, a mom of two, has come up with a solution to this problem while also saving a few thousand pesos. Instead of a weekly menu, she draws up a family meal plan for an entire month and does the actual cooking only once a month.

“When I do batch cooking, the food usually lasts us for three weeks to a month,” says Encar. “I cook in one go: sinigang, adobo, menudo, chicken curry, spaghetti sauce. Then I divide them into containers and freeze them.

“I plan ahead, so I buy all the ingredients. Usually, one day is for preparations like cleaning, pakulo, palambot. The next day, cooking na.”

Thus, Encar's household only consumes one LPG tank a year, instead of 3 on average for those who cook daily. She saves approximately P2,370 on LPG a year by following this practice.

Savings: P2,370 a year or P200 a month at P790/11-kg LPG, based on Encar's purchase in January 2020

Stretch your budget: P2,370 = 1 unit of American Home induction cooker from Ansons or four months’ supply of mineral water at P150 per week

6. Make “retokadong ulam”

Hard times call for drastic — or rather, creative — measures. Sharon Villaluz, a young grandma of two, feels sorry to see excess food go to waste, so she thinks of ways to salvage leftovers.

"It's important to save what we can especially during this crisis. I have discovered I enjoy cooking up new dishes from leftovers. If others have menudo or mechado, I have retokado,” Sharon says in jest.

For example, leftover fried meat can be re-invented for dinner with sautéed broccoli and spinach, then again for breakfast by mixing it with fried rice for Sharon's own take on the chao fan. That means one basic dish can last their family of four at least three meals.

Sharon says she saves up to P5,600 a month by doing her retokado dishes. “By making various versions of the ulam -- each one a unique dish in itself — I’m able to do my part in stretching our family budget. When I serve these dishes to my family, sometimes they even say they taste better than the first time!”

Savings: P5,600 a month

Stretch your budget: P5,600 = milk, diapers, and vitamins for her two grandkids for a month (Nido Junior powdered milk 2 kg is P927.50 per child, diapers are at 1,050, and vitamins are at P200+)

7. Hang clothes straight from the dryer

One chore Carmina Redoblado is happy to remove from her to-do list during the community quarantine is ironing clothes. With electricity consumption going through the roof, the mom of one has managed to shave off a few hundreds from their monthly bill by observing a few simple practices.

“Straight from the dryer, hang clothes on hangers so you don’t have to iron them.”

Based on her husband Manny's computation, ironing clothes for one hour will consume one kilowatt or P18, so doing away with four to five hours of ironing equals savings of up to P90 a week, or P360 a month — it’s not huge, but when you’re hard up, every peso counts.