Steps to tread water and maintain budget sanity
The world isn’t ending but right now many people across the world are feeling the stress of this pandemic. People are grappling with how to pay bills, the start of the school year, and figuring out a budget with little to no money coming in. It’s beyond stressful and for people of all economic class, this was something that was never budgeted or planned for!
If your overwhelmed you can find assistance with a variety of programs with requested credit card companies put your account on hold, talking to your landlord/mortgage to arrange payments once you are able to work again, and begin the process of necessity vs wants.
Of course even with just paying the minimum to keep a roof over your head, pay utilities, purchase necessary medicine, keep cell phone/home phoneline and wifi up to continue looking for a job it’s a lot for all of us.
I recommend using a few online tools to assist you in treading water until we get relief from the federal and local governments in the USA since other countries across the world have handled the pandemic in a variety of ways. Some countries paid people to stay home, others froze mortgages/rents and had strenuous rules for travel and people entering with mandated quaranty sanctioned stay (total isolation) to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.
Number one is opening a bank account! This will save you on fees from check-cashing services or those ‘pay cards’ that have usage fees and also allows you to set up direct deposit (sooner payments). Because of current policies of the Trump Administration appointed US Postmaster General the USPS has been forced to shut down locations, fewer business hours, removal of mailboxes, and high sorting machines that mean SLOW mail! I recommend using a local bank or credit union they often have no, fewer or fewer fees that will allow you to also manage your budget. If you fear overdraft fees only keep for deposit. Then use the ‘cash method’ where you have a budget of expenses that you stick with and either uses cash on hand (some places are only taking cards because of Covid19) or keep your receipts and keep in separate envelopes to track for budget purposes (Rent/Mortgage, Food, Laundry, Metro/Car, Cell Phone, WiFi, etc). I’ve linked a few examples across the USA but I recommend you look for local credit unions and banks that you can join depending on criteria. Most because of limited hours currently allow people to join online or you have to make an appointment.
Number two is getting a handle on your budget! You can use an excel sheet, google docs, a notepad, or an easy to use online sheet to enter your monthly expenses. This will allow you to figure out what you can cancel, do a search to see if they offer delay payment options (you will have to call or email) on bills, and allow you to figure out how you are can juggle bills to keep yourself afloat.
I like pigly cash flow calculator
AARP has a great home budget calculator
Number three call the companies and explain what’s going on to ask for how to lessen payments and any discounts that can be applied to keep their services. If they can’t work with you cancel.
Before you call look up the site to see what discounts, programs, and codes can be applied. Write out what you want to say and be polite to the customer service person. We are all under stress trying to navigate this ‘new normal’ so don’t take it out on them. If they say they don’t have the authority ask to speak to someone who does and thank them for the assistance.
Good luck, we’re all in this together and wear a mask!