COVID-19 has had a major impact on consumers worldwide. In the U.S., unemployment has risen sharply as Americans have been laid off or had their hours cut due to the virus. Not only are they worried about getting sick, they are also worried about how to handle their finances during COVID-19. Here are some credit counseling tips on how to manage your finances during this time of crisis:
The first step to handling your finances during COVID-19 is prioritizing your expenses. If you don’t have a steady income, you may not be able to afford everything you could afford before. You will have to make some significant adjustments to your budget. Prioritize the basic necessities like food, medicine, and housing. Cut down on entertainment expenses and takeout. Given that places like movie theaters, restaurants, and bars are now closed in most states, this should be relatively easy to cut.
Contact Lenders & Creditors
Making payments on your credit cards may not be in your budget right now. Contact your creditors to see if they can help you with a payment plan or deferment. Creditors are aware that COVID-19 has wreaked financial havoc on millions of consumers, so chances are, they should be able to work with you on this. Keep in mind that because so many people are affected that wait times on the phone may be longer than usual.
Use Your Stimulus Check Wisely
If you qualify for the $1200 stimulus check, be smart about how you use it. For those who are struggling to afford the basic necessities, use this check for rent, groceries, or medical expenses. This can help you stay afloat without relying too heavily on credit cards to survive, which could create a cycle of debt later. The check may not seem like a lot of money when you have bills piling up, but it should help.
Be Extra Careful of Scams
Scammers and identity thieves take advantage of vulnerable people. If anyone calls or emails you with offers that sound too good to be true, they probably are. Never give out your Social Security number or credit card information over the phone unless you know for sure you are speaking to your bank or other financial institution. Also, check your credit report regularly for any suspicious activity. You are entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the three major credit bureaus. You can pull your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Know What Help Is Available
Don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it. There are several nonprofits and government resources that are offering help. Here are a few general resources:
Economic Stimulus Payment Information
Health Care Coverage Information
Small Business Guidance and Loan Resources
Mortgage Help for Homeowners Impacted
Social Security Administration
Student Loan Forbearance Information
U.S. Department of Labor Unemployment Benefits
Emergency Financial First Aid Kit
Disasters and Emergency Readiness
If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Sign up for a free credit counseling session today!