Of course, these numbers mean little out of the context of an individual’s daily life. Assuming this individual lives a life of averages, he or she likely spends about $90 per month on gasoline (yes, that little), eats out about 6 times per week (yes, that many), and has a monthly electricity bill of about $118. Or at least, he or she did pre-pandemic.
In the mid-pandemic world, these numbers look a bit different. He or she is driving 18.6 percent less, bringing the gas bill to about $73. Accounting for recent low gas prices – about 40 percent down from last year – that number is probably more like $44.
On the food side, a 40 percent drop in takeout and dine-in means 24 meals out per month becomes 15. The average meal out costs $20.37 per serving, while eating at home costs just $4.31. That leaves the average American with a pre-pandemic monthly food bill of $747.48 and a pandemic bill of $602.94.
As for energy bills, the numbers are, perhaps surprisingly, mostly unchanged based on what the statistics show so far. It’s true that Americans are streaming far more than before and generally using more energy at home. But those changes don’t necessarily translate into vastly higher bills.
Using China’s +3 percent statistic, that $118 monthly bill comes to a grand total of $121.54. Of course, time will tell if this estimate holds true, but it does not appear that stay-at-home will break the bank on electric bills.
When all is said and done, this brings the pre-pandemic American to a total of $955.48 per month on driving, power, and food. The pandemic-minded American spends an average of $768.48. So, yes, staying home could save you just under $200 per month. Most of those savings come through lower gas prices, less driving, and fewer meals out – only one of which is solely controlled by the pandemic.
Overall, the pandemic has changed how Americans live and what they spend money on. It has intensified the difference staying home can make on ones’ budget, but it hasn’t created the difference. The real bottom line: staying home will always save you some money, pandemic or not.
Jenna Careri is a writer covering the environment and energy industry. She is a Massachusetts native and graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and French.