10 Savvy Financial Tips for Surviving the COVID-19 Crisis
The world may feel like it’s been turned upside down as you scurry between the sink to wash your hands and back to your laptop to see Twitter’s latest #coronavirus news.
It’s no wonder: As COVID-19 bears down on us, our health and economic standing is increasingly at risk. The number of cases and fatalities grows by the hour, while thousands of Americans have lost their jobs, businesses are closing their doors, and the market has taken a nosedive. Indeed, analysts predict that unemployment rates in the U.S. will reach their highest in 40 years, and that the pandemic may result in a recession. It all feels daunting enough to want to flee—if, of course, the vast majority of us weren’t mandated to stay home and self-isolate.
And yet, as Viktor Frankl once said, the one thing that we can control is ourselves. With mindful spending and smart strategies, you can not only survive the economic whiplash the coronavirus has created but also find ways to thrive within it. Here are 10 savvy tips to implement:
1. Start Now
Don’t wait until next week or next month to address your finances, which will not only put you behind but also escalate your panic. As The Balance puts it, “the ability to check your emotions and carefully evaluate your situation at this crucial point will ensure you make the right choices and avoid further hardship.” Assess where you are, what you have, and what you owe. Seeing it spelled out will help you wrap your head around it all—and generate a plan.
2. Pare Down
With everything from bars to salons to movie theaters temporarily shuttered, we don’t have much of a choice when it comes to curbing our spending. Still, take this a step further and cut back wherever possible. This means eliminating your wants—such as that new Alo top on-line—and prioritizing your needs. Housing and food are vital, but pricey bottles of wine (yes, even during a pandemic)? Not so much. Additionally, contact your phone provider to slash your plan (if possible); prepaid phone carriers, such as US Mobil, offer plans for as little as $4 per month. Buy generic whenever possible, find the lowest price for the item you need (again, not want) on PriceGrabber or Shopzilla, search for and utilize coupons, and tame your impulses—which are likely flying high right now in this time of stress—by making, and sticking to, a list. Lastly, stretch what you have. Your laundry won’t know if it if you use less than the suggested amount of detergent and beauty/personal products can be doled out in smaller doses. Meanwhile, take a look at your habits: If that daily bar of Theo chocolate is cutting into your ability to pay bills or stash cash into savings, consider nixing the indulgence or making it last longer than usual.
3. Get Crafty with Your Subscriptions
As many of us have been asked to work from home—if not leave the house except for “essentials”—the last thing I would recommend would be abolishing your access to joy and entertainment. And yet, if that Netflix bill is edging into your ability to pay rent, you may want to consider free options, such as Crackle, Tubi, Pluto, and NewsOn. Love reading? Better World Books offers New York Times bestsellers for as little as $3.98, while an unlimited Kindle subscription is $9.99 per month—roughly, the cost of two lattes. News outlets, such as The New Yorker and The New York Times, offer a set number of articles you can read for free per month, while everyone from Elle to Healthline provides access to their content.
4. Nourish Yourself (and Your Loved Ones)
Money may be tight, but now is not the time to curtail your spending on wholesome, nutritious food. This isn’t to suggest you ought to order take-out every night from your favorite gourmet market; rather, it’s to recommend planning and dining mindfully. Aside from keeping a roof over your head, the table is the last place you should cut back because you need to keep your immune system strong. Beans, quinoa, oats, nut butters, canned fish, nuts and grains, dried fruit, almond milk—all have long shelf-lives and are also nutritious. Broccoli, kale, onions, potatoes, squash, tofu, eggs, and cottage cheese tend to be economical. Gather your goods and use the kitchen as a place to decompress from the dizzying data constantly arriving. Bake your own bread. Use those veggies in the freezer to make a rich soup. Delight in a casserole that’ll work for lunch throughout the week. And if you have fruits, vegetables, and herbs in your yard, by all means, use them.
5. Ask for Help
Some may need to file for unemployment; others, still, may just need some aid in covering their basic expenses. Whatever category you fall into, make sure you are continuing to pay your bills. As financial guru Suze Orman says, “doing nothing, and avoiding all your bills is not a warrior move. If you can’t pay your bills, or could really use some short-term relief, call anyone you owe money to and ask them what help is available.” Geico, for one, is working closely with its customers and refraining from canceling policies due to nonpayment through the end of April. The same holds true for several utilities companies. Some credit card issuers aren’t charging interest this month. If you’re unable to work during the coronavirus outbreak, look for assistance within your particular industry; bartenders experiencing a cash crunch due to COVID-19, for example, may be able to find help with the USBG National Charity Foundation. Mortgage companies—perhaps even your landlord—may be willing to negotiate, or even offer a reprieve (go in with the expectation that you will have to do something to show good faith). Sure, some companies and individuals may not be compassionate but by and large, I believe the pandemic is also giving all of us a chance to practice empathy. This extends to your finances.
6. Locate Support Services
Asking for help may feel like the height of vulnerability but policy plans have long been in place to assist in emergencies just such as this. Turn to government social services and nonprofits to explore what forms of help might be available. Given that they’re different in every community, you’ll have to examine the options provided in your area. Start with 211.org—a clearing house that can help with food, housing, and utilities—and enter your location; you’ll be given a list of services in your community and a number to call. If you’re struggling to pay your credit card bills, go to AmOne.com, which will match you with a lower-interest loan to pay off your balances. Demand for these services is high, so be patient and persistent.
7. Cancel Automatic Debit Payments
If you typically have your car insurance, phone bill, and other expenses debited directly from your account, change your payment options. This will give you greater flexibility if you’re short on cash, and provide you with time to prioritize your bills and negotiate those you can’t pay.
8. Score a Side Hustle
You can only cut back so far before you may need to search for alternatives to making money (and with limited human contact). Have a passion for graphic design? Brilliant at accounting? Everything from Upwork to Indeed places freelancers with private and corporate clients, allowing you to make some extra loot from the safety and comfort from your home. If you’re an artist with saleable inventory, set up a profile on Etsy. If you’re a fitness instructor of any kind, start offering your classes for a small fee on YouTube or Zoom. And if you’ve always dreamed of starting a business, don’t hesitate to get started: My LunchBag MBA program offers everything you need to move an idea into action – and all of it designed to let you move through it on your own time.
9…or Just Make Extra Dough
Now is the time to get creative—and to boost (or find!) your can-do attitude. A few ideas: Give blood—you’ll make extra money while helping someone at the same time. Go through your closet and garage and sell items you no longer use on Ebay, Swappa, NextWorth, or Amazon. Download the free app Fetch Rewards and start scanning your receipts in exchange for Visa gift cards. Become a market research participant for Focusgroup.com. In short, utilize the internet in your spare time.
10. Practice Tremendous Self-Care
This may not seem like a financial tip but trust me: It is. The moment your emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health starts waning, the direr your financial circumstances will probably be. Whether you’ve been asked to stay home by your governor or employer or you’re still going into work, place self-care at the top of your to-do list. Get ample sleep, fresh air, and exercise. Put boundaries in place to ensure you’re not wiling away your days—and intensifying your fear—by relentlessly refreshing the news and your social media feeds. Call the people you love. Practice breathing exercises. Engage with nature and the universe on the daily. Relax with a novel and a cup of immune-boosting hot tea. Take a bath. Journal. Laugh. All of these actions will help you build resilience—now and in the months ahead.