COVID-19 can live on your lenses: Here’s how to disinfect eyeglasses without damaging them

The nation is adapting to life during COVID-19 by washing hands regularly and wearing face masks, but according to new research, you could still risk infection if you’re not also disinfecting your eyeglasses. Glasses can act as an effective barrier for your eyes when you’re out in public, but much like your cellphone, it also can act as a surface that the virus can cling to. 

We recently reported that face masks are causing issues for eyeglass-wearers, causing GlassesUSA , one of the best eyeglasses online providers, to launch an anti-fog lens solution, but the trouble caused by coronavirus for the bespectacled is not over. Research from the Journal of Hospital Infection has found that coronaviruses can ‘persist on inanimate surfaces like metal, glass or plastic for up to 9 days’ if not disinfected. That means your eyeglass lenses and even frames could carry the virus for over a week. 

The CDC has advised people to avoid touching their faces where possible, but it’s somewhat inevitable that eyeglass wearers will have to touch their glasses multiple times a day, so it’s important that you’re cleaning them. And with summer around the corner, this goes for sunglass wearers, too! 

Speaking to Dr. Barbara Horn, president of the American Optometric Association, said “every time I walk in my home, the first thing I do is wash my hands and then wash my glasses.”

How to disinfect your glasses 

According to, the best way to tackle the novel coronavirus is with soap and water. However, when cleaning your eyeglasses, you’ll need to take extra care. Using soap, water, and a microfiber cloth is a  good way to avoid scratching your lenses and potentially damaging the frames. 

Horn suggests cleaning the lenses first, with a soluble soap like dish or liquid hand soap and a cloth. There are also smaller areas which need to be addressed, such as the nose pads and frame, including the ear pieces. 

Number one on Horn’s list of what not to do is breathing on lenses to clean them. For obvious reasons, exhaling onto your glasses and potentially spreading your own germs or droplets onto your lenses is a big no. The same goes for using alcohol-based disinfectants if you can avoid it. Alcohol can be harsh and potentially damage sunglasses, lenses and frames, so stick to soap and water. 

When it comes to coronavirus safety, the CDC has advised that we wear simple cloth face coverings where possible. In fact, stores are increasingly demanding that customers wear face masks when entering the building. Check out our face masks 101 feature for everything you need to know, including how to make them and tips for making face masks more effective. We’ve also shared how to disinfect your phone in this handy roundup . 

Credit card spending slumps as Americans try to steer clear of debt

Consumer borrowing in the U.S. fell at the fastest rate in almost 80 years in April as Americans cut back on their use of credit cards amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The latest Federal Reserve data revealed total consumer credit fell by $68.8 billion – or 19.6% – in April, the largest one-month decline since 1943. Driving the fall was a record 64.9% drop in credit card borrowing, with Americans spending some $58.3 billion less on the best credit cards than in March. A $10.5 billion – or 4% – drop in auto loans and student loans accounted for the rest of the headline decline.

The spending habits of Americans have changed dramatically following the COVID-19 outbreak, with record unemployment and disrupted incomes forcing households across the U.S. to reflect on how they manage their finances. With people cutting back on their spending – both consciously and because there have been fewer opportunities to spend in lockdown – the savings rate hit a record high in April . 

Move away from credit cards to debit cards

Another trend commonly seen at times of economic turbulence is a shift away from credit card spending to the use of debit cards instead. Indeed, such a swing has already been noted by Visa, where credit card volumes fell 21% in May year-over-year, while debit card volumes increased by 12%. While credit cards involve borrowing money and can attract high interest rates, a regular debit card will take funds from your banking account and, as long as you have the money available, does not usually come at a charge. 

Anticipating a potential $100 billion annual shift from credit cards to debit cards over time, Visa executive Oliver Jenkyn said : “There’s a consumer psyche of sort of not spending someone else’s money but spending my own money. We saw it before in 2008. We even saw it in late 2018, where there was the government shutdown, the first skirmishes with the trade war with China, and the stock market took a big dip at that time. Consumers didn’t stop spending but they pulled back on credit, and they moved it to debit. So there’s the sort of psyche and difficult economic times where we’ll see a shift from debit to credit.”

