In just a short couple of weeks from now, the extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits is set to expire for millions of Americans.
I’m hopeful that our government will pass something to continue to assist everyone who is still out of a job due to COVID-19, but that something may not be the same amount as it was before.
In other words, if you are still unemployed, there is a good chance that your unemployment benefits will be lower than they have been the past few months.
Is this cause for alarm or panic? I don’t believe so!
Like the old adage says, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” As long as you have a plan, you are going to be ok.
So let’s plan. Here are your five next best steps—starting right now.
1. Start Saving NOW
If you haven’t been saving, start now. Prioritizing this will give you some money in the bank that you can use for some breathing room.
With the extra $600 every week, many Americans are actually making more now than they were before.
There are a couple of weeks left of this great benefit, so use what you can to put some money into an online savings account that will give you 1% or more of interest.
Even if your emergency fund is at a place where you feel comfortable and safe, it is never a bad idea to put just a little bit more away during times like these.
With the uncertainty of when the pandemic will end—and what the economy will look like after—it is a good idea to put money away for a rainy day.
We can already see that it’s starting to storm already.
2. Actually Track Your Finances
You have to track your finances through all of this. You have to budget.
Ok, look. I get it. Tracking your finances takes work. It takes effort.
That’s why I choose to make it as easy as possible. I use an app for all my financial tracking.
The app I use is called You Need a Budget (YNAB). It’s an inexpensive app that allows you to take your budget with you and track your finances both at home and on the go.
I think the app is amazing. There is a 34-day trial for you to try it out. And if you don’t like it, you are free to find something else.
You can also get an additional free month after your 34-day trial if you subscribe using this link.
I love YNAB and would recommend it to anyone. But if you don’t like it, find an app that will work for you.
They make tracking your finances very easy and quick so you don’t have to spend a ton of time on your money, or worse, guess how much you have.
You have no idea how much benefit you will receive from tracking your finances.
In fact, I believe it’s one of the three pillars of budgeting that will help you hold up everything you’ve built.
If you haven’t tracked your finances before, now is DEFINITELY the time to start.
3. Take Care of Your Needs
Now is the time to make sure your needs are taken care of with your money. There are three needs that you should be focusing on.
Food. Shelter. Transportation.
These needs are what you absolutely need to work and survive so it’s important to make sure they are getting “paid” before anyone else during this time of uncertainty.
Food is obvious. You need to eat or you won’t survive. Make sure you have money for food.
Shelter is the place you live and everything you need to make it function properly. That means you need to make sure you are keeping the lights on.
Your shelter is your mortgage or rent payment, your electricity, natural gas, internet (if you’re working from home) and potentially a cell phone so you can communicate with others—especially for emergencies.
Transportation isn’t as much of a need these days since we’re all still hunkered down in our homes for the most part. But it is still considered a need.
Your transportation includes any car payments, gas for your vehicle, and at least some sort of small emergency fund for keeping it maintained.
Your vehicle can potentially be what is allowing you to work so it’s important to make sure it is working for you.
Hopefully you don’t have to take public transportation during the pandemic, but if it is necessary for you to get to work, take every precaution to stay healthy.
Your needs are the most important thing during this time, especially if you will be seeing a drop in income starting in August.
Now is not the time to worry about your wants, but…
4. If You Can, Sprinkle in Some Wants
One of the hallmarks of how I do and teach budgeting is freedom. You have the freedom to spend on what you want to spend on—whether things are good or bad.
I don’t want that to stop.
However, I recognize that when you have lost your income and things are very tight, it may not make sense to keep spending on wants.
Still, if you can, try and sprinkle some cheap wants into your spending.
If you’re not able to spend on anything you want, consider these two things.
First, remind yourself that this is only temporary.
Time will pass, the economy will recover, and you will be ahead of the game once again spending on the things that you value.
It is ok to focus on your needs now and give up your wants to take care of yourself and whoever else you need to take care of.
Second, there is still no shame in whatever you decide.
If you decide to be extra cautious during this time, don’t let anyone look down on your or tell you differently.
If you decide that there are one or two wants that you have to spend money on to stay sane, by all means, find a way to keep it in your budget.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t be spending money on it.
Even though things look different right now, this is still your show and your finances.
5. Start Your Plan Now
That’s right. Make your plan using these steps as quickly as possible—and then start.
Don’t put it off.
To borrow a phrase, “The best time to start was yesterday. The next best time is now.”
To help you start, you can call your mortgage company or credit card companies to see about continued COVID-related relief.
Many companies are still allowing a pause in payments for a period of time during the pandemic. It never hurts to ask and the worst they could say is no.
See if there is interest rate relief if they are not doing payment relief.
If you rent, talk to your landlord to see if there is any type of assistance they can give.
If you are able to get payments pushed back, use that extra money to first meet your needs, and then either save or pay off some debt. Both saving (beyond step one) and paying off your debt will give you some breathing room.
Whatever you decide to do based on these steps, start now. You will be glad you did when you are prepared for whatever comes your way over the coming weeks.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has literally rocked our entire world. Right now nothing is the same.
Will things go back to normal? I believe they will.
Will things be different? I think some things will definitely be different.
Either way, what we’re experiencing right now is temporary. I encourage you to make a plan, follow it, and do what you need to do to make sure you are taken care of.
I also encourage you to not let fear get the best of you.
And for those that are still in a good financial situation, be cautious. However, I encourage you to help those that are struggling.
It’s a great way to show love and that we are all in this together as Americans.
And no matter what side of the coin you are on in regards to being financially stable or things going terribly wrong, I look forward to seeing you on the other side of this pandemic.
The future is (still) bright!