Even the best crystal ball couldn’t have predicted what 2020 would hold in store. As we continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 across our communities, many are being faced with new ways to work, shop, and live. We’ve seen millions have to reduce spending because of downsizing, closures and less employment opportunities.
If the pandemic has forced you into financial hardship, try and see this as an opportunity to get a better handle on your finances. Take stock of your situation by applying some of these tips to adjust to a new routine and get ahead of your needs today.
The first rule of thumb when dealing with a financial crisis—don’t panic. Remember that this too shall pass and the belt-tightening on your budget is temporary. Try not to get caught up in the extreme fluctuation in the stock market and your financial investments. Forbes has a few ways to deal with the turbulence of the stock market here. If you’re able to, continue planning ahead by contributing to your retirement fund—it’ll pay off in the long run.
Track your spending
You do have a monthly budget, right? If you don’t, stop what you’re doing and set one up for your household today. Choose your budget management tool whether it’s an app, software, or classic pen and paper, and start to track your spending — all of your spending. Record how much you spent, where you spent it, and how you made the payment. You’ll start to get a clearer picture of your average budget each month and where you can start to save.
Make a plan
We know the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, but let’s subscribe to the idea that some things go according to plan. When it comes to tackling your finances, commit to cutting costs and stick with it. For example, separate bills into the haves—food, clothing, shelter, insurance, transportation, medicines—and the have-laters, such as a new wardrobe or that Disney+ subscription. Other ideas include pooling resources with family and friends to buy staple items in bulk or opt to start paying the minimum amount due on mortgage and other loans.
Get the facts
It’s important to be aware of your surroundings, especially when it comes to your finances. Keep an eye on your credit report to make sure the information is accurate. You can also request a free copy annually from each of the three main credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Simply contact them and ask.
In addition, vet every offer for help with your financial situation to make sure you’re not signing up for a scam. Remember, you don’t have to give out your personal information if you’re uncomfortable, and you can research the agency the caller claims to represent. If you think it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Someone has your back
You may feel like you’re falling right now, but someone is there to catch you. Indiana has a variety of government and local assistance programs ready to help if you’ve lost a job, health insurance, or both. There are benefits available for members of the armed services, and your bank or credit union may be offering cost-saving options right now as well. Having trouble paying the light or water bill, your rent or other outstanding loans? Call the companies, ask about special payment plans and take detailed notes while you’re on the phone. And always make sure you know your rights.
Financial difficulties can feel overwhelming and take a huge toll on your mental and physical health. It can affect your appetite, sleep schedule, ability to concentrate, and overall mood. By taking your situation one step at a time and exploring all the alternatives available, you’ll have the tools in your pocket and wallet to cope with these issues in a healthy manner.