Money Talk: Finances Tight Because of Staying at Home?

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I’m pretty sure my kids’ teachers have banned the “C” word in their classroom right now. It seems to be all everyone is talking about right now – even our students! But this post isn’t about that – directly anyways. I don’t need to tell you how to wash your hands and stay home if you’re sick or remind you that viruses spread quickly.
This post will hopefully help you address some things we aren’t hearing in the news – like what do you do if you’re ALREADY on a tight budget and constant closures of businesses directly affects your income. What if you find yourself in the position that you can’t afford basic necessities due to less work hours, medical expenses, etc. that are now unexpectedly setting you back?
I’m a “look ahead” kind of person – it helps me prepare for what might come ahead and can distract you from the current panic you’re feeling. Sometimes it’s a great positive to my personality and, well, sometimes that’s a negative if you become too obsessed about outcomes that may never happen! As with pretty much anything else in life – it’s a about fine balance!

orange glove stop sign

1. Don’t panic!

Stop looking at the media right now. STOP! Stop panicking about how you won’t be able to pay bills and buy food. We know things look bleak. I know for a fact people are worried about money. For some of us we were already on ground zero barely floating bills – I KNOW! But intensely tracking the virus is only going to stress you out more as it directly hits your income, work hours, ability to do things, etc. Right now you need to prepare for the inevitable and do what my husband and I like to say “stop the bleed” of expenses.
It’s a terrifying feeling when you find yourself in the position of spending more than you’re making and knowing you can’t do a single thing about it. Especially if you were already financially bare bones before this started panicking people. Step away from the electronics, take a deep breath, then work on a game plan using some of the tips below.
No, I unfortunately can’t help you make money grow on trees or ensure your job will have the hours or pay you need to get through this, but I can help lead you through some smart tips to make smart money moves in light of everything going on.
woman in grocery store
If your house looks like this you’ve gone too far!

2. Resist the urge to do a massive stock up. 

The running joke online is people stocking up hundreds of rolls of toilet paper. But remember, if you spend your money excessively stocking up you’ll have less money for the bills you actually need to pay. Because viruses do what they do – spread! I sat back this week and treated our household expenses as if we were prepared to be sick with a flu. (I know I know, the this isn’t a flu but hang tight with me here a minute!)
Look through your cabinets and see what you need if your family were to get sick and not be able to make it to the store. Basic supplies to hold you over about two weeks, not two months! Yes, toilet paper, Gatorade, chicken noodle soup, Tylenol and Ibuprofen, cough medicines, household cleaners, etc. The last thing you want to do if you’re sick as a family is run to the store for these supplies, only to find out that you can’t find them in the stores anymore.
Remember, don’t go crazy and buy a year’s supply! I am not saying this will all be over in 2 weeks or even 2 months. I’m saying be smart where you’re spending the money you are already stressing out about. Not only is it currently hurting our economy and the ability for other people to buy what they need as well but you’re spending a lot of money you don’t have!
Carefully plan ahead and make a list of items you would like to buy, what you might need in the house if everyone gets sick for a week or two, and be sure to keep in mind any special medical needs anyone in your household has.

3. Check with your state offices, businesses, banks, hospitals and loans for financial assistance.

Some states are offering unemployment benefits for those whose work hours are being affected by the current events. Some states are also waiving interest on loans and trust funds to help individuals balance out their expenses. Every state will differ in this area as panic is spread in an evolving situation. In fact don’t be afraid to call your bank and credit card companies asking about lenience with everything going on. You will never know until you ask for help so don’t be afraid to call!
Unfortunately my family has a lifetime run of medical expenses – most hospitals and doctors offices do NOT charge interest as long as you are paying something! If you’re making payments on medical bills consider lessening those bills temporarily! Do NOT stop paying them completely please! But maybe cut your current medical payments in half for a few months till things regulate again.
NOTE – you will not be the only one calling to ask! Expect much higher than normal wait times on the phone!

4. Check with your local food pantry or Facebook group.

Never be so embarrassed to ask for help that you’d rather go short on feeding yourself. Although I know our local food pantry has closed because of illness, it absolutely can’t hurt to call around and ask local food pantries if they are open to giving donations. If you’ve never needed a food pantry and are not sure where to look, ask in your local Facebook group, call local churches, and call your county’s health department.

In fact, don’t be afraid to ask in your local Facebook groups if anyone has excess pantry items they would be willing to give you. The one thing about times like this is everyone is in it together and I have learned that there are some very generous people out there!

dollar bill money on wood table

5. Talk to your kids!

If your kids have any understanding about money then it’s OK to talk to them about your financial situation! Don’t stress them out by being over worried or controlling over pennies, but be open with them about what’s going on. Show them it’s ok to have concern and be upfront about money without being fearful and causing doom and gloom!

Remind them that they still have a house to live in with food to eat and will still have fun but that things might shift a bit for a while and ask for them to be understanding about it. Stay positive! This works especially well for kids in the middle school / high school age range who tend to ask to go out more and spend more money.

6. Pause any unnecessary expenditures.

Do you have monthly grocery subscriptions? Magazines? Extra cell phones? Business expenses? Streaming services? Tighten down those hatches! Even if it’s only $5-10/month. Set aside a day or evening to take a magnifying glass to all of your expenses and determine what needs to stay and what can be temporarily paused. If you’re stuck at home can you pause your monthly cell phone bill? Maybe only pay for 1 or 2 streaming services instead of 3?

boy flying kite in green grass field

7. Creative entertainment.

If you can’t afford bills then you can’t afford expensive entertainment either which can sometimes lead you to feeling even more depressed about your situation! The one great thing about being home more is that the internet is FULL of a zillion things to do indoors! Seriously – there is NO shortage of creative entertainment both online and to do in your own house!  If you’ve got kids then you’ll definitely want to join our Sensory Ideas for Kids Facebook group which will keep you plenty busy with ideas to occupy their time!

Our personal rule of thumb when we are running tight on finances and desperate for entertainment is that we try to spend $1 or less per person in the house no more than once (or twice if we’re desperate) a week! Whether that’s picking up a Redbox movie, buying ICEES, wood to build something, bubbles and chalk, $1 kites, dessert, etc.

8. Monitor Loan Options & Interest Rates.

I get it, you’ve got debt, and now you are accruing more debt. It sucks! Take a moment to research your loan options and be smart about your financial movements. First check to see if you can cut down your expenses in any areas.  Then see if you can combine loans on a lower interest rate with one payment, etc. There are tons of financial articles out there so I won’t go crazy here with information but in the midst of all of this, don’t forget to keep an eye out for your best options where borrowing money is concerned. Interest rates add up SO fast and you can easily spiral your payments out of control if you aren’t careful.

Plan Ahead Finances

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