Even with certain states starting to reopen, things are still uncertain. Besides our health, finances are top of mind right now. Here’s 5 ways to manage your personal finances during continuing uncertain times:
1. Conserve Cash
The first, and most important, rule to follow in uncertain times is to conserve cash! You should minimize your spending as much as possible and keep as much money in the bank as possible! It seems like obvious advice, but sometimes a crisis can cause people to panic. Don’t rush to pay as many bills as possible! Stop and think about how long you can make your current cash last if you pay only what is absolutely essential. Make a list of bills that are priorities and those you can hold off on paying or negotiate down.
2. Expense Management
This step is also key in navigating uncertain times. There are a few ways to go about getting your expenses in line when you need to cut back.
Work to reduce fixed expenses:
- Cancel or freeze subscriptions and memberships.
- Call service providers (cell phone/internet) and negotiate lower monthly rates.
- Reduce debt payments as much as possible.
- Put student loans into deferment or forbearance if possible.
- Transfer credit card balance to cards with 0% interest for at least 15 months if possible.
- Request hardship assistance from debt companies (reduced interest rate and/or lower minimums).
- Request mortgage forbearance or hardship assistance.
Cut variable expenses as much as possible:
- Challenge yourself to multiple no spend days each week.
- Get creative and cook the food you have at home!
- Adopt a cash budget and set a weekly allowance for variable expenses.
- Try to stretch every dollar as far as you can! Set budgets for necessities like groceries and household supplies and portion out the remainder for more “fun” expenses like going out with friends and shopping.
- Adopt a DIY mindset!
- Start doing your own personal care (i.e. manicures, haircuts, eyebrows, etc), or ask a friend who has more experience!
- Rent out your car or parking space, if you have one!
- Sell clothes, electronics, and furniture online using sites like Poshmark, The Real Real, Facebook Marketplace, etc.
3. Negotiate Bills
Many companies offer hardship discounts to people who find themselves in a tough spot financially. It might require a bit of patience, but calling and asking for assistance can really reduce your monthly expenses and give you the wiggle room you need to get through a rough patch.
- Call credit card/debt companies and request a break on interest and/or monthly payments
- Call cable, cell phone, and utilities companies to negotiate lower monthly bills or to set up payment plans
Remember, EVERYTHING is negotiable, or at least you should assume everything is negotiable until you confirm otherwise. The worst thing that can happen is that the company says no and you need to revisit your budget to add the necessary expenses back in.
4. Pause Retirement and other Contributions
This is often a hard pill to swallow for people, but it is often a necessary step. We encourage clients to turn off retirement contributions and to cut contributions to HSAs, FSAs, ESPPs, etc. This is a quick and easy way to inject extra money into their paychecks when they need it most
Remember, you can always go back to making these contributions later and make up for lost time, but the benefits of making these contributions is far diminished by the negative impacts of incurring credit card debt or in withdrawing funds from your retirement account.
5. Tap Into Unused Resources
There is potential for you to utilize resources that can minimize your financial burden. In some instances, eligibility for utilizing these resources may require you to have a higher credit score, but if you have the ability to access them you should take advantage!
- Open a balance transfer card and move interest bearing balances over
- Open a 0% interest credit card to use in case you don’t have the cash to cover major expenses. Treat this as a backup card for emergencies if/when you run out of cash!
- Tap into a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) if you have available equity in your home. This is a cheap way to quickly access the equity in your home.
- You will only be required to pay the interest on the amount borrowed for the first ten years
It’s important to get creative when times are tough! You need to explore every available option and consider utilizing resources and making sacrifices you never considered before. In a crisis, things can be stressful and overwhelming, make sure you take a step back and evaluate the entire situation before making any rash decisions! Tough times don’t last forever, being smart now can eliminate financial pain down the road and put you in a better position once the uncertainty passes.
*In partnership with The Financial Gym.