According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 3,283,000 people filed for unemployment benefits the week of March 21. This year has been a chaotic and devastating rollercoaster, as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on people’s health, financial stability and daily lives. This global pandemic is something a lot of us couldn’t have predicted, and the uncertainty of the situation can be scary and overwhelming. COVID-19 is already reshaping America’s economy, as movie theaters, restaurants and all other jobs deemed non-essential are shutting down to enforce social distancing. If you’re currently lacking financial mindfulness and security, you’re not alone. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 3,283,000 people filed for unemployment benefits the week of March 21. While in the past, the media often mocked doomsday preppers, portraying them as frazzled caricatures, but in reality, perhaps, they were making a good point – it is beneficial to prepare for the unforeseeable future.
We’ve all heard the tales of money hoarding during the midst of the 1920s Great Depression, and while it may seem that toilet paper has replaced cash in our situation, saving money is detrimental for both surviving this pandemic and preparing for another event like this. Having an emergency fund is critical when facing an unexpected life event such as COVID-19. An emergency fund is stowed away money that is saved separately from your other savings, so that you’re not drawn to using it for everyday expenses. Saving three to six months of expenses has been frequently advised as the go-to amount for an emergency fund. If you don’t have an emergency fund, now is the perfect time to start one, as most of our nonessential purchases, such as going to the mall, movies or restaurants, have been cut out of the picture. Calculate your monthly income and essential expenses, creating a goal that’s realistic to your lifestyle. Remember to keep your emergency fund separate from your other bank accounts so that you aren’t tempted to use it on an unneeded expense. Online savings accounts, such as CIT Bank, Capital One, Discover and Citizens Bank, to name a few, are popular choices for keeping emergency funds.
While we might be spending time at home all day, it’s still important to watch over our expenses. Limit the amount of online shopping that you do, the movies that you rent or the food delivered. Though it’s incredibly important to support local restaurants, have financial mindfulness of your personal budget. A great way to limit the amount of times you go to the grocery store, would be to make a meal plan and meal prep for the upcoming week. Write out what meals you intend to make, and create a grocery list so that you can quickly grab what you need.
Of course, you’re going to need to be a bit flexible, as there is a large chance the store won’t have some of the ingredients you need. Also, make sure to prepare foods that can be consumed for a while, such as canned goods and freezable items.
You are not alone!
Our world has changed drastically in such a short period of time, and many of us are learning to adjust to this massive change in our lifestyle. These times can be incredibly difficult for many who have lost a job and are struggling to make ends meet. Many popular credit card companies have services for customers impacted by the pandemic, such as temporarily lowering monthly payments, refundable late fees and the ability to defer payments. It’s important to talk with your credit card company and see what services they offer, as everyone’s financial state is different. While this time has been incredibly difficult, it also shined a light on the greatness of humanity, as we’ve stood in solidarity to offer kindness and support of the vulnerable during this time, whether that’s by practicing social distancing, offering financial support to those less fortunate or producing masks and other medical equipment. If you’re struggling during this time, take a breath and remember that you’re not alone. Remember to stay future-oriented and know that this isn’t forever. Eventually, life will return to normal. However, it’s important to do our part to keep the world safe.
ILLUSTRATION BY GRACE DOWNEY