Managing money has always been my forte — I’m good with my finances. From saving to budgeting, I’ve been good about my money in the recent years.
But, this pandemic was not something I was expecting. Finally, I started my dream job and was on furlough because I was still onboarding. Ultimately, my position was eliminated in July and my job search has been all over the place as I try to manage bills. That’s why I want to talk about managing your finances during times like these because we don’t know when it’ll happen again.
First, I’m very blessed to have been taught to save and budget. Thanks, dad. I appreciate it. I’m a frugal gal.
Yet that still doesn’t ease one’s mind when you have a mortgage, student loans, a car payment, bills, groceries, etc. It’s a lot and there is only so much unemployment can do. Yes, I have been receiving unemployment because that’s what my job told me to do as soon as our furlough began.
From there it’s been uphill and downhill. We were in the process of buying a home and no lender wants to lend to someone who is on a leave of absence. Finances are all over the place as we were trying to do all these things. Again, thanks dad for co-signing on that. We’ve been remodeling and doing tiny things to the house when we’d rather do the big stuff but the budget was cut for that.
It’s all challenging because we’re dealing with the unknown. So many people have lost their jobs and unemployment has a limit of how long you can apply. We’re dealing with obstacles that no one could predict.
Check your balance
Hi, you need to do this.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a viral tweet about refusing to check a bank account and hoping the card goes through. Listen, I was once in that position. I swiped my card and refused to check my account until I got paid. It’s a disastrous way to think. Especially if you’re paycheck is delayed or something goes wrong on the bank’s side. You need to check your account and be accountable for what you’re spending money on. Honestly, check your account once or twice a week. I’m a paranoid girl, so I’m always checking to make sure nothing fishy has happened to my money (not that anyone has access, but still I’m checking).
Getting into the groove of checking in on your account will help you. It’ll make you want to do better than the last $20 in your account that you have to decide on gas or food for until payday in two days.
Track your spending
Tracking your spending can fall in line with checking your balance. I think it’s a great way to see where you’re spending your money. It’s always amazing for me to see how much I might have spent on take-out for the month or if I’ve been shopping and where most of my money is being spent. Honestly, it’s helpful to see where I need to step back and reassess. The start of this pandemic was tons of take-out for my family and when I saw how much I spent at the end of the month, it set me straight.
You can utilize your bank app to view bank statements and track spending or find a budgeting app. I have utilized Mint and Clarity for my budgeting — both have their pros and cons. My bank app has been the most accurate because budgeting apps can un-connect and just pull things in wrong. Again, this has been very helpful in knowing where I am spending my money and where I should stop spending it. Tracking my spending has helped my finances A LOT.
Save first, spend later
Many people shy away from saving and believe in paying down all their debt ASAP, do you. That’s not me. And, that might not be you. In my case, I like to have the comfortability of knowing that I have money for my bills while looking for employment. It gives me some sanity as I don’t have to stress over how I’m going to make this payment and that payment. I feel that if I work through my finances to save a little here and there, I have fewer worries.
To keep it short, I believe in rainy day funds, emergency funds, any funds where you’re saving a portion of your money. You never know when that money might come in handy. And, I don’t say that to be all gloomy and whatnot, but who knows how long it takes to get another job? Or how long a crisis might go on? You have to be prepared. How much you save is up to you, but aim for 20% if you are able to do so. Even $50 or $100 a month will make a difference if you have money left over.
Research your options
Like many other people, unemployment benefits became my option. It was the one way to keep my finances intact, and I have no regrets about it. Plus, I’m open to talking about it. The process is not the best and the system is a legit throwback. But, it came in handy. With the CARES Act, I saw the extra $600 a week which led to me receiving my actual pay (thank you, Kamala). This should be an option for you whether you’re unemployed, furloughed, or your hours have been significantly cut in half. Utilize this option (with the tax deductions), so you have some income coming in.
Other options include the Employer Paid Leave—Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which can be helpful for many families out there that can’t work and take care of their children at the same time. 12 weeks of leave with 67% of your pay, if you have to go that route.
When it comes to loans like your mortgage, car, or student loans, I would look into the available options. While some lenders are great, others might provide a hassle. I was lucky (along with a large number of people) enough to have my federal student loans freeze until September (next month). I’m still paying my private loans and car loans but I have the means to do so. Look into your forbearance and deferment options if those are available to you! Last but not least, call those lenders and see what you can do. Right now is the time to talk to them and work out a plan.
Essential VS Non-Essential
Figure out what is essential and what isn’t essential. I’ve found that this is a great way for me to save money. When I had a job, I would buy a few things here and there from Target and HomeGoods that I had no plans for. I liked them, though, so I bought them. They weren’t essential and that’s the issue. Essentials fall under things that you can’t live without like food, toilet paper, and toiletries. Obviously, there are a few more things that might be essential in your life like coffee and a certain pair of shoes, and that’s fine. You get to define what is essential in your life but don’t define everything as essential.
By defining what’s essential and not essential, I’ve been able to save really well. I think it took a lot of deciding if an item was really worth it before I started taking it seriously. I don’t need another sweatshirt when I already have 10+ or another pair of jeans unless they don’t fit. It’s making rules and sticking to them so that you have boundaries and limits. It doesn’t sound fun at all, but I’ve saved a good chunk by managing my finances better.
Honestly, an income isn’t promised at any time. I think this pandemic has help set that thought in my mind, which is why I wanted to write this blog post. Not only does it serve a purpose to educate you, but it’s educating myself, too. Unless you work for yourself in some capacity, your income is not always guaranteed and it’s time to put plans in place.