There’s no doubt that Americans are feeling stressed these days. While the labor market has recovered somewhat and early stock market losses have been reversed, many Americans continue to face deep financial hardship. A new Pew Research Center* survey finds that, overall, one-in-four adults have had trouble paying their bills since the coronavirus outbreak started, a third have dipped into savings or retirement accounts to make ends meet, and about one-in-six have borrowed money from friends or family or gotten food from a food bank.
Here are some helpful tips for managing your finances during the pandemic.
Take Inventory of Your Finances
If you’re struggling to make ends meet, you may think you can ease your stress by leaving bills unopened, avoiding phone calls from creditors, or ignoring bank and credit card statements. But denying the reality of your situation will only make things worse. The first step to devising a plan is to detail your income, debt, and spending.
- Include all sources of income
- Track ALL your spending
- List your debts
Prioritize Your Money
Deciding which bills to pay during the pandemic can seem overwhelming, especially if your income has been reduced. The importance of bills is different for everyone, but food, housing, utilities, medicine, and transportation should typically be paid first. Focus on your needs and make a list that tracks the highest priority expenses.
Take a look at your budget and see if there are any discretionary expenses you can cut right away, such as take out and subscription services, or items you might be able to reduce costs by changing habits, such as water and electricity usage. Rework your budget where you can and keep checking your progress.
Contact the Unemployment Office After Income Loss or Income Reduction
If you have lost a job due to the pandemic, contact your state unemployment office and apply for benefits. Even if you don’t think you qualify, it’s still smart to connect with the unemployment office. Unemployment income can help you meet your daily expenses.
Those with reduced income due to the crisis might also be eligible. For example, benefits are now available for those who don’t normally qualify, such as contractors who are currently unable to work.
If You Can’t Make Ends Meet
If you are having trouble paying your bills, like utilities, reach out to those companies and explain the situation. They may be able to find alternative payment plans until you get back on your feet.
If you’re not sure you can make a mortgage or car payment, reach out to your lender as soon as possible to see if they can work with you to come up with a feasible repayment plan. This could include things like skipping a few payments or refinancing loans for lowering payments or debt consolidation. The sooner you seek out assistance, the easier it will be to get on track.
Contact Members Trust
If it hasn’t already, the economic downturn may have a significant impact on your personal financial situation. Sometimes it’s hard to see the answers when you are personally impacted by the situation. If you need objective help, please contact us. We would be happy to help you evaluate your situation and provide solutions.
*ABOUT PEW RESEARCH CENTER – Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis, and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts.