The current COVID-19 pandemic has created financial havoc for a wide swath of Americans. While jobs appear to be slowly returning, the pace is not enough to keep up with demand. Instead, we are headed into late August with little sign of any immediate relief from the “new normal.” So, what can you do if you are facing an upcoming struggle?
Here are four (4) options to help you navigate your bills in a financial crunch.
- Evaluate your current budget. Gah! The budget again? Absolutely. Budgets are supposed to shift based on changes to your financial goals or situation. If you are looking at a shift from “maintain status quo” to “potential panic,” there needs to be a budget update such as stripping down to your “bare bones” plan. Now is also an excellent time to evaluate your current outgoing expenses to create a list of actionable items.
- Cut out anything you might not need. At this point, many of us are running low on things we can cut out of our daily lives. But, if you are fortunate enough to be still maintaining some extras, now is the time to consider putting those on hold. Cable, gym memberships, music or video streaming services, and satellite radio are a few of the most common entertainment options. Consider downgrading, slimming down selections, or even canceling until you are on better financial footing.
Current business models are all about subscriptions. So, you might be someone who was enticed into monthly toothpaste, razor, coffee, or clothing subscriptions. Unless you have done the calculations and found these services are saving you money, they might be worth pausing for the time being.
- Contact utilities and creditors to discover options. There are several telecommunications still working with their customers to change plans or lower premiums. Many utility companies are also offering a variety of assistance levels to those in need. Schedule times to make phone calls to each of your utilities and any creditors to find out what options are available for you to lower or defer your bills.
- Negotiate your rent or mortgage. Alright, you can’t really negotiate your mortgage. If you can continue making payments at their current rates, it is best to do so. If you can’t swing a future payment, you can probably arrange for partial payments or a deferment. You will still have to pay back the rest of the regular payments at a later date. But you are far less likely to be penalized.
Rent is an entirely different animal. If you find yourself in dire straits, you may want to talk to a lawyer and reach out to some. However, if you have a bit of wiggle room, rent is often negotiable. Are there any “amenities” that are currently unavailable such as the pool or gym? What are the current rent prices and vacancy rates in your city? What about your building? All of this information can help you talk your way into saving some money.
None of us were truly prepared for the financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But implementing these four steps can help you navigate your bills and finances in the coming months while we wait for better news to come.