Save some money for emergencies! How often have we heard that advice? With unprecedented times, we never imagined the magnitude of the COVID-19 virus and the impact on our finances, families, workplaces and schools. Yet, for so many Americans, financial stability was lacking long before COVID-19. So what now? Where do we go from here? First, let me say: You are not alone! When your income suddenly stops, it’s natural to feel stress, but don’t succumb to the fear. Instead, ease your anxiety by putting a plan in place. Let’s start with ten easy steps:
1. Bring the family together and discuss your financial plan as a team. According to Dr. Martie Gillen, Associate Professor, University of Florida, one method of bringing the family together with a feeling of team spirit is to have a family council meeting. The council meeting method is a simple strategy that can help create a harmonious pattern in the family routine. Check out some tips here: Council Guidelines.
2. While some are returning to work, others must pursue other forms of income. Whatever your circumstance, start by listing money you have received, such as a stimulus check or unemployment benefits. Next, add a column listing all of your bills. You can also do this on an Excel spreadsheet or a financial phone application. This template here can help you: Budget Tool.
Bills and Creditors
3. Ask yourself what will maintain a safe and healthy home environment and prioritize your bills accordingly. The house, utilities, food, transportation, and medical insurance should take priority.
4. Write down your minimum payment and the due dates.
5. Contact your creditors and work with an accounts manager, or “loss mitigation” specialist who can negotiate with you. Remember: stay calm and be patient; you may be on hold for a while. The goal is to have a positive impact on your credit. Be sure and follow up with a letter to each creditor, detailing the arrangements you agreed on.
Don’t take on new debt. During moments of crisis, it can be tempting to use credit cards, take out a home equity loan, or borrow money to pay bills. Unless your situation turns around quickly, more debt could create bigger problems.
6. Search for food banks near you: https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank.
7. Search for other financial assistance, health programs crisis support, and more at non-profits, Catholic Charities, and Heart of Florida United Way.
8. Remember that eligibility for one benefit does not guarantee or prohibit eligibility for another.
9. Search for federally funded programs like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This program helps low-income households cover heating and cooling costs. You can request assistance up to three times per year, but the plan does not cover water, sewer, or telephone services. The funds are paid directly to the energy company, not the household.» Learn more about the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
10. Last but not least, take care of yourself and your loved ones. Forgive yourself for past financial neglect and mistakes. Likewise, now is the time to differentiate between needs and wants, and be prepared to spend on those needs and not on the wants.
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