Where people continue to use credit cards, Jenkyn also expects consumers to have different – and more practical – priorities going forward. 

“We’ve seen this in the past, where instead of getting like a high-end high annual fee travel card, I need to get a low or no fee cashback card,” he explains. “So like the rewards I’m getting from still spending on credit. There are going to be pragmatic, tangible things I can put to use as opposed to like saving up for that Bali trip.”

How to use your credit card wisely

While some people may be in a position to start paying down their debt, others will inevitably be leaning more heavily on their credit cards as a means to manage financially. At the start of May, almost a quarter of Americans said the coronavirus had seen them sink further into the red on their credit cards.

If possible, you should tread carefully with credit cards during this period, and make sure you seek out the other options that might be available, such as the best personal loans online . 

What help is your credit card issuer offering?

Find out how the largest credit card companies are helping their customers.

Importantly, if you do use a credit card, try to pay off your balance in full and on-time – the high interest rates on credit card debt can be dangerous at the best of times, but could become a massive problem during a period of high unemployment. 

If you can’t make your monthly payment, try your best not to use the credit card, and contact your credit card issuer. Most credit card borrowers will qualify for help that has been introduced since the pandemic struck.

Inevitably, some will have credit card debt that they will continue to struggle with. If you fall into this category, the best debt consolidation companies might be able to help you find a lower interest rate and save money.

Crucible is the new hero shooter from Amazon Games, and it’s free to play

Unless you’ve been living at the bottom of the ocean or on one of the moons of Saturn, you’ll likely have heard of Amazon. In fact, even if you do live on Titan, I’m pretty sure you can still get 24 hour Prime delivery out there. What you might not know about Amazon is that its looking to get into the video games market in a big way, and the first title from Amazon owned developer Relentless Studios, called Crucible , is launching today.

Crucible is a free-to-play, online, third-person hero shooter that looks like an amalgamation of every other popular video game from the last five years. There’s a bit of Fortnite here, a sprinkle of Overwatch there, and a whole heaping spoonful of League of Legends in the mix too. This “we spent a billion dollars on focus testing and this is what people like” approach to video game development has resulted in one of the most generic looking video games that we’ve seen in quite some time, but according to our friends over at Gamesradar it plays a lot better than it looks.

Amazon already has an almost absolute dominance over the online shopping world, along with a strong competitor in the best TV streaming services wars with Amazon Prime Video . It also completely obliterated the competition when it comes to the best audiobook services with its Audible service. Could gaming be the next big move for Amazon? Will they enter the video games console race alongside Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and Google? Did you even remember that the Google Stadia existed until we just reminded you? So many questions.

Crucible is available to download now for PC via the Steam store for free. If your current rig isn’t powerful enough to play crucible, then check out our best home computers guide, which includes the monstrous Alienware Aurora R9 gaming PC – perfect for crushing your enemies on. 

Face mask extenders are saving key workers’ ears – here’s how you can make them at home

As lockdown measures begin to ease, many stores and public spaces are demanding that visitors wear face masks. Even if it’s not mandatory, wearing a face mask is one of the best ways the CDC recommends we can slow the spread of coronavirus. We’ve covered how to make face masks from home, with easy and no-sew options, in our face mask 101 guide , but there’s a few issues which arise when wearing face masks in day-to-day life. 

One major issue for those wearing face masks on the daily is the pain hooking elastic around the back of your ear can cause. In fact, a recent study from the Wound Management & Prevention journal found that repeated use of face masks can cause painful friction lesions. Pain isn’t the only threat this can pose – the same study also noted that these cuts are vulnerable to infections and even the coronavirus itself. ‘Skin damage can facilitate penetration of coronavirus and other pathogens into the blood circulation directly.’  

This is an issue front line workers know all too well, which has caused manufacturers to create nifty face mask extenders (or ‘ear savers’) to take the strain off the backs of their ears. One such company is Whirlpool (yes, the makers of some of our favorite white goods, including freezers and washer dryer combos ) which created S-hooks for front line workers using a 3D printer. This allows face mask wearers to secure their face mask straps using hooks, giving some much-needed relief to ears. 

