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Budgeting for expenses in the COVID-19 pandemic

Managing Your Money Through COVID-19

Brink's Money

22 Feb 2021

There’s no doubt that the past year has been a hard one for everyone. As we continue to live in a global pandemic, life has been far from normal. In addition to worrying about the health of ourselves and our family, another source of stress has been finances. Millions of people have lost their jobs this past year and many others are concerned about the future of the economy. Although we are facing a great deal of uncertainty, there are steps you can take to have your financial health in mind.

 

Brink’s Money has compiled a few tips to help ensure you can be proactive in managing your money through the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Keep Your Debt Under Control

Having a credit card is a valuable financial tool for many people and can help during times of financial uncertainty. Even though they are helpful, it’s incredibly easy to get carried away and your debt can start accumulating as you make use of your available credit. During the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps one of the most important pieces of advice is to do your best to avoid new debt. We have seen rates going down to help with the economic hardships of the past year. Although it might sound like you’re getting a great deal for a new car, right now is the time to better handle your debt.

 

Here are a few ways to keep your debt under control:

  • Manage your mortgage. If you’re currently paying off your mortgage, one option is to refinance at a lower interest rate which can help save you money in the long run.

  • Reduce student loan stress. Make sure that you know when your payments are due. In the case that you don’t think you can make a payment, it’s best to talk to your loan provider and ask about repayment options or if there is the possibility to refinance.

  • Reach out to your credit card company. We have articles about the importance of having a good credit score and this is when that might come in handy. If you have a good credit score, you can call your credit card company about getting a better interest rate on your credit cards. This can help save you money and be able to pay off your balance in a shorter amount of time.

 

These are just a few of the things you can do to help with your debt but additionally, you might find a debt management plan helpful. Usually, these plans can help you pay off your debt anywhere from 3 to 5 years.

 

Prioritize Your Bills

Making financial decisions this year might have proven to be difficult and resulted in additional stress. One of the most important things you can do right now is taking care of the highest priority bills and paying those before anything else. These past few months might have come with unexpected expenses you didn’t intend to account for all while restraining yourself from optional expenses such as entertainment. For these unexpected costs, if you have an emergency fund, you can use it now since that’s what it was designed for. Also, if you have found that you’re not spending as much on gas now that you’re not going out, then it’s a good idea to put that money towards your emergency fund or towards your most important bills.

 

These are the bills you should be prioritizing right now:

  • Housing and related bills

  • Utilities

  • Car payments

  • Insurance

 

Any other bills that aren’t mentioned above, experts say can be placed on the backburner or in other terms, you might be able to negotiate with your providers. A crucial piece of advice is that getting into new debt should always be your last resort.

 

Manage Your Budget

For the time being, working towards your financial goals and facing a great deal of uncertainty can cause stress. By taking control of your budget and how you spend your money, you can help boost your confidence about your situation. There are a few initiatives you can take towards managing your budget to better handle your finances through the pandemic.

 

One way to ensure that you’re in good shape to spend more time at home is by stocking up on what you need. Although you might not be able to spend a great deal on groceries, you can cut back on grocery expenses by purchasing foods that won’t spoil such as pasta and rice. Foods that can be frozen or are long-lasting are worth purchasing. Additionally, you should consider buying items such as cough drops or cold medicine to equip yourself for the cold months lying ahead. As for passing up the time and keeping yourself entertained, it might be surprising what you have around the house that you may not have considered before like the stack of books in your library or the board games tucked away in the closet. It’s important to look into what you already have at home before you decide to buy anything else.

 

Create an Emergency Fund

No one could have predicted that this year we would be facing a global pandemic and our savings account would take a hit, but unexpected expenses like this one is exactly why it’s a good idea to create an emergency fund. An emergency fund can help keep you afloat while experiencing a lack of available funds and keep you from taking out unnecessary loans and accumulating debt. How much to set aside for your emergency fund depends on the person or household, but experts recommend you allocate at least half a year’s worth of expenses or anywhere between 3 to 6 months of expenses. This fund can help you meet your monthly responsibilities in the case that you lose your job or your hours at work have been reduced. It doesn’t matter how little you start off with, even having $500 in your initial emergency fund can go a long way. What is most important is that you build that emergency fund so when an unexpected cost does come up, you are more than prepared to handle it.

 

Stay Focused

During these past few months, you have endured a lot and money is a great stressor for people. In the case that happens to you, it’s important to remember to try your best to stay focused and know that you are doing what you can to get through this time. Staying focused means you are evaluating your situation, creating a plan for how you spend your money and time, as well as figuring out ways to cut your expenses. Another way to help you remain focused is to reach out to friends and family who you can trust to talk through financial situations with and can provide guidance as to how to manage your expenses. Talking to your loved ones is also a great way to take your mind off finances for a bit and refocus and reset.

 

Our team at Brink’s Money knows how difficult these past few months have been and we hope that these tips help alleviate some stress regarding your finances and better suit you to manage your expenses during COVID-19.

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