Let’s start with the good news. Many people will actually thrive in the coming weeks.
If you’re still working- whether from home or otherwise- you may find that you actually have more money.
Number 1- if you’re home all of the time, you’re about to find out exactly HOW MUCH you spend every month on convenience food, entertainment, gas, and so forth- and you’re about to save it! It’s more than you think.
Number 2- If you were planning on an overseas vacation this year, it’s probably been canceled- whether the government mandates it or not. You may save money by vacationing regionally in the upcoming months instead. It might also be a great time to make upgrades to your home, particularly since interest rates are so low.
Number 3- Gas prices have fallen dramatically & they’re not likely to rise as quickly. When you do go back to driving everywhere, you’ll find that you’re spending less on each tank of gas. The US has also been shoring up its oil reserves in recent weeks. This will protect against future inflation and help to keep prices lower.
Number 4- As big box stores are picked over and backed up, people will become more resourceful and begin buying from smaller online retailers. Example: Amazon just announced that they will only fulfill orders for essential items. Small businesses who also sell through the online giant are not subject to the current ban- they can continue to sell and ship any type of item. Buy from them.
Number 5- The government in the US is doing many things to shore up and stimulate the economy. Stimulus checks, while small, will still be arriving soon. Interest rates on federal loans have been waived for a time. The iconic April tax deadline just got pushed back, and many other helps are on the way. Many companies- utilities, mortgage companies, telecommunications, etc., are either waiving their fees or allowing customers to pay over time or not receive penalties for late payments.
Your best bet, if you can’t make your normal payments is to call every company that you owe & see what kind of help they can offer. You can also try for a consolidation loan or re-fi to lower your mortgage payment. Even if you aren’t hurting as much as others, knocking a few years off what you owe could be a great blessing.
Now- if you have lost your job, had your pay or benefits reduced, had your business income effected, or were hurting to begin with, there are a number of things that you can do as well. States are moving to provide economic stimulus and help in many forms to the business community. Churches and non-profits are providing meals and grocery packages that you may be eligible for. Many states have also moved to make unemployment more accessible than ever before. There is help if you look for it. While a few are hoarding unnecessary amounts, there are many stories of stranger kindnesses- little libraries turned into neighborhood food pantries and even children who have cleaned out their piggy banks to buy food for the elderly and children in need. Look for help. It is there.
Next, do your own part. It’s time to re-examine what you normally consider a necessity. It might be time to:
Revise your menu.
- Convenience items like frozen and canned goods, expensive cereals, snacks, and energy bars should be the first to go.
- Buy basics and learn to cook. You will save a tremendous amount of money this way. You’ll also feel better and may eliminate or reduce some health problems like diabetes or high blood pressure/cholesterol if you continue long term. Check out cooking tutorials and easy recipes online.
- Grow a garden. Even if it’s just in containers on the patio, what you harvest will save budget a few months from now. Dirt doesn’t have to cost anything and seeds are usually no more than $2/packet. If you get 6 tomatoes, you’ve saved more than that.
Cancel or reduce services.
- Review how many subscriptions you have to things like tv & movie channels, commercial free viewing/listening online, product trials/samples, etc. Be selective in what you keep. Make sure it’s something that you use enough to make it worth the expense.
- Reduce packages and plans that you don’t want to completely cancel. It might just be a temporary reduction- or you might find that you rarely used the service and don’t really need it.
Get creative with entertainment & work together with those you live with to try new things that don’t have a fee.
- Read more. Most libraries have online collections. Blogs and free reading sources abound. Organize the books that you have in your home and re-read old favorites. Find books that you meant to read and never did.
- Try all of those things that you put aside for someday. The puzzle…the card games…the craft projects…the book that you wanted to write…the exercise program that you were planning to start…the room/drawer/closet that needs to be cleaned… Now is literally the time.
- Recycle. Find new uses for old things instead of solving a problem with a trip to the store or online marketplace.
Find a side-hustle.
- You may be home, but you can finally start that Etsy shop that you’ve always talked about, teach something via Skype, etc.
- Teach English in China. I have a ton of stay-at-home mom friends that work for VIP Kid. They teach beginner English to kids in China who need to hear American pronunciation or practice with a real English speaker. It’s fun, it pays decently & it is legit.
- Look for online jobs. There are a TON of scams; so BEWARE- BIG TIME! But, there are also some good ones. I suspect that more companies than ever before will soon be moving towards having their employees work from home permanently. It reduces overhead and often results in higher productivity. Start looking now.
Some more extreme measures:
- Did you know that you can park one or more of multiple family vehicles and temporarily reduce the insurance on the parked vehicles? Just be sure to rotate which vehicle you do this for every other month so that you don’t end up with car problems from a vehicle being parked for too long. Start them up and move them around your yard or driveway 1x/week to avoid too much pressure on one point on the tires.
- Temporarily reduce or halt investments. While it is one of the best times to buy stocks while the prices are so low, spending money on investments when you are struggling to pay rent, a mortgage, or a car payment may not be possible. Keep putting money into your retirement if it is possible at all. You don’t want to get out of the habit, but don’t lose your shirt either. Pause or reduce if you need to. Rebuild as soon as you can.
- Downsize. Perhaps you bought too big of a home in the first place. Real Estate is already booming with the lowered interest rates. As soon as the travel bans lifts, it’s going to be open season. Maybe now is the time to get into a more affordable future?
- Make alternative plans- if the worst happens, what’s next? Keep perspective. Losing a home or a vehicle in bankruptcy is not as bad as losing a loved one. “Kon Marie” everything. What can you keep? What do you need? Process the emotions. It is hard. Don’t take it out on loved ones. Learn from the downturn & start over smarter. Things will work out. They will get better again. Often the fear of what you will lose is the worst part. Take time to study how bankruptcy works. In some cases, you can keep your home or your vehicle. You don’t usually lose everything- sometimes just debt. You can rebuild credit. You can buy things that you lost again. Get a reputable law firm that deals with it all of the time. Realize that you might begin the process and be able to get out as things get better. You might not have to go through full bankruptcy. —And you might. Swallow the pill and move on. Sometimes the fastest way out of a personal Hell is just to go straight through it.
More than anything else, it’s important to begin solving the problems instead of dwelling on or fearing them. Pick what you can work on and solve that first. Then move on and solve some more. Eventually it gets better. I promise. It really does get better.