By SWSM Magazine staff writers and Teresa McGarry
Many have had to quickly adapt to the new economic reality we’re living in–and it can be overwhelming. We’ve come through some of the roughest months in American history, and many have been faced with some of the same questions: What is safe and what isn’t? Will I have a job after this is all over? Can I get the healthcare I may need? Some of you are dealing with very real, unexpected financial challenges due to the hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Establishing a financial strategy will not only help you get through the current economic struggles but help you plan for the future. Ultimately, bringing financial security to you and your household. We’ve outlined a few things to consider when creating your plan.
Securing basic needs like food, housing, medication,and transportation.
These may seem obvious to you but consider if your income has decreased or you are one of the nearly 40 million Americans who have been furloughed or laid off there are steps you can take to ease the burdens.
If you are the victim of a lay off most people qualify for some variance of their state’s unemployment program. And thanks to the CARES act passed by congress, many employee benefits are even higher than they would usually be.
Some lenders have a COVID-19 response program allowing one to skip a month of mortgage payment. If you rent, check with your landlord to see if you can delay payment one month and divide out that payment over the remainder of monthly payments over the rest of the year. This can provide you a chance to get your feet underneath you in a time of financial hardship while also securing your housing.
Local utility companies have programs to help get your bills prorated. This means your bill would be averaged over 6 months and based on that average your monthly payments would beset the same each month which could be very helpful in the months that fluctuate often.
If you find yourself in need of assistance with food, many churches and non-profit food pantries have lifted the usual requirements to obtain groceries free of charge during the pandemic.
Make a realistic budget with clear goals.
This will help alleviate some of the stress of economic uncertainty and launch habits that place a solid footing when unexpected changes arise. While some aspects of your budget will not be as necessary as the economy bounces back, there are some general rules of thumb what will help create sustainable way of life.Food budgets can sometimes be one of the costliest items for a family. Take advantage of local grocery store sale flyers and coupons to establish weekly menus and cut back on food expenses.This will make room in the budget and alleviate stress over meal planning.
If you have credit card debt, consider consolidating it with 0% introductory rate card and plan your payments on that card according to the number of months it remains 0%. When the card is paid off, cancel the card. This helps you to pay off the principal amount without paying interest,as well as raising your credit score.
Here are some saving tips to help your dollar stretch.
Consider letting go of some of the “extra” monthly expenses in order to create room in your budget. For instance, review your entertainment subscriptions and consider decreasing the number that you pay to belong to. Many have a local cable provider, plus additional services like, Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, YouTube Premium,Apple TV, Hulu, etc. While these monthly entertainment expenses are usually minimal, they can add up quickly.Take a moment to evaluate your bank statement for other digital subscriptions and smart phone applications that are charging your account. While many may be practical, their total costs can take a chunk out of your monthly expendable cash. Just a few common items include digital security, photo storage, weather apps.As we’ve experienced during the quarantine and carries into the summer breaks, kids tend to eat when they are bored. Establishing new kitchen rules include setting mealtimes, secure and limit snacks, eat what is cooked (leftovers first) and opened boxes/bags get must be eaten before opening another box/bag. Adding just a couple of these can create breathing room in any family’s budget.We have all been through a lot in the past few months,and anything that can help bring resilience to our families and alleviate stress is worth consideration.
Teresa McGarry is the President and founder of Moneytalk Financial Foundations in Shawnee, Kansas.