If you’ve lost your primary source of income due to COVID-19, you probably have a lot of questions such as “how long will this last?” and “how will I provide for myself and my family financially?” The truth is that COVID-19 is a global trauma. If you’re asking yourself these questions, the one thing that’s for sure is that you aren’t alone.
Everyone is facing heightened anxiety right now. We’re afraid of what could happen to our loved ones, especially those that are considered to be at an increased risk, and we are fearful of contracting the virus ourselves. Additionally, we don’t have access to our support systems in the way that we usually do. If we don’t live with them, we can’t even see our family members in person. While it’s crucial to adhere to social distancing, adjusting to it isn’t easy, and changes in the way that we receive support are particularly tough when illness-related fear is so abundant.
The last thing we need right now is increased financial stress. It’s enough to be continuously concerned with keeping ourselves and our families safe and healthy, but for many, anxiety related to finances is taking the forefront of this pandemic.
It’s enough to be continuously concerned with keeping ourselves and our families safe and healthy, but for many, anxiety related to finances is taking the forefront of this pandemic.
Uncertainty and COVID-19
This is a time of incredible uncertainty. You are unsure about your income, how long you’ll need to stay home, and how long businesses will be closed, including the company you work for or own personally. We are also grievously uncertain about if we’re going to get sick or not. The number of COVID-19 cases is growing daily, and it’s a time where we have to stay up-to-date on the news, but the news can also make us feel more anxious, which is less than ideal seeing as stress can impact our immune systems negatively. We now know that stimulus checks should be coming to a large number of people in the United States shortly, but many things are still unpredictable, and there’s a high level of fear encompassing the general public. However, there are things that you can do to be proactive and curb the sense of uncertainty you feel. Here are some of them:
Cut expenses where you can
It’s tempting to order food delivery or pick up from restaurants right now. There are even more food delivery service advertisements than usual, and for some, getting items from eateries that you typically frequent in person can provide a sense of normalcy that’s hard to resist. For those with disabilities, food delivery is a lifeline at times, so I don’t want to tell you not to order food at all. That said, it does get expensive, so avoid ordering out if possible. Use the stockpile in your pantry if you have one, and if you don’t have a full-on stockpile, use what you do have. Recreate the meals you’d usually order out; it’s a fun way to pass the time, and often, it’s way cheaper.
Similarly, be frugal when you shop, and be wildly mindful of where you shop. Compare prices at different stores and plan to go to the most fiscally reasonable retailer. Don’t buy more than you’ll use. Be realistic about what you’re going to need before your next shopping trip, and remember that it’s important not to buy an oversupply of any particular item. It’s one thing to be prepared, but it’s another to grab every single one of any given product off of the shelf. Be cognizant enough that you don’t overspend or prevent others from being able to purchase their necessities. Remind yourself that the supply chain is still moving and that the majority of grocery stores remain open. We are all feeling frazzled, but in the end, it will be okay.
Tip: When you are getting groceries, pick store-brand items to get the most out of your budget. In my experience, they are usually just as good if not better.
Make a budget
Creating a budget or reassessing your budget is vital when your finances have changed. Look at the amount of money that you have to spend on groceries per week and plan ahead of time accordingly. Before you go to the store, look in your fridge and cupboard and think about the meals that you’d like to make over the next few weeks. Write a list of the meals that you’d like to make in the upcoming future and what you’ll need for them so that you can gauge what you already have and what you need to buy. Do the same with toiletries and other necessary items. There are a lot of online resources for healthy, cheap meal options where you can gather inspiration.
If you rely on food stamps, you might be in a particularly tough situation right now. A lot of WIC approved items are sold out in supermarkets, leaving only the most expensive items on the shelf. Utilize free food markets and pantries in your area, and join online community boards where people are giving tips and resources to those in similar situations. Note that children who are recipients of meal assistance programs are eligible for free meal services in many areas. These services provide lunch and sometimes breakfast for no-contact pick-up, so look at what is available in your area for your kids if this is applicable for your family.
Tip: Look for coupons in cashback opportunities everywhere that you can. I use cashback apps and take surveys on a couple of websites to bring in a little bit of extra money per month. Your local grocery store likely has a coupon app where you can clip digital coupons without creating paper waste. It’s incredible how much you can save when you utilize both coupons and cashback offers. While coupons are great, make sure that you don’t buy something that you’ll never use just because it’s on sale; that’s a surefire way to spend money that you don’t need! Money spent is money spent, so unless you have extra cash and are going to donate it, don’t buy what you won’t use.
Find side jobs
Now is a great time to try something new or to return to a passion that you haven’t been able to tend to in your daily life. Maybe, you’ve always been an artist, but have had little time for your art in the past or haven’t had the confidence to sell it. The online freelance industry is booming right now. People need content and services that they can use from home, and they need someone to provide it. You can find anything from remote administrative work to creative work on websites like Upwork, Indeed, or even Creative Circle. Fiverr is another place that many are utilizing to sell their products or services. Scope out multiple job sites, and don’t get discouraged. There’s something out there for everyone. Since a lot of businesses are going fully online due to COVID-19, there are a ton of new remote jobs emerging, especially in the realm of virtual customer service and similar positions.
If you would like to learn new skills that you can use in the future for work opportunities, there are a lot of universities that are currently holding free online classes, some of which provide certificates upon completion. If you search for something that you’re interested in, such as copywriting, graphic design, or entrepreneurship, you’ll almost certainly find a low-cost or no-cost class option. As you acquire knowledge, you’ll be able to monetize that skill. Learning new things and being productive can help boost your mood and give you a sense of control, so if you have the downtime and resources, take advantage of the opportunity to do so.
Now is a great time to try something new or to return to a passion that you haven’t been able to tend to in your daily life.
Focus on what you can control
This is a period where, as tricky as it is, it’s vital that we focus on what we can control and release what we can’t. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t feel your feelings, and in fact, you must hold space for all of the emotions and thoughts that come in during hard times. The key is not to let negative or fear-dominant thoughts hold you hostage and stop you from doing what is in your power. Make that phone call, apply for that remote job, or sign up for that class. Consciously think of the things that you are grateful for, and take every day as it comes. Today, do you have food? Today, do you have a place to live? Today, can you call your loved ones? Those are all reasons to give thanks.
Ultimately, it’s integral to find your silver linings and to be as resourceful as you can. Be creative, and think about what you can do to get your needs met. Extend your hand to others when you’re able to, and if you are in a favorable financial place yourself, share what you have. Although it is a stressful, heartbreaking time with many unprecedented losses, this pandemic is teaching us the imperative nature of community and empathy. Believe in yourself, know that you are capable, and recognize that your perception is powerful in shaping your life and the way that you’ll make it through this experience. Share these resources with those you know and use them yourself to help yourself get through the financial uncertainties that come with COVID-19.