9 Things That Are Cheaper Due to the Coronavirus

Woman in a mask and headphones
Photo by LightField Studios / Shutterstock.com

The lockdowns are hopefully behind us, but the coronavirus pandemic is hardly over.

While some aspects of daily life more or less have returned to normal for many people, others remain out of work or afraid to leave home as COVID-19 cases continue to swell in some parts of the country.

Fortunately, many of the things that became cheaper due to the coronavirus remain free or cheap today, more than four months after the pandemic was officially declared.

1. Shipping

Some of the retailers that offered free shipping with no minimum purchase as the pandemic spread across the U.S. are still offering it for a limited time. They include Sephora, Staples and Walgreens.

2. Credit reports

Through April 2021, consumers can access their free Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports as often as once a week.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, free credit file access generally was limited to one per year from each of those credit reporting companies, as mandated by federal law.

Checking your credit reports is important because they contain information used to determine your credit score. To learn how to request yours, check out “How to Get Your Free Credit Report in 6 Easy Steps.”

3. Borrowing

The Federal Reserve’s two rate cuts in March were expected to have a domino effect on multiple types of consumer interest rates, ultimately making it cheaper to borrow money. In fact, on July 16, mortgage rates fell below 3% for the first time in 50 years, according to Freddie Mac.

Stop by Money Talks News’ Solutions Center to compare rates on credit cards, home mortgages, mortgage refinances and other types of borrowing.

4. Extra savings account withdrawals

Thanks to a recent Federal Reserve ruling, you may be able to take money from your savings account or money market account penalty-free.

In the past, bank customers paid a fee if they made certain types of withdrawals from these accounts more than six times in a month.

The Fed is relaxing that rule temporarily, which means each bank can decide whether they’ll offer more penalty-free withdrawals. Check with your own financial institution to see if you get a break here.

5. Audiobooks

Even if your public library is closed, you can stream select kids audiobooks for free through the Audible Stories program.

And pandemic or not, there are always plenty of ways for anyone to enjoy audiobooks for free, as we detail in “10 Places You Can Find Free Audiobooks.”

6. Home workouts

Even if your local gym has yet to reopen, you can still get your sweat on at home. Some gym chains continue to offer online classes for free, even to nonmembers.

For example, Blink Fitness and Planet Fitness are each hosting free home workouts on Facebook Live, and Orangetheory Fitness is posting workouts to its YouTube channel.

7. Postponement of student loan payments

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides a freeze on payments and drops interest to 0% for federally owned student loans until Sept. 30.

The law doesn’t do much for borrowers with private student loans, but several states have stepped in to help.

More than a dozen private lenders reached agreements with the governments of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state. Separately, the District of Columbia and the state of New York also have extended relief to borrowers with private student loans.

Under the multistate agreement, participating loan servicers must offer minimum protections, such as $0 payments for 90 days — for borrowers who request them. If you live in one of these states and your lender is participating, contact your loan servicer for details.

8. Required minimum distributions

The CARES Act waived required minimum distributions, or RMDs, in 2020. That means folks who normally would have to take an RMD this year aren’t required to withdraw money from their retirement accounts this year.

If you choose to skip your RMD in 2020, your taxable income likely will be lower this year. That means you are likely to see some tax savings when you file your return in 2021.

If you withdrew an RMD this year and wish to return it to your retirement account, you have until Aug. 31 to “undo” the withdrawal.

9. Sales tax

Not even the pandemic can put a damper on back-to-school sales tax holidays. Just as many states will offer them this summer as did last summer.

School supplies, office supplies, clothing and computers are among the types of items for which you can pay no sales tax if you purchase them during these state-mandated periods. To learn more, check out “16 States With Sales Tax Breaks This Summer.”

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