This blog post, part of our special series on the Coronavirus outbreak, includes information from our partners at Charles Schwab Foundation. Thank you to Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz and Charles Schwab Foundation for this content.
COVID-19 has brought about many changes to daily life, including social distancing, homeschooling, learning to cook, and adjusting to life at home. With restaurants, gyms and movie theaters closed in many parts of the country, you’ve probably been spending less on those things, but more on groceries, cleaning products, or school supplies for your kids. And as people are making less money or losing their jobs completely, COVID-19 is impacting the finances of people across the country.
April is Financial Literacy Month, and we thought this was a good time to discuss money management tips. Whether you’re trying to develop a budget, adapt to a loss of income, or need some additional assistance, you have options. Here are some things to consider for whatever financial situation you find yourself in.
If your income is stable, rethink your budget to maximize your resources.
If you have a job and your income hasn’t changed, this is an opportunity to rethink your needs and wants, reprioritize your expenses, and plan for the future. If you don’t already have a budget, use this helpful tool to create one that works for your lifestyle.
This current situation has highlighted the importance of being prepared for the unexpected. This is a great time to start saving and putting any extra income towards an emergency fund, so that if something happens in the future you will still have the means to pay for essentials such as rent, groceries, and utilities.
If you have credit card debt, consider developing a plan to pay them down as much as possible. And if you have the means, this is also a time to consider donating to a worthy cause that is helping those impacted by COVID-19.
If your income has dropped, try to lower fixed costs to make the most of what you have.
When changes in income make it hard to cover essentials, it’s not just a matter of rethinking your budget and eliminating extras, but of figuring out how to lower fixed costs. Here are some ways to do that:
- Shop smart to lower food costs. The USDA has a website to help you make healthy, lower-cost choices. Also, check to see if you qualify for certain benefits like SNAP.
- Review your utility bills to see if you can lower usage, and contact your providers about lower-cost options.
- Negotiate fees with cable and internet options.
- Look at your cell phone usage and see what things you may be paying for, like unlimited data, that you may not need at this time.
- Cancel streaming or other services you don’t use or could do without during this time.
- Review your auto insurance coverage and deductibles. If you’re not driving much, you may be able to lower your premiums.
Re-evaluating your fixed costs and looking for ways to save is a smart move at any time. You may find that the changes you make to cover today’s circumstances have long-term benefits, giving you more money to direct toward other goals when things get better and cash isn’t so tight.
If you’re struggling to make ends meet, make a game plan for the short term.
Right now, a lot of people—especially gig workers, part-time employees, and those who’ve recently been laid off—are trying to figure out how to get through the next few months. First, review your resources and decide what you can cover. Then, see if any of these tips might help:
- Prioritize your bills, putting housing, utilities and health insurance at the top of the list.
- For the time being, consider paying the minimum on credit card balances, car loans and student loans.
- Avoid borrowing if you can.
- If you’re contributing more than the company match to a 401(k), you might reduce that percentage temporarily.
- Consider deferring any savings for a child’s college education.
- Be extra careful about reducing or cutting any of your insurance coverage, as you may need it during this time.
Take advantage of extra help if you need it.
More help may be available if cutting your budget isn’t enough to make ends meet right now. For instance:
- If you qualify, you will likely be receiving a stimulus check from the federal government as part of the CARES Act. The legislation is intended to give qualifying single adults a one-time check for $1,200, married couples who file jointly $2,400, and an additional $500 for each child under 17. Make a plan for how you will use these additional funds.
- If your income has been impacted by the pandemic, you may be able to lower or suspend your mortgage payments for up to one year in some cases. Contact your lender and look here for more information
- If you’re having trouble paying your rent, talk to your landlord about your situation and your options. Some states and municipalities are providing eviction restrictions for impacted individuals. Check out this site for more information about your state.
- If you have been laid off and lost your health insurance benefits, use this site to look at different health coverage options.
- In response to COVID-19, federal law allows states to expand and increase unemployment benefits to more people, including a supplemental $600/week for up to four months. Apply at your state unemployment office and use this site to look up unemployment benefits in your state.
- The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires certain employers to provide employees with paid expanded family and medical leave related to COVID-19 through December 31, 2020. Talk to your employer.
- New laws make it possible for most federal borrowers to suspend student loan payments for two months. Contact your loan servicer.
- Many utilities and phone companies have stopped cutting off services for nonpayment. Call them to discuss your payment options or switching to a lower cost plan.
- If you know you’re going to fall short, don’t just let bills become overdue. Reach out to providers and creditors. Under these unusual circumstances, many are willing to work with you.
For even more information on other assistance options during this time, check out this list of resources compiled by Charles Schwab.
Think of the future.
It’s hard to think about the future when you’re struggling in the present, but try to keep looking forward. If you have income, be smart about every penny and if you can, keep saving. If you have kids, talk to them about how tightening your belt now will help you get back to normal when things turn around. Reach out to friends and family to get—and give—moral support. Don’t be shy about asking for help. While the present may seem a bit bleak, we believe the future is still bright.
Thank you again to our partners at the Charles Schwab Foundation!
Check back in with the ClubX Blog often for more ideas and resources on how to maintain your mental and emotional well-being during this challenging time. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Take care of yourself. We are in this together!
Get the latest updates from BGCA at BGCA.net/Coronavirus, find programming ideas at MyFuture.net, like the BGCA Youth Development on Facebook for YD updates including video from Sarah, and join the brand new BGCA Youth Development Community also on Facebook to connect with other Club staff on programming through coronavirus.