__By Lauren Bringle, AFC® __
Is your income taking a hit due to COVID-19? Maybe you’re in the service industry, entertainment, travel or other industry getting hit hard by the recent outbreak.
How do you take action to take care of yourself – and your finances – during this time?
Here are 11 practical things to do to keep yourself afloat as much as possible. Even if your income hasn’t been disrupted, there’s no time like now to better prepare for financial emergencies in the future.
While many cities have barred utility cutoffs and rent due to non-payment for those whose income is impacted by Coronavirus, the federal government is also providing relief through the recent stimulus bill.
This bill prevents landlords who hold federally backed or owned mortgages (like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac) from evicting renters for not paying for a period of 120 days (4 months).
This bill does not:
Some states and cities have implemented their own policies to prevent utility shut-offs and evictions due to nonpayment at this time.
Some utility providers also offer community assistance programs or alternate payment plans to people experiencing financial hardship.
Look up what’s available in your local state or city, or contact your utility provider (and landlord, if necessary) to find out what your options are.
Unemployment benefits vary from state-to-state. You can find your state's unemployment insurance details HERE by using their search feature.
Under the COVID-19 stimulus package, the federal government has expanded state benefits to include, for example:
A quick personal note:
I've heard from friends some unemployment websites are difficult to access right now as record numbers of unemployed people seek assistance. So if the site doesn't load, try applying at off-peak hours, such as late at night or early in the morning.
Don't miss out on benefits that could keep you afloat.
Some donation-based organizations have stepped up to provide additional financial support to affected workers during this time.
Here are just a few examples...
Find out more HERE.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has tons of resources for debt relief, loans and guidance related to Coronavirus.
For example, their Paycheck Protection Program offers loans to help small businesses cover costs to retain employees. They're also deferring loan payments for 6 months and forgiving a portion of the loan proceeds if you maintain your workforce.
Check out their website for other programs you might be eligible for.
If you have money to donate, the new bill also expands options for maximizing charitable contributions.
While not everyone will get a check based on the stimulus bill passed by Congress, many households will receive $1,200-$2,400.
If your income is too high, the amount you receive may be reduced (or phased out altogether).
If, however, you do qualify for the extra income, make a plan for how to use that money well and make it last as long as possible. For example, create a budget and plan meals to get the most out of your money.
If you can, use some of that money for an emergency savings fund to help protect your future self.
If your grocery store’s out-of-stock, you're trying to keep social distance or to support local businesses, getting food (and other necessary items) delivered may be your best option.
Many restaurants and other delivery services are getting rid of or reducing fees temporarily as COVID-19 rages on.
Here are just a few examples:
Check with your favorite local restaurants about delivery options too, and help support local businesses during this tough time.
Just remember, eating out too frequently could add up quickly, so order wisely.
If you depend on school meals to meet your child’s nutrition needs, you’re probably worried about how to feed them if school closes during Coronavirus.
To fill this gap, both the USDA and local schools across the country are offering curbside meal pickups at no cost to students.
According to a statement by the School Nutrition Association, they want to:
“...ensure vulnerable children do not experience a lapse in food security in the event of widespread school closures.”
So keep calm and check with your kid’s school.
While many industries are suffering as a result of Coronavirus (sorry, airlines), others are booming as people’s rapidly-changing shopping habits drive the market.
If your income is hurting, consider temporary gigs in:
As people stockpile hand sanitizers and order disinfectants like crazy, some companies are switching to 24/7 shipping operations to meet demand, according to a VP of Sales for a leading chemical company.
Now that many big-name brands are out of stock, people are turning to other providers, especially those that source more locally, for supplies. And businesses like these likely need staff to help.
Around the country, grocery stores are struggling to keep pace with restocking shelves caused by virus-related panic buying. As a result, several leading grocery store chains are seeking new hires in all departments.
If hospitals see increased patient intake, they may need extra workers to help with data entry, or simple tasks such as taking temperatures or checking vitals.
Some services like Instacart, Uber Eats and PostMates are seeing a boom as more and more people skip the contact of going to the grocery store or out to a restaurant and opt for food delivery instead.
As some companies implement hiring freezes for full-time employees, there could be a need for more part-time contractors instead. If your talents can translate to online, consider freelancing on sites like UpWork or Fiverr to bring in extra cash.
Not all of them are available during COVID-19, but it's a good place to start thinking of creative ways to increase your income.
They have also blocked interest from accruing during this time.
What does this mean?
Cardholders’ incomes across the country are being impacted by Coronavirus, and some major banks are taking action.
Just to name a few examples, some banks are letting customers:
A word of caution: just because card issuers provide these options, doesn’t mean interest stops accruing or there won’t be any negative side effects for you financially.
But if your choices are limited, it could provide temporary relief ‘till you can get back on your feet.
Need help with your Self card specifically? Login to your account to see if you qualify for a credit limit increase. As a courtesy, we also waive the first late payment fee on your credit card.
Want to know a secret? You don’t have to pay extra for scarce and highly-coveted canned goods right now. Opt for fresh produce instead.
Why? A few reasons:
Flirted with the idea of going vegetarian but could never quite take the plunge? Now might be the time to try because, where meat’s sold out in a lot of places, some meatless options are still available.
My point is, you can still eat healthy and have supplies for the next few weeks, without breaking the bank on top-dollar items.
With a recession now in full swing, cutting back on expenses and increasing savings as much as possible is more important now than ever.
Here are some resources to help you find ways to save you may not have thought of before:
Saving money by going zero waste could be especially helpful as stores run out of cleaning supplies. If you have the right ingredients at home, consider a DIY solution that could save you money and save you from leaving the house.
Bottom line? Cut back where you can so you can save money for what you need right now.
Need help prioritizing your debt payments in this time of need? Learn one way to do just that HERE.
While focusing on the present crisis may be all you have space to hold right now (and that’s O.K.), here are some things to think about once you recover financially.
That way, as my friend Maria More at RadioOne Atlanta says…
“You can turn an emergency into an inconvenience.”
Here are 4 ways to plan ahead for the next time your finances take a hit…
An emergency fund is a savings account you use to hold cash in case of unexpected expenses that can’t be put off. Emergencies could range from a broken down car, to a lost job or personal injury.
Many experts recommend you save at least 3-6 months worth of living expenses. If that sounds like a fortune right now, don’t worry. Every little bit saved helps, so just save what you can.
While having some debt isn’t a bad thing, if your debt is from impulse-shopping, or is over half your income, that could be a red flag that things need to change.
Either you need to cut back on expenses, increase your income, pay more towards your debts, or all three.
If possible, try to get at least 1-2 payments ahead on your mortgage, car payments, or other bills (or build up that emergency fund more), to give yourself wiggle room in times of crisis.
While investments can be a great part of your financial strategy, if you rely on them too much (to pay bills for instance) you could be left hurting when the economy dips, since your investments may lose value during that time.
Again, here’s where having that emergency fund in a standard savings account can help you out. If your stocks dip, at least you’d still have cash to cover basic needs.
As financial influencer Erin Lowry says, your credit score is like an insurance policy for your finances. You may not always need it, but by the time you do need it, it’s too late to build it.
So plan ahead.
Take steps to build your credit so if you need to take out a loan or credit card to get by in times of crisis, you can. And hopefully, if your credit’s good enough, you won’t have to pay an arm and a leg to do it.
There’s a reason financial hardship is so stressful, so be patient with yourself through the recovery process.
Research your options and contact your providers to reduce the financial damage as much as possible, then get a plan in place for when you’re ready to bounce back.
It may take time, but you can do this.
Lauren Bringle is an Accredited Financial Counselor® and Content Marketing Manager with Self Financial – a financial technology company with a mission to help people build credit and savings.