If you’re a regular face mask wearer, or maybe your homemade mask could use a little tightening, Amazon is selling face mask extenders in packs of ten ( you can find them here ). However, there’s also a few ways to create your own face mask extenders from home. 

How to make homemade face mask extenders 

There’s a heap of tutorials for crafty folk to sew their own ear savers at home. The best sewing machines are a help, but they’re by no means essential. All you need is a strip of rectangular cloth (maybe a leftover scrap from your homemade face mask, if you want something matching), a needle and thread, and some buttons. Simply sewing the buttons to either side of the strip of fabric creates a secure holder for your face mask straps and takes pressure off the ears. This two minute tutorial 

There’s also some great no-sew solutions for ear savers and face mask extenders. One solution is taking some elastic and two buttons with holes big enough to fit the elastic through. From there, it’s as simple as threading the elastic through the buttons and securing it tightly. 

The easiest method available uses something we’ve all got at home – a paper clip. Simply thread your face mask elastic through and you’ve got a handy ear saver made from something we’ve all got lying around at home. 

Glasses wearers are also finding that face masks cause their eyeglasses to steam up. Here’s how to stop your glasses fogging when wearing a face mask . 

Google Pixel introduces ‘Safety Check’ feature in new update

It doesn’t have the price tag of many high-end smartphones, but we love the Google Pixel for its top-tier design and budget price point. That is what won Google’s flagship phone range its numerous appearances in our roundup of the best smartphones . Now, Google is adding some innovative and potentially life-saving features to its range of Pixel phones in a new update. 

The Pixel 4 will get a new Personal Safety app, which includes Google’s new ‘safety check’ feature. This will allow users to set a check-in from the app when they’re heading out alone. In a blog post , Google explained the potential uses of this feature:

‘For example if you’re about to go on a run or hike alone, safety check will make sure you made it back safely. If you don’t respond to the scheduled check-in, the app will alert your emergency contacts. In the event that you need immediate help or are in a dangerous situation, emergency sharing notifies all of your emergency contacts and shares your real-time location through Google Maps so they can send help or find you.’

The safety alert will give you the option of dismissing your prompt, sending an alert to emergency contacts, or calling 911. If you don’t respond to the prompt, it will send out an alert and location information automatically. Of course, you don’t have to use the new feature, but for those concerned for their personal safety when heading out alone, it could be a reassuring tool. 

What else is on offer? 

Google is also offering features designed to help you sleep better. Maintaining a schedule is essential for sleeping well and general health, so this new feature could help in creating important habits. You can set a bedtime and a wake-up time, and also pick from an array of ‘sleep sounds’ to help you drift off. There’s also some great wake-up features for those sick of the sound of their alarm clock. ‘Each morning, you can wake up with your favorite track or with a gradually brighter screen with Sunrise Alarm.’

HBO Go is about to be HBO Gone, as HBO Max takes center stage

Regular users of HBO Go, the streaming app for HBO pay-TV subscribers, will have to wave goodbye to the service, which is being shut down on July 31. HBO Go’s retirement comes off the back of the recent launch of HBO Max , a new standalone TV streaming service that offers over 10,000 hours of premium content including HBO content alongside shows and movies from Warner Bros, New Line, Cartoon Network and more. HBO Max is designed to blend together HBO’s two existing services, HBO Go and HBO Now.

HBO Now is a streaming service for users who want HBO content without signing up for cable, while HBO Go is a streaming service that comes with your cable subscription, letting you watch your content online. HBO Max will cover both of these eventualities, so there’s no need for HBO Go to stick around.

There’s just one problem though – HBO Max isn’t available on all the devices that HBO Go was, most notably Roku and Amazon Fire TV. This means that if you’re subscribed to HBO and rely on those devices to watch your streaming content, then you’re out of luck for the time being. 

A HBO spokesperson stated that, “While we don’t yet have a distribution deal with Amazon or Roku, we remain committed to making HBO Max available on every platform possible to as many viewers as possible.” It’s almost certain that HBO Max will make its way to Roku and Amazon devices, but how long those negotiations will last is anyone’s guess.

