For the first time in human history, much of the world is adjusting to working from home, if they have the option. Most people are used to going into work every day, speaking with co-workers, and feeling stable and secure in their careers. Now, life as we know it has completely been turned upside-down.
Right now, however, there’s obviously a ton of uncertainty in what will happen as the economy continues into a new recession. Many industries are suffering financially, and many people are having their hours cut or getting laid off from their jobs. Without a solid plan in place, it’s easy to give in to fear. The good news is that there are steps everyone can take to be financially prepared to survive this global health crisis. Find them out here.
20. Don’t Panic Buy
When this article was written, there are empty shelves and huge lines at grocery stores as people stock up on supplies. The problem with panic buying is that it depletes the resources for everyone else, like the elderly. Many stores have now made limits to how much you can buy of each product to prevent depleting resources. However, that doesn’t stop people from going to multiple stores to get around the rules. Remember that supply chains are still running. Even if it takes a week or two to restock, grocery stores will continue to be open even in the worst-case scenario.
On the financial side of things, stocking up for a huge crisis like this can cost hundreds of dollars. Panic-buying might drain your bank account or credit limit. Many people are getting laid off from their jobs or quitting so they can be home with their kids. Money for resources is more precious than ever. There’s no need to put yourself under financial stress preparing for an apocalypse. Remember that now more than ever, we need to come together as a community to share resources.
19. Apply For Unemployment
If you are one of the tens of thousands of people who have been laid off from their job recently, don’t hesitate to apply for unemployment soon. Yes, maybe you will find another job soon enough. However, there’s no shame in getting financial help in the meantime. Even if you have money saved in an emergency fund, don’t underestimate how long it will take to find a new job.
During a recession, people struggle to find work, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. While it’s important to keep your hopes high, it’s still good to prepare for the worst-case scenario. It could be months or a year before you find another job again. If you’re not sure how to apply for unemployment, check out the US government’s website that has all the information you need.
18. Get Creative With Your Pantry
Many Americans already have food in their pantry that has been sitting there for months. As a society, we already over-buy groceries and produce $160 billion of food waste every year. Instead of spending money on new products, try to use the food you already have. Don’t worry so much about grocery stores selling out of your favorite items because they will eventually restock. Get creative while cooking and make new recipes you’ve never tried before. Once you start to chip away at your reserves, you may realize your food is going to last longer than you anticipated.
If you’re not in the habit of using all of your food, you might not have any experience knowing how long your groceries last. Even if you still plan to go shopping in preparation for staying in your house for several months during the outbreak, check your pantry before you leave the house. Write down a meal plan to incorporate the supplies you already have in your kitchen. Also, remember to check how much space you have in your freezer and refrigerator.
17. Use Your Stimulus Wisely
On March 18, 2020, President Donald Trump announced there will be a stimulus package starting April 6. Each American citizen will be getting two separate $1,000 checks in the mail. The whole idea behind a stimulus package is to temporarily boost the economy. The government hopes people will use this money on material things in order to boost consumption and keep businesses from declaring bankruptcy. George W. Bush did the same thing in 2008 at the start of the Great Recession. You can choose to be a “good consumer,” but the reality is that most of us need this money to pay for expenses and debt. This is especially true if your hours were reduced or you lost your job. Most of us are going to use this to pay for things we need, not want.
Even if you still have your job and the stimulus feels like free money, try to look to the future. If this situation continues to be an issue for the next six months, would you lose your job? And how much better off would you be if you had that $2,000 saved in the bank? However, if you’re lucky enough to work in a secure field, this means you’re getting an extra $2,000 that you can spend on whatever you like. This could be an opportunity to invest to earn more money in the long run.
16. Buy Discounted Stocks
The stock market plummeted thousands of points in an extremely short time, going to its lowest point since The Great Depression. If you have the ability to invest in stocks, now might be the time to do it. A financial advisor can give you advice on which companies to invest in. Or you could do some research online and find some information about what companies are currently undervalued.
Try to look at companies that are doing things to survive the crisis in the long-term. Ask yourself what businesses will still be around, even in “worst-case scenario”. Also do some research on the quarterly earnings reports to see which companies have been on the brink of bankruptcy for some time.
15. Refinance Your Mortgage
At the time this article was written, mortgage rates have been a bit of a rollercoaster. Interest rates plummeted to an average of 3.29% before rebounding back to 3.65% just two weeks later. Those who took advantage of the dip were able to refinance the mortgages on their homes. However, it’s not too late. Experts from Market Watch predict that interest rates are likely to dip again soon, so be on the lookout.
Some financial experts expect that the housing market might crash once again like what happened in 2008. In the coming months, it may be a great opportunity for buyers to get a house at rock-bottom prices. But it’s also a scary time for anyone who has had their working hours reduced. If you already own a home, the best you can do is refinance and save money on interest.
