There’s no question that the coronavirus pandemic has had major impacts on our economy — some of which have yet to be fully analyzed. And while the influenza vaccine’s effectiveness ranges between 60% and 90%, no COVID-19 vaccine has been created as yet. That means that one of the best ways to fight the virus is to stay home as much as possible in order to flatten the curve.
Of course, this has culminated in serious disruptions for all kinds of businesses. And while some are slowly reopening, millions of American workers have found themselves laid off, furloughed, or otherwise facing financial hardship. Not only has the pandemic put a strain on relationships (which might increase the percentage of marriages that end in divorce nationwide — which already stands at 50%), but it’s certainly put a strain on the finances of many hardworking people.
If this scenario sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Although one recent survey showed that 60% of people have become more aware of their finances since the start of the pandemic, there are still 20% of Americans who fail to save any part of their annual income. Living paycheck-to-paycheck is, unfortunately, the norm for many of us; one survey found that even before the pandemic, 40% of Americans wouldn’t have the funds to pay off a $400 emergency expense.
So what can you do to combat these conditions and financially survive? Here are a few expert tips that will help you manage your money during these uncertain times.
Zero In On Expenses
If you haven’t established a budget or you think yours might be in need of an overhaul in light of new circumstances, you’ll need to get serious about how you spend (and how you save). You’ll need to look at how you’ve been spending your money and find ways to cut down on expenditures. Ideally, you’ll want to cut back enough so you can put some savings away for emergencies — but if that simply isn’t possible, make as many small cuts to unnecessary spending as you can. No one should be spending money on anything that isn’t part of the budget for the time being!
Talk To Your Lenders
You might feel embarrassed to call your credit card company, your bank, or your utility provider. But remember that lenders and other providers are generally being quite understanding right now. By and large, they’d rather you be able to pay something on what you owe and work out a plan with you than to not receive anything and send your debt to collections (or worse). Payment extensions and deferrals are becoming quite common, but you need to contact the companies rather than assume you don’t have to pay. Even in cases of eviction freezes and other federal measures, it’s a good idea to contact your creditor or lender to make sure you’re on the same page.
Prioritize Your Bills
You’ll need to prioritize your true needs first — meaning food, shelter, transportation, and utilities. Before you pay for anything else, you’ll need to pay for these. Even if your power isn’t going to be cut off and you won’t be evicted from your home, it’s still a good idea to pay what you can now so that you won’t be responsible for a lot of back payments all at once. From there, you can work down the list of what you owe in order of importance. Some bills may simply be paid late during this time. However, you should pay what you can (though some debts, like student loans, are frozen for the next few months).
It’s hard to stay calm when you’re on the brink of a financial emergency. And with so many Americans without adequate savings, it’s no wonder that many are struggling. Whether you’ve been unable to access unemployment benefits or your side hustle has disappeared for the foreseeable future, these basic money management tips can play a part in seeing you through until opportunities reappear.