Weirdly, HBO Now isn’t being killed off in the same way, but instead the app itself will be rebranded as just HBO. Considering the fact that HBO Now costs the same as HBO Max, but offers less content, we’re assuming that HBO Now will also be shuffled off stage in the near future as users are transferred over to HBO Max.

So what are your options if you’re a HBO subscriber who uses Roku or Fire TV to stream your content? For now you’re going to have to watch HBO using cable or satellite connection. “The large majority of HBO Go usage occurs on platforms with whom we have HBO Max deals currently in place,” according to a HBO spokesperson, though this will provide little comfort for those who will now be cut off from their premium streaming content.

What is HBO Max? 

HBO Max is a standalone TV and movie streaming service streaming service from HBO which has a huge library of content. This includes “all of HBO”, so you can expect to see smash hits like Game of Thrones and Westworld on there, along with the latest blockbuster movies like Joker and Ad Astra. There’s also a ton of other TV series on there including Friends, Rick & Morty, and The Big Bang Theory.

There will also be a host of HBO Max Originals. These are shows that will only be available on the service including kids content like Looney Tunes Cartoons and The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo, alongside adult content like Legendary and Love Life.

HBO Max costs $14.99 per month as a standalone service, but you get access for free if you’re a HBO or HBO Now subscriber, provided your provider is supported. The full list of supported providers can be found on the HBO Max website . It’s basically everyone except Roku and Amazon though, so if you’re not with them then chances are you’re good.

While it doesn’t work on Roku or Amazon Fire TV devices yet, you can download HBO Max on just about everything else including most of the best TVs , smartphones ,  and tablets . You can also get the app on your PS4 or Xbox One .

We’ll have our review of HBO Max up soon, so you’ll be able to evaluate the service and see how it compares to streaming giants like Netflix and Disney Plus . 

Homemade face masks vs surgical masks: new coronavirus study reveals how effective they are

Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised people to wear cloth face coverings in public, many are wondering about the effectiveness of handmade face masks. Do they actually work? If so, how? And how do they compare to a surgical mask? The latest study attempting to answer such questions comes from scientists at the University of Edinburgh, who tested seven types of face covering to determine how effectively each helps limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The face coverings tested were a surgical mask, a handmade mask, respirator, FFP1 and FFP2 masks, and face shields (both lightweight and heavy duty). The research showed that all of the face coverings, with the exception of the respirator, reduced the forward distance (front flow) travelled by an exhaled breath by over 90%. However, some of the masks, including the handmade mask and the surgical mask, ‘enabled strong jets of air to escape from the back and sides’. Heavy breathing and coughing, in particular, were shown to generate backward jets.

Explaining what this means for the general public, Dr Felicity Mehendale, Surgeon, Centre for Global Health, the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute, said: “It was reassuring to see the hand-made mask worked just as well as the surgical mask to stop the wearer’s breath flowing directly forwards. This suggests that some hand-made masks can help to prevent the wearer from infecting the public. But the strong backward jets mean you need to think twice before turning your head if you cough while wearing a mask; and be careful if you stand behind or beside someone wearing a mask.”

The team hopes its research will shape new guidance on the wearing of face masks to help tackle the virus, which can be spread in the droplets of water in a person’s breath. 

The researchers used a special imaging technique, called Background Oriented Schileren imaging, to measure the distance and direction travelled by air when a person exhales or coughs while wearing a face covering. Measurements were taken from people wearing different coverings while standing or lying down, and from a manikin connected to a cough-simulating machine.

While the FFP2 mask (equivalent to an N95 mask) was the most effective in reducing all exhaled air dispersal, scientists found that only masks that form a tight seal with the face prevent the escape of virus-laden fluid particles. The team also noted that there are many different types of homemade face masks, of varying levels of quality, and that some will therefore be more effective than others. 

Last month, a research team at Northeastern University , led by Loretta Fernandez, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, found that the most effective homemade face masks include a filter layer, so basically a layer within the cloth mask itself. That filter could be layered toilet paper, a coffee filter, or any material that’s safe to breathe. 

