By now, at least some aspect of your life has been altered by COVID-19. Whether you’ve experienced job loss, a change of income or you’re just adjusting to a new way of life, you’re probably thinking about ways you can cope with and even capitalize on the times.
While there’s no telling how much a pandemic will impact your finances, here are five ways you can protect your financial well being during turbulent times:
Bulk Up Your Savings
During a crisis, an emergency fund can help keep you afloat should your financial state change. Financial experts advise you should have three to six months worth of living expenses saved up in cash reserves. However, don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t have a robust emergency fund.
If your income hasn’t been impacted, start funneling any money you would have normally spent on your commute or lunches into your savings. In addition, look for ways you can make your existing funds last longer. Stretching your emergency fund will ensure you have enough money to support yourself should your financial situation change.
Cut Down on Non-Essentials
Being intentional with your spending is a great way to preserve your money during a time of need. One of the best ways you can practice intentional spending is by cutting back on non essential expenses such as streaming services, cable television, and going out to eat.
Pulling the plug on indulgences will help you build up your emergency fund or pay off any outstanding bills. In the face of a crisis, take time to evaluate your spending and identify any expenses you can eliminate.
Pay Down Debt
Carrying a little bit of debt isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re strapped for cash during a crisis. However, it’s smart to pay down your debts as much as possible. If your budget allows, continue paying down any outstanding balances to avoid accruing interest.
You may also be able to tap into your home equity to pay off debt. With a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit, you can access cash to put toward debts and pay it back over a fixed period of time. One positive consequence of a crisis is historically low interest rates, making loans attractive options for debt consolidation.
Keep Up On Bills
Amid a crisis, you’ll want to keep on good terms with lenders. If you have the financial means, be sure to keep up on all monthly payments, making sure to prioritize essential expenses, like rent, utilities, and car payments first. Try your best to contribute at least the minimum payment to preserve your credit score and keep in your lenders’ good graces.
If your finances have been impacted by the crisis and you’re unable to make your monthly payments, consider reaching out to lenders to discuss your options. Many offer debt relief, such as deferred payment plans, to individuals who need leniency during this time.
Use Credit Cards Strategically
Though you shouldn’t rely solely on credit cards to bail yourself out of a crisis, they may help alleviate some financial stress if and when money is tight. If you decide to use a credit card for economic relief, be sure to only charge essential purchases, use cards with perks and rewards, and be wary of interest rates.
Keep in mind that credit cards should be used responsibly. If you choose to use credit cards temporarily, just remember you will need to pay back the balance eventually. Overspending could put you in a worse financial position in the long run, so use them sparingly.
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Uncertain times can leave you worrying about your financial future. However, by taking these tips into consideration, you may be able to protect your money, even in the face of a global crisis.