These are not normal times. With the pandemic, high unemployment, and uncertainty, spending habits are changing. You may be tight on money currently or, due to lack of socializing opportunities, you may find you have some extra cash in your pockets. But, no matter where you are financially, this is a good time to make sure that your finances are in good health. You want to be ready when this pandemic is over to move back into life easily and fiscally sound.
Before this whole Magilla is over, there are going to be some serious changes and the new normal may still feel alien. Why not make some changes of your own that will translate easily into the next phase of what we will soon accept as normal? Changes you make in your financial life now will become habits and serve you well when the pall is over.
Start a spending diary
If you keep track of every dollar you spend, you’re creating a very strong foundation for a budget. If you have a budget that you stick to and refine during this difficult time, it will roll right over and you will have developed better spending habits. These spending habits will serve you well when bars, restaurants, and bowling alleys are open again and you’re suddenly free to be social. If you’re in the habit of keeping a budget you won’t go crazy the first week you’re free and spend all your money. You can keep your money diary on an app like YNAB, as a note on your phone or, you can go old school and get a notebook and a pen. Doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you do it. No matter where you are financially, it’s a good idea to record all your spending so you know where every dollar is going.
Visit your money
Make it a point to review your money periodically. This is a smart way to make sure your money is behaving properly. Check-ins keep you from overspending on things such as overdrafts or late payment fees. Even if you’re using a budgeting app, it’s important to be hands-on now and again. A budgeting app or notebook plus a check-in will assure you that you’re spending wisely and that your finances are in good order.
Why are you buying that?
Now is a great time to ask yourself why before you make a purchase. There are things that go without saying, groceries, medicine, hat, and vest for your llama. But, some purchases you should stop and ask yourself, why am I buying this right now?
You’re tracking your money, trying to spend more wisely, so look at the big picture. Get a better view of what you’re spending money on and why. Are you making purchases out of habit? Could that money be saved for a later, larger, more important spend? Perhaps instead of getting take-out three nights a week, you save that money and put it toward something in the future, a vacation, a house, a new car. Employ a little delayed gratification. Asking yourself why now and then is going to give you that much more control over your money and, it’s going to put more money in your pocket for later. Control your spending habits, ask why.
Even if it’s a small amount, try to save some money each week. Saving money will give you more power in your financial planning. And, if you start now with just a little money being saved when things return to normal, you’ll have set up a habit for yourself that will serve you well going forward. When there is more money coming in and times are not as tight, you can decide if you can save a little more. Again, it doesn’t have to be a lot, $10 or $20 bucks. Just start the habit now and see where it will lead you later.
Give yourself a break
You are not alone right now. You are not the only one feeling the financial crunch. Be kind to yourself. Money is emotional. That sounds odd but it’s true. Think about how many marriages are destroyed because of money. Money is tied to security and security is emotional.
Even at the most optimal times, money management can be a challenge. Now, we’re all experiencing a pandemic which is just an added layer of stress. So, it’s important at this time to give yourself a break and recognize that you’re not alone.
If you mess up, most likely things are going to be ok eventually. If not, do your best to recover in a smart way. This is not the time to be led by your emotions. That only serves to exaggerate problems and then your mind will create more problems. Be calm, take steps to get moving in the right direction. Even if they’re small steps, take them. Doing something is going to be better for you than just wallowing in emotional response. Be kind and know you are not alone.
Check available resources
During these strenuous times there are a number of programs being offered to keep folks financially healthy. It’s up to you to check community resources for offers that may help you to bridge the increasing financial gap. Maybe you were in the process of looking for a new home, you don’t have to stop, there are mortgage companies you can talk to who will help you stay on your new home buying path.
Here are a few other community programs you should consider:
- Military relief societies are offering grants or zero-interest loans for service members affected by the virus. Contact; Army Emergency Relief, Air Force Aid Society, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, or Coast Guard Mutual Assistance for information.
- You may qualify for unemployment benefits. Check with the Department of Labor.
- Contact your bank. Many banks are offering to help their customers who have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus.
- National and local service providers have assistance options from payment plans to free services. Visit 211 from The United Way.
Contact your creditors
This is certainly not the time to ignore the problem and hope it goes away. This is the time to meet problems head-on because so many are experiencing them which means, fixes are going to be more readily in place. Now is the time to call your creditors and work with them to get the help you need.
If you’re a renter or a homeowner, contact your landlord or mortgage service and ask for help. Same goes for auto, personal, or student loans. Don’t hide and hope, call, and be proactive. Many plans for assistance have already been put in place but you have to go after them. No one is going to come to you.
When you do speak to your creditors, take notes, and write down this information:
- Date and time you made the call.
- Name of the representative you spoke with.
- What you were offered.
- How the information will be reported to credit bureaus.
- The plan you ultimately agreed on.
Once you’ve agreed on a plan, write a letter summarizing your discussion and mail it to your creditor. Then, keep an eye on the monthly statements to be sure you’re receiving the assistance you discussed.
No question these are hard times however, if you pay attention to your financial life now, it will mean less worry and work when this all passes and it will. Stay strong and don’t be afraid to ask for help, it’s out there and there’s no shame in asking.