“Even for masks that might not filter out everything, a tight fit against the face significantly lowers the chances of viral droplets making it to the airway,” Fernandez said. “That’s why any sort of filtering people can use in their masks could be highly protective. The idea is to create an efficient series of layers with bends within the fabric that make it harder for the virus to have a straight shot at a person’s nose.”

Attitudes towards wearing face masks

Last month, an Ispos poll suggested that 3 in 5 Americans were wearing a face mask or some type of face covering when leaving their homes. More, recently, however, there has been a growing backlash amongst some people over the wearing of face coverings. Despite US health experts continuing to encourage face mask use in public, protesters across the states have been photographed defying social distancing guidelines while not wearing face coverings.

Elsewhere, researchers from Middlesex University London and the Mathematical Science Research Institute in Berkeley conducted a study that showed, in situations where masks were both mandatory and non-mandatory, American men are more likely to not use a face mask when venturing outside. The study found that men are less likely to believe they’ll be seriously impacted by COVID-19. Some also questioned the effectiveness of face masks, which is a common coronavirus question regularly leveled at health experts.

Current guidance on homemade face masks

The important thing to note, and something that is mentioned in each study we have seen so far on the effectiveness of cloth face masks, is that people should not see these coverings as a substitute for social distancing and frequent hand washing. Instead, think of them as an add-on protective measure.

According to the CDC, a handmade face mask should include multiple layers of fabric – at least two layers of fabric, plus a filter – which echoes the results of the research conducted at Northeastern University. The denser the weave of material, the better, as explained by Dr Scott Segal, Chairman of Anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health, in an interview with the New York Times .

In our homemade face masks 101 feature, we walk you through how to make your own face mask, and list the best materials to use and why. Remember: don’t buy medical grade or surgical masks – leave those for health care workers. If you don’t have any suitable face mask material at home, and you’re worried that shopping in a public place could expose you to the virus, consider buying materials online at sites such as Amazon , Best Buy , Target and others. If you’d prefer to buy ready-made cloth face masks, Purple mattresses has recently launched the Purple Face Mask , which is made using materials from its bed pillow range, and sells for $20 for a twin-pack in either kids or adult sizes.

Best practice for wearing cloth face masks: 

  • Clean your hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before touching the mask
  • Touch the mask by its elasticated straps or fabric ties when putting it on
  • Ensure the face mask fits snugly around the mouth and nose
  • If your mask has metal wire running through the top, press it gently so that it fits more snuggly against the bridge of your nose
  • When removing it, handle it by the straps or ties – never touch the front
  • Wash the face mask after use, removing the filter before doing so
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after removing your mask
  • Never wear a face mask that’s damp from mucus, spit or moisture from breathing

The CDC has also updated its list of coronavirus symptoms to include a new loss of taste or smell, a sore throat, muscle pain, fatigue, chills, shortness of breath, a new or persistent cough, and a fever – see our guide to the best digital thermometers for fever monitoring in adults and kids. Other less common symptoms include gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Some mild GI symptoms can also be caused by post-nasal drip arising from hayfever, which has led to confusion over coronavirus symptoms vs seasonal allergies .

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, one concern many Americans have is how much they’ll need to pay for treatment of COVID-19. Early cost predictions by the Peterson Centre on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation suggest that people with coverage from their employer could expect to pay at least $1,300 in out-of-pocket costs for medical care, if hospitalized with a severe case of COVID-19. 

A recent think tank study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Urban Institute, which looked at how the COVID-19 recession could affect health coverage, estimates that up to 43 million Americans could lose insurance . If you are currently without coverage, take a look at our guide to the best health insurance companies that might be able to help.

Homeowners urged to act as mortgage rates begin to rise

American homeowners have been urged to move on their refinance mortgage plans after mortgage rates ticked higher following better-than-expected news about the job market. 

Last week’s surprise announcement that America’s unemployment rate dropped in May saw stock markets rally and bond yields jump, leading to the best refinance mortgage companies edging the cost of mortgage borrowing higher too. 

