If you’re one of the millions of Americans who have been laid off, furloughed or otherwise suffered financially due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, financial concerns are probably weighing heavily on your mind. Here are a few action steps you can take to help stay afloat during this troubling time:
Redo your budget. Start by creating a new budget for crisis times. Review your finances with a fine-tooth comb to nix any non-essential expenses you may have set up on autopay, including gym memberships, apps, subscription boxes, streaming services and the like. Then consider which items you may now be saving on, such as commuting costs, gas, daycare and dining out. Once you’ve got a more accurate picture of your current financial situation, redistribute funds to the highest priorities.
Research your options. Take the time to thoroughly research the various types of assistance available to you during the crisis. For starters, from mortgage and student loan forbearance to stimulus checks and small business loans, there are a variety of programs put in place through the CARES Act. Next, contact your creditors and lenders to see what programs they may be offering for help with your credit card or car loan payments. Also check in with your utility company to see what assistance you may be able to receive. Most reporting companies will not let such extensions impact your credit score, so don’t be afraid to take these steps.
Use credit cards strategically. If utilizing credit cards is a must right now, do so strategically. Check to see which cards have the lowest APR and use those. Also be sure to spread charges over several cards to avoid a high balance on any one card. To preserve your credit score, continue to make the minimum payments on time. Even if you are able to pay the entire balance, it might be a good idea to refrain from doing so until you’re sure your financial situation has stabilized. In these times, the priority is to make sure you have enough to cover living expenses.
Enlisting the help of your accountant and financial planner will help you explore other options and make the best decisions during this time. There are also community services you can lean on for food and healthcare needs. Remember, we’re all in this together.