14. Update Your Resume
Sadly, this crisis is taking a huge toll on the world’s economy. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. In New Jersey, there were 15,000 applications for unemployment benefits in just one day, which broke historic records. There are going to be a lot of people who lose their jobs or have their hours decrease. In many cases, it might take a few months before smaller companies declare bankruptcy and lay off their employees. Even if you still have your job, it’s always better to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Fortunately, you should have some time to get your resume ready and consider job prospects.
Before you panic, consider the jobs that are going to be in demand during the crisis. Amazon announced they are hiring over 100,000 new workers to keep up with the demand for online orders while people are in self-quarantine. Members of the “gig economy” can sign up to deliver for Grubhub or UberEats. If you truly can’t find a new job with your current skill set, consider educating yourself while you’re coasting on unemployment benefits.
13. Check Your Credit Score
With everything that’s going on in the world, checking your credit score might be the last thing on your mind. However, you should still try to maintain a healthy score during this difficult situation. At some point in the future, you’ll most likely need to borrow money for a mortgage or credit card. In order to do that, your credit score needs to be at a high enough level. If you miss any payments or max out your cards, it can be difficult to fix that situation.
Don’t know your score? Create an account with Credit Sesame, which is completely free. They’ll let you know your score within minutes. It will also give you recommendations on how you can raise your score. Once you know what you’re working with, it’s easier to maintain your score. And if your score is lower than average, don’t worry. You’re aware of your situation and have new goals to work towards.
12. Don’t Fall Behind On Payments
When most people go through an emergency, they tend to forget some of their responsibilities. That might include paying their bills on time. Or you might end up in a financial situation where you simply can’t afford the minimum payment. If you find yourself in this situation, always call the credit card company or your loan provider to tell them that you are going to be late. Most banks have a grace period for least two weeks. Many banks and credit card companies are also willing to help you if you have been directly affected by the national emergency. When you make the effort to contact these companies ahead of time, this will not negatively affect your credit score.
If you ignore your problems and fall into a pit of despair, this could negatively affect your credit score, and could eventually lead to your debt going into collections. One day, when you’re in a better situation, it will be much harder for you to buy a house and move on with your life. This is why it’s so important not to fall behind on payments. Do everything you can from selling on eBay, driving for Uber Eats, or asking family for help.
11. Get a Zero-Interest Credit Card
During a crisis, it might be difficult for you to keep up with multiple credit card payments, especially if they have a high interest rate. This would be a perfect time to refinance your debt by applying for a zero-interest credit card. Before you apply, create a spreadsheet on Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. Write the total you owe, monthly payment, monthly interest, as well as the total interest paid over the course of the year. Once you see those numbers laid out in front of you, it’s clear how much money you’re wasting on credit card interest.
Many credit cards give a 0% introductory APR for the first 12 to 21 months on balance transfers. However, they also charge you a one-time fee for the transfer. Always remember to check how much money you’re actually saving by doing the balance transfer, or if it’s worth it at all. By doing this balance transfer, you can reduce the amount of money you need to pay every month, and it helps get your debt paid off faster.
10. Calculate Fuel Savings
The bright side of working from home is that you don’t need to spend as much money on gas, tolls, or public transportation. Take a moment to reflect on how much you normally spend on your commute. If your boss allows you to work from home, you can now essentially save that money. Putting fewer miles on your car also means that you’re putting fewer miles on your vehicle and spending less on repairs.
During quarantine, you won’t be going out to restaurants or entertainment, either. For most Americans, this amounts to hundreds of dollars per month that aren’t being used anymore. Use that extra money to build up a cash reserve or begin paying off debt. We don’t know how long this situation will last, so it’s best to be prepared.
9. Don’t Fall Into Debt
With the current rate of unemployment, it almost seems getting into debt to stay afloat is unavoidable. Most people get a credit card “in case of emergencies,” even if they could have never predicted something quite like this. However, in times like this, it’s more important than ever not to get into debt. We don’t know how long this crisis will last. So instead of rushing out to buy a ton of doomsday supplies, try to focus on cutting back on spending and only buy the essentials.
As someone who fell into debt during The Great Recession, I can tell you that it took me 10 years to finally get my finances under control. Now, just as things were looking brighter for me financially, we’re falling into another recession again. I understand the dilemma many of you are going through. However, I’m not allowing myself to make the same mistakes I made in the past, and neither should you. Try to find creative solutions to cut back on spending, and avoid falling into debt.
8. Barter With Friends
If money is tight for you, see if there are creative ways for you to get what you need by trading with someone else. For example, maybe you know someone who is a hairdresser and you can offer to clean their home in exchange for a haircut. Some of your friends may have also purchased more than they needed, and both of you can trade things. By trading with your friends, it becomes a lot easier to save money.
However, keep in mind that as a society, we are encouraging social distancing. Simply by leaving your house and visiting friends, you are exposing yourself to other people. At the end of the day, you can’t control where they have been. So calculate your risk of exposure before you choose to trade.