According to Freddie Mac , the cost of a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.18% for the week ending June 4, up from 3.15% the week before, while the reductions that had been seen among 15-year fixed-rate mortgages ground to a halt, with the average of 2.62% unchanged on a week earlier. 

Have mortgage borrowers missed the boat? 

For those hoping to take advantage of what had been record-low mortgage rates , mortgage experts say there is little reason to panic. Despite last week’s rise, the 30-year fixed rate remains significantly lower than the average of 3.82% recorded a year ago, as do 15-year rates, which averaged 3.28% in June last year. 

However, what the uptick in mortgage rates does suggest is that the need to act might just have gotten more urgent, particularly as no-one knows what lays in wait around the corner. 

“Things are quickly getting interesting for mortgage rates, and by ‘interesting,’ I mean potentially alarming,” said Matthew Graham, COO of Mortgage News Daily. “Everything’s relative though, so it should be said right up front that the average mortgage rate is still only a hop and a skip from all-time lows. But the recent past and present are old news when it comes to discussing rates and financial markets. We want to know what the future holds.”

Will mortgage rates continue to rise? 

Cast-iron predictions over the future path of anything finance related are nigh on impossible, but appreciating what will normally influence a given rate or outcome can make for better-informed guesses.

In the case of mortgage rates, last week’s rise was the result of investors reacting positively to the shock news that the U.S. economy had added 2.5 million jobs in May, in stark rebuttal of understandably gloomy forecasts that had been anticipating an 8 million drop. Stoking optimism of a faster economic recovery than had been assumed, investors redirected their funds into stocks and away from bonds, causing bond prices to sink and their yields to rise. Mortgage rates moved higher too, because they usually follow the path of Treasury bond yields. 

“If the economic data continues to be much stronger than expected, there’s a very real chance that all-time low rates are behind us for now,” says Matthew Graham. “But do keep in mind that such comments are only ever as good as the data we currently have available. Even if things don’t change, there are a few things to remember. 

“First off, mortgage rates are still very close to all-time lows in the bigger picture. So there’s still time to take advantage of this historic opportunity if you haven’t already. Mortgage rates have largely lagged the extreme moves seen in the US Treasury market for reasons unique to the coronavirus response. This means they have a bit of a cushion to absorb some of the current upward pressure. While that won’t prevent them from moving higher, it can make the move less intense than it otherwise would be.”

What should mortgage borrowers do?

Refinance your mortgage

Find out which refinance mortgage companies we rate the most and why

Homeowners who have so far held off on refinancing or those considering buying a home might be best advised to take a look at the best mortgage lenders soon. Only last week, it was revealed how savings of up to $52,000 could be made over the course of a 30-year mortgage by using the best refinance mortgage companies to find the cheapest mortgage deals. 

Although there is no way of knowing if rates will start falling again, the risk that they will rise further is always there. Federal regulators also recently relaxed restrictions that had been placed on those in forbearance but who were looking to refinance their mortgage or buy a new home. 

“Rates are ticking higher and may continue to do so until some of the reality of the economic damage from the pandemic hits the stock market – but this may never happen,” says Gus Floropoulos, VP, The Federal Savings Bank. “Locking in as soon as you have a clear visible closing date is prudent. Historic low rates eventually have to move higher, even if they find their way to new historic lows again over time.”

Household debt rises as financial impact of coronavirus begins to emerge

The amount of debt held by Americans increased by almost 4% in the first quarter of the year, as evidence over how the coronavirus pandemic has affected household finances begins to emerge. 

According to the latest Federal Reserve data , households across the U.S. fell 3.9% deeper into the red in the three months to the end of March. However, with the survey only covering the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, the fear is that the situation will end up a lot worse for many Americans, pushing rising numbers towards the services of the best debt consolidation companies . 

Around 44 million U.S. jobless claims have been made over the last 12 weeks, meaning more than one in four American workers have lost their job since the end of the first quarter, a period not covered by the Federal Reserve research. Broadly in line with the unemployment figures, a new survey by reports that just over a quarter (26%) of Americans think their personal finances have suffered since COVID-19 struck. 

