Full stop… This pandemic has been a bitch. Between quarantine, Zoom school, working from home and the unrest of actually getting the virus, our stress levels are through the roof. Then you layer on financial uncertainty, forget it. Call me when 2021 arrives to the party then I’ll come back out to play.
We are all in different places in the pandemic journey and I am here to tell you that no matter where you are there is hope on the horizon. I know, blah, blah, positivity, rainbows and unicorns and you’re right I can’t bring hope to all corners of your world, but I can offer a few helpful tips in viewing your finances during pandemic panic.
Bringing in the Income
First, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that you have to make money to survive in today’s world. No job = no income = no Netflix binge (because you have no money to pay for said Netflix subscription) and no Netflix will be the least of your problems. If you have been placed in the shitty situation of losing your job or being furloughed, you need to find a new source of income asap.
The thing is, no one said it had to be in the same arena as your last job. Maybe you make what was previously your side hustle and turn it into a more full time gig. Perhaps you have a great skill that you can capitalize on, like you speak a second language, you can write code or have a vast knowledge about fitness and nutrition. You may even consider delivering groceries or prepared food in addition to capitalizing on a skill or turning that side hustle into a full time gig.
This is the time to reevaluate your current career path and maybe even get excited about doing something you’ve always wanted to do, but never had the cajones to make happen. Until now. Hop on Upwork, Fiverr, Hubstaff Talent, Credo, Grub Hub, Instacart and put your skills to use!
Minimize the Outgoing
Okay, we have some income, but perhaps it isn’t what it used to be. Time to make some lifestyle tweeks to better manage what you do have coming in. If you’ve always had a budget, I tip my hat to you, but this next sentence remains the same for all. Let’s evaluate your spending habits.
The easiest way to do this if you aren’t a budgeting aficionado is to print out your bank statement from the last 3 months. Take a highlighter and highlight everything that isn’t absolutely necessary. It will only work if you’re honest.
Fast food, highlight. Booze and smokes, highlight. I mean come on, if smokes are seriously on the list they need to be permanently highlighted. Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Starz, Disney +, Spotify, Pandora and whatever other monthly subscriptions you think you might die without, highlight. Gym membership, highlight. You can reevaluate afterward, but this is task will really open your eyes to where your hard earned cash is going.
If you’re a budgeting boss you will need to look at your spending categories. Perhaps you have a monthly subscription category that can be edited or your personal spending (aka your blow money) can be slashed. It’s time to get down and dirty. Be ruthless. Maybe Netflix isn’t actually worth it’s weight during pandemic panic.
After your eyes are opened from what probably feels like a nightmare. You will see the basics left unhighlighted. These are your true necessities. You’re left with your house, your car, groceries and utilities plus a few others depending on your circumstances. And let’s be honest you could probably trim back your grocery bill a bit as well.
It may feel a tad painful to get rid of the non-essentials, but time heals all and this is actually where major life changes can happen. While cooking meals at home you may learn you actually love preparing food. Rather than sitting down in front of the TV you could start learning a new language, playing an instrument or even just doing a puzzle or reading to occupy your time.
Without a gym membership you can get creative with body weigh workouts at home (say hello to a strong core!), start training for that marathon you’ve always wanted to run or even find a workout buddy you can do Zoom or FaceTime workouts with. Start walking the dog or spending more time in nature. Go on a hike. Paint or draw. When you aren’t falling back on your old spending habits you just might surprise yourself with how creative you get in filling your spare time.
What about the dreaded debt?
I am talking school loans and credit cards. There are so many programs out there offering help to those who have been affected by COVID-19. When it comes to your credit card debt, contact your credit card lender and ask about your options! Some lenders are offering temporary lower interest rates and monthly payments, relief from late payment fees and a hold on placing collections.
You could even get some relief for auto loans and mortgages. Every lender has different offers so if you need assistance CONTACT YOUR LENDER! I can’t stress this enough. If you’re drowning you don’t quietly sink to the bottom, you flail, grasp for anything near you, struggle for breath. No one can send you a lifeboat if they don’t know you’re drowning. Ask for help, which can most definitely do because you are not actually drowning.
There are many different kinds of student loans. If your loan is privately held (think Wells Fargo, Chase, etc) you need to contact your lender. This falls under the ask for help sentence in the last paragraph. However, federal student loans are currently in forbearance through December. This is freaking great news. If you aren’t able to pay you don’t need to call anyone or do anything, pause was automatically pressed. BUT if you can pay then your whole payment will be applied to your principle helping you pay down your debt faster than you would have previously. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
Take a Belly Breath, or Two
With all this extra stress, you need to cut yourself some slack. Do your best each day. Finding some positivity can really help. We may be physically distancing, but we don’t have to socially distance. With the amount of technology we have today there is no reason to cut your self off from the outside world. Chat with a friend or family member on the phone or FaceTime, say hello to your neighbors or even just go to the park where other humans are (with your mask and distance, of course). Lastly, ask for help and be kind to others.
P.S. I also need some socializing during pandemic panic so feel free to reach out! You can find me at Numbersmith Solutions.