7. Start DIY Projects
Usually, spring is a time for home improvement projects. Many people hire contractors to get things done around their house. However, this is no longer a reality. Projects have been put on the backburner as people save their money. But staying home for extended periods of time might leave you feeling extremely bored. This might be a great opportunity for you to complete projects on your own without hiring a professional. YouTube has amazing tutorials that can help you learn how to accomplish your tasks and they will save you money, too.
During this crisis, Home Depot and Lowes are still considered to be “essential retail,” so they will remain open with limited hours. Remember that sunshine is a natural source of vitamin D, and it’s an important part of building your immune system. So this would actually be good for your health to get some gardening done while under quarantine. Even if you don’t want to leave your house to buy supplies, you can still buy gardening and home improvement products on Amazon. Lowes and Home Depot are also offering delivery options so you can continue to shop from the comfort of your home.
6. Support Local Restaurants Via Delivery
At the time this article was written, most restaurants have closed their doors to the public and only allow customers to order takeout or delivery. With people bunkering down inside of their homes and opting for canned food, it means these restaurants are going to lose a lot of money. Since it’s important to stay inside and extend our food rations for as long as possible, you may want to support your local restaurants by ordering takeout. The more we order food from them, the longer these businesses can stay open.
Afraid to let people near your front door? Most takeout drivers have been instructed to wear gloves and be as clean as humanly possible. Restaurants that offer drive-thrus like Starbucks and McDonald’s are being instructed to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer once every hour, but some choose to do it more frequently. If you’re still scared, wear gloves before you interact with other people.
5. Contact a Local Food Bank
If you’ve recently lost your job and applied for unemployment benefits, there’s no shame in applying for help to receive free supplies from a local food bank. Many churches and community centers have programs that will help you get free non-perishable items like canned goods, pasta, and sauces. These’re usually already drive-up services where you can pick up the food and leave, and many of them are making accommodations for social distancing.
Some programs, like Meals on Wheels, will also deliver food to vulnerable elderly people with health conditions. Contact your local chapter to see if you qualify for assistance. And if not, ask if they are aware of any other local programs that might be able to help you.
4. Rent Holidays
In the UK, many homeowners associations can afford to give their tenants a “rent holiday,” or allow them to skip rent for at least one month. They’re able to do this because many estates in England are owned by old-money families who can afford to be generous. In the United States, very few landlords come from old money. Most of them were self-made. If they happen to be wealthy, they might be willing to let you skip rent for a month during this crisis, but don’t count on it. At the time this article was written, the government isn’t doing anything to help renters aside from the upcoming stimulus package.
Keep in mind that landlords are people, too. They need to pay their mortgages and bills with the money they make from renting their property. For some, this could be their main source of income they need to feed their families. Never assume that your landlord is “rich.” If you can’t afford your rent, the next tip might be right for you.
3. Move Back in With Your Parents
As cringe-worthy as this might sound, your best option during the crisis might be to move back in with your parents. The vast majority of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, so with this spike in unemployment, there are suddenly going to be a lot of people who need to bail out of their lease. Even if you get unemployment benefits, these only last six months and are just 60% of your income. The stimulus package may help to counter-balance your lost income. However, there are estimates this might last as long as 18 months before we can get back to life as normal.
Most people have leases that end in spring or summer. This is usually peak moving season, and many people are going to have to put their lives on hold. If you’re worried that you might lose your job, it may be better to hunker down at your home base. Your parents will probably be happy to have you. This will give you an opportunity to save money.
2. Save, Save, Save
Saving during an outbreak may seem obvious, but it’s more important than ever to make a budget. Make a Google Sheet or Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and lay out all of your monthly expenses. Divide your necessities like food and rent from non-essentials. If you have anything left after paying your bills, save whatever money you can and prepare yourself for whatever may happen in the future.
As much as the government is going to encourage us to spend money to help boost the economy, we need to look out for ourselves first and foremost. The only way to be prepared is to have a few months’ worth of expenses stashed away for emergencies.
1. Increase Your Value as an Employee
In this time of uncertainty, businesses are going to reduce staff down to the essential crew members. One way you can improve your chances of job security is to make yourself more valuable as an employee. Ask yourself if your job is replaceable or if there are multiple people with the same position in your location. Try to do the best job you possibly can to prove you’re amazing. Go above and beyond to be a good, responsible employee. If your boss sees you as an essential member of the crew, you just might be able to keep your job during the crisis and survive budget cuts.
Even if you get laid off, it’s still important for you to increase your value. The job market is about to become incredibly competitive, so you’ll need to shine during interviews. Self-improvement is a huge part of why some of the most successful people in the world became millionaires.
They never stopped trying to become better in their field, and neither should you. We don’t have a lot of control in this situation and it’s easy to fall into self-pity. Take advantage of the things you do have control over, which is your own health and skillsets. You still have the ability to work on yourself, even if you’re self-quarantined at home for the foreseeable future.