However, given the scale of the economic turmoil that has prevailed, this figure is lower than might have been expected. Indeed, more than half (53%) felt their financial circumstances were about the same as before the pandemic, while 12% actually said their finances had improved. 

Managing your finances in uncertain times

Much of this apparent resilience can be credited to federal government and financial providers who have acted decisively to try and help consumers. The rollout of the coronavirus stimulus check will have helped allay some of the immediate financial pain, as will the assistance that has been offered by credit card issuers . Mortgage lenders have also been affording leeway to homeowners struggling to meet their monthly payments.  

However, obviously, consumers have had to quickly adapt too, with many altering spending habits in response to new financial constraints and making cutbacks wherever they can. Credit card borrowing has plummeted at the same time, as households look to avoid taking on more debt if they can, while the personal savings rate has soared , and emergency funds are being reinforced. 

“Even with the economy in recession, most Americans indicate that their personal finances haven’t been adversely affected since the pandemic began,” says Mark Hamrick, Bankrate senior economic analyst. “Even so, the high degree of prevailing uncertainty dictates the need to focus on saving for an emergency while paying down debt.”

Inevitably, debt will remain the major problem for many, and coping with this burden is vital. In terms of mortgages, interest rates are either at or near record lows, paving the way to save thousands of dollars in monthly payments if you can secure a new deal with one of the best refinance mortgage companies . 

For those with high-cost credit card debt, a balance transfer card is one option to try and better manage credit card debt . However, for some, the option offered by debt consolidation companies to bring together debts into what will hopefully be one lower and more manageable payment will be the best course of action to take. 

How COVID-19 is changing our housing needs, according to an architect

The coronavirus pandemic is making us re-evaluate what we need from our homes, according to architects and real estate brokers. While before lockdown many would choose a home for its proximity to work, schools, and loved ones, remote schooling and working is making many realize that location isn’t everything. 

Writing in The Conversation , Architect Tara Hipwood said “with fewer people now commuting and more people working from home, where people choose to live and how they want their houses to function may change after this prolonged period of lockdown.”

Hipwood predicts that personal space will be one of the main things people seek in homes after lockdown, which is a notable shift from the popularity of open-plan living and large communal spaces. Hipwood explains that open-plan living depends on a “phased” pattern of occupation, whereas lockdown has forced “concurrent” occupation. In other words, while kitchen-diners were designed for family meals and a natural flow between spaces, some may have found their new home desk (the kitchen table) a difficult working environment when sharing with partners or children. These spaces weren’t designed for entire families to be at home all day.

Speaking to FOX Business , LA-based real estate broker Orit Gadish said “home design is now being reimagined in order to integrate the work-study-life balance post-COVID-19.” 

With research revealing a “digital divide” between those who can afford internet and those who have struggled to work from home, lockdown has certainly increased the importance of the best internet providers in homes. Gadish predicts a new trend of ‘Zoom rooms’ – a quiet space designed for video calls and remote meetings. For those who can afford it, that is, there is also set to be newly designed “dedicated work areas for each adult and dedicated study space for each child with powerful Wi-Fi.” 

And if you can’t afford a study space for every member of the family? “Expect to see more built-in bookshelves that can serve a double purpose for storage and a sleek backdrop for conference calls.”

The importance of outdoor space

Only recently, we spoke to a leading horticulturist about the mental health benefits of gardening . Charles Harpur told us “by getting our hands in the soil and cultivating plants, we connect with the natural world and are reminded that we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves.” 

Lockdown has woken many up to the perks of gardening, even in small spaces. Balcony inspiration has been trending and sales of ourdoor furniture have gone through the roof thanks to stay-at-home orders. Hipwood highlights the “renewed interest in self-sufficiency, which may continue long after lockdown. This could lead to gardens being used for growing food”, and may even cause many to consider moving to a home with more outdoor space, with space for children to play and room to fire up the gas grill for summer barbecues. 

If you’ve already got the garden space you need, check out our guide for  5 ways to make your garden summer-ready .