How to Handle Your Finances in Times of Crisis
Okay. So things have changed. Your budget has shifted. Your income is different (or non-existent). Your bills are a lurking stress. Your circumstance may feel unsure or scary. I have been feeling these feelings too. When I looked at my budget a couple weeks ago, I had to take a deep breath. I gathered my thoughts and took some key steps to handle my money. If you’re in the same boat and you’re not sure where to start, I have laid out the steps I have taken to handle my finances through the COVID-19 crisis. Or maybe you don’t have a budget and you’re looking for some ideas, these steps will work for you too!
Disclaimer... As I have mentioned in past blog posts, I am not a financial expert, please consult your financial advisor (or check out the resources at the end of this post) for professional financial advice. These are just the steps I have been taking that may prove helpful or inspire you to take action in your own finances.
Assess Your Situation
This is both the easiest and hardest step. I made two lists. I wrote down every bill I have to pay each month (including grocery estimates, phone bill, rent, etc.) and the saving I do each month (TFSA etc.). Then I wrote down the money that I have coming in (this number has changed quite a lot with COVID-19). Seeing these two lists was tough, but it was also powerful to know how much I need to make to pay my bills.
Know Your Priorities
After I had these two lists, I separated my bills into PRIORITY bills (like rent and groceries) and my OPTIONAL bills (like savings and subscriptions). These lists will look different for everyone because we all have different priorities and needs.
Research Your Options
Researching your options might feel overwhelming, but so many resources are probably at your fingertips. My credit card company emailed me with their changes and credit payment freezing options that are happening during COVID-19. Check your email to see if there is any information from your bank or credit company on how to cancel or reduce certain payments. The Canadian Government website also has resources for people with reduced or no income — take a look through their website for resources.
Create a Plan
Okay so now I have a list of my priority bills, a list of my optional bills, a list of my current income, and a list of resources to reduce payments/get some Government assistance. From here, I make an ACTION list. This list has the steps I can take to move forward (like call my credit card company to discuss payment options, apply for Government assistance, or cancel subscriptions). Having a list of action items made me feel in control of my own circumstances, and having some control gave me a sense of calm.
Don’t Look at Your Investments
Really. Don’t. It will add stress to an already stressful time. Plus, if you are using investments as long-term savings, selling all of your stocks won’t help you in the long run. Call a professional if you are feeling worried. But just know that time is the most reliable way to overcome a dip in investments.
Learn Some Lessons
And sometimes, we just have to accept that this is a tough lesson learned. Don’t have emergency savings because you always said, “I’ll get to it one day”? Lesson learned. No idea about your finances because you always said, “I don’t have time”? Lesson learned. I JUST had a situation like this happen to me. I didn’t keep track of my business expenses the way I should have and this year’s taxes were NOT very fun to do for that very reason. Lesson learned! We are all human. We all make mistakes. But they aren’t failures, they are just lessons to be learned and ultimately they will make us better.
- Talk to your financial advisor at your bank or credit union (this is a free resource that can be reached by phone!)
- Apple a Day Financial has an AMAZING list of resources (and she is a financial professional!)