A crisis has a way of making us all adjust our priorities, get down to the nitty gritty and go into survival mode. COVID-19 is no exception. In fact, doing our best to avoid the Coronavirus has changed our lives on numerous levels. At United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA), however, we still want to share what could be valuable information with you – information that just might help make these difficult times a little easier. Watch for details about upcoming COVID-19-related virtual workshops from our Financial & Housing Education program.
Meanwhile, following is some straightforward advice from UWCA-Certified Housing Counselors Doug Horst and Charlie Pierson. We hope you find it helpful. If you have questions or need more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Develop an emergency budget. Determine what are essential expenses and budget for those first. It also helps to “rate” your essential expenses since some are more essential than others. For example, Tier 1 essential expenses might include rent/mortgage, food, utilities, medicine, transportation. Tier 2 essential expenses might include gasoline, car insurance, phone, childcare. Tier 3 might include any debt payments (credit cards, personal loans, student loans, etc.). When there is only so much money to go around it’s important to prioritize spending.
- Communication is key. As soon as you realize you can’t make a payment, are going to be late or can make only a partial payment, contact your creditors. Tell them the truth about your situation. Don’t make it out to be worse than it is, but also don’t minimize your problem. Don’t promise to do something that you know you cannot do. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into an agreement that you’re not sure you can comply with. Honesty is always the best policy.
- Every dollar matters. Be wise in grocery/food shopping. Store brands are generally less expensive than name brands and the quality is often just as good. Be careful using coupons. Coupons are usually for name-brand products and often, even after using a coupon, the name brand is still more expensive than a store brand. Determine what are essential groceries. For example, bread is essential, cookies are not. Milk is essential, soda is not. Also keep in mind where you are shopping. Some stores, while very nice inside and might have great customer service, can be more expensive for the same items you can find elsewhere. Remember, every dollar counts.
- What can I eliminate (if only temporarily)? Cable/satellite packages can possibly be downgraded (or even eliminated) to save on monthly expense. Are there subscriptions, memberships, automatic debits, that can be suspended or eliminated? Small things that may not be necessary anymore? Five dollars a day might not seem like much, but that’s $150 at the end of the month. Is getting take-out worth it? In some cases, it might be, but understand those small amounts add up at the end of the month.
- Increase income where possible. Brainstorm ways to increase income. Do you have anything that you could easily stand to get rid of, and could be sold? What skills or hobbies do you have that can be turned into a possible income stream – while maintaining social distancing guidelines? Consider lawn mowing, handyman work, car repair, cooking/baking, dog walking, sewing, virtual tutoring, etc.
- Protect Your Credit. If able, continue to pay all bills on time. If unable to do so or if it creates a significant hardship, contact your creditors to find out if or how they can assist you. Creditors, in most cases, cannot and will not submit any negative reporting information to the credit bureaus during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is particularly true for mortgages.
One more tip: Take the Census! COVID-19 should have no effect on your ability to complete the 2020 U.S. Census. You can do it online at www.2020census.gov or over the phone by calling 1-844-330-2020. It’s quick and easy and vitally important to our entire community’s financial well-being since it determines federal funding we receive for things such as healthcare, education and roads. So do it now.
United Way of Central Alabama Supports the 2020 Census!
www.census.alabama.gov | #AlabamaCounts