Personal Finance


Call up every ounce of optimism you have.

You’ll need it to get through coronavirus isolation and months of working at home. That’s if you’re still working.

Paycheck or no, everyone needs to change up strategies for a new world. That means getting your finances in fighting fit shape, and reviewing all money coming in and going out.

One silver lining: You are not alone, points out Liz Gendreau, 39, who blogs about family finance on her website, Chief Mom Officer. That means many companies are providing deferral programs for loans and mortgages for a few months. “You can’t foreclose on 30% of the country,” Gendreau said.

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Another bright spot: You might have more time on your hands.

Anyone who’s been putting off more involved projects might now consider dedicating extra hours in the week — no more commuting, no more rushed work mornings — to creative projects.

“If you’re a social media marketer who usually has her plate full with clients, now’s a great time to write that e-book on a brand story,” said Tori Dunlap, a financial coach in Seattle. “Or develop a workshop for other social media marketers.”

These four things can shore up your finances and help you through a tough time.

Count all your beans

People tend to overlook health savings or flex spending accounts, as well as cash that can be generated from credit cards, says Sasha Hutchison, 38.

Sasha Hutchison

Figure out your true net worth, says Sasha Hutchison, 38, an accounting manager and personal finance blogger in Austin, Texas.

The point is to avoid going into panic mode and be more forward-thinking, Hutchison says. “These are the things I owe, this is what I can do to bring in cash now,” she said. “It helps you to feel more in control.”

Calculate how much cash you have on hand, what’s in your portfolio — even though it is shrinking — and current debts. If anyone owes you money, it might be a difficult time to collect but still, know that it’s out there.

When Hutchison says to look at everything, she means everything. A health savings account or a flexible spending account through your job can pay for health care.

If you have a cash-back credit card, that’s another source. Groceries and gas help accumulate points quickly. (Hutchison pays off the balance each month.)

Got funds? 

In a time of great uncertainty, an emergency fund is critical. Over the last week, things changed almost daily, says Gendreau. “You might get reduced hours, a pay cut,” she said. “Before that happens, ideally, is the time to take a really close look at your budget.”

There’s no downside to emergency savings, but you will regret not saving while you had the chance.  

If you tighten your belt for a couple of months, and then things go back to the way they were, you can use that pile of cash to pay off debt or for something you wanted to do.

A disaster budget

You’ve got a budget? That’s great. But you need an emergency version, and now might be a very good time to start using it.

According to Heather Albrecht, 36, a financial coach in Hartford, Vermont, it’s best to make this plan before you need it. It’s so much easier when you don’t look for things to cut under duress. Write it down, so you can pull it out and see the plan you’ve made.

Think of what small luxuries to keep and what you can live without. The more you cut, the longer you can make your savings last.

“Be ruthless,” Albrecht said. “You can always add in things if you feel you can’t live without them.”

Kiss outsourcing goodbye

Tara Koup, 43, scrutinizes everything from kids’ birthday parties to yardwork to see how she can save money.

Source: Tara Koup

Practical skills are a top money-saver for Tara Koup, 43, a writer for QVC who lives in Paoli, Pennsylvania.  

Many people outsource nearly everything, from housecleaning to yard work to delivery services, Koup says, mainly because they feel busy and pressured. But that’s from a pre-COVID-19 world.

The more time you have at home, the less excuse you have to avoid picking up some practical skills: learning to cook, clean, conserve and reuse.

“I use what is around me for free instead of purchasing,” Koup said. “Living simply is a good way to save money in the long run.”



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