It definitely seems like the world has gone crazy in the last few weeks. Each day the news has new information about the deepening disaster we find ourselves in. From the spread of coronavirus to the drops in the stock market, there is enough out there to crank up anxiety for each of us. I understand that people have very real concerns and anxieties about how they will pay their bills and meet their financial obligations. When I find myself anxious, I like to identify what I can change and what I can’t. So, here are my top five things you can change right now that can impact your finances, and five things that you cannot.
5 Things You Can Change Right Now:
- Your Student Loan Payment: While your student loan payment is set based on the amount you owe, your interest, and the repayment plan that you are on, there are things you can do to lower the payment in the short-term. The government has stated that interest on student loans will be waived for federally held student loans. This is good for all student loans that are owned by the U.S. Department of Education. While this won’t lower your monthly payments, it means that all of your payment during this crisis will go to the principal.
There are also options if you need to lower your monthly payment. The Federal Government also is allowing individuals with federal loans to postpone payments for 60 days (as of now, this amount of time might be increased depending on how the crisis unfolds). To take advantage of this benefit, you will need to request for your loans to be placed on administrative forbearance. This forbearance will last for as long as this executive order is extended. It is important to note that if your payments on your loans are on automatic payment after your administrative forbearance ends you will have to reinitiate this payment structure; it will not start up automatically. For more information click here.
- Your Impulse Buys: I know with the virus, so many people are now working from home. People are also stressed, anxious, and even bored. This change in circumstances along with the emotional toll that staying home can take can cause us all to do some weird stuff. So, one thing that you can control during this time is your shopping. If you find yourself browsing the internet and spending money on things you don’t need (or in some cases really even want), you may want to find another way to spend your time. Instead of shopping online, go for a walk (practicing social distancing of course), read a book (lots of libraries have free digital downloads with your library card), play a board game, do a puzzle, practice yoga, or just find another way to distract yourself. Often, we spend money most, especially on things we don’t want or need, when our emotions are high. So, watch your emotions and be mindful of your spending.
- The Media You Consume: One of the best things about the day and age we live in is that we can have information on demand. This can also be a negative, especially in times like these. When you are worried, scared, or stressed consuming lots of media can reinforce these feelings. If you notice your emotions being triggered by what you are seeing on the news or social media, take a break. The anxiety this causes can cause you to spend money (see #2), it can also cause you to feel hopeless or depressed. It can also cause you to panic and go buy things that you don’t need because others are worried stores may run out. So, set time limits for yourself for looking at the media. Instead of mindless scrolling your phone, pick up a book or call a friend. It is good to stay informed in times such as these, but it is also important to know your limits.
- The Organization of Your Pantry: I can’t be the only one out there who couldn’t name half the things that are in my pantry. When you are stuck inside and can’t find anything to do, clean and organize your pantry. This will give you a chance to see exactly what you have. It might even give you some good ideas for meals that you can make with the things you have on hand. This will keep you from going to the store but will also keep you from spending money. It’s good to clean your pantry out every once in a while, to be sure food isn’t expired, so why not now!
- The Emails You Receive: Periodically, I wonder in frustration how I got on so many mailing lists. I think now is a perfect time to unsubscribe from email lists that no longer interest you or that are trying to sell you things. Again, emotions are high, and those emails that come to your inbox might tempt you into spending money you don’t have. So, take thirty minutes here and there to unsubscribe from all the email notices you receive. Your inbox will be cleaner, and your wallet will thank you for having less temptation.
5 Things You Can’t Change Right Now:
- The Stock Market: Trust me, I 100% understand how scary the current stock market is for investors. And your fears are real and valid. But worrying about the stock market isn’t going to help your finances. People will tell you to sell and get out, others will tell you to buy the stock while it’s “on-sale”. And to be honest, neither set of advice is really wrong, it just depends on if your investments are short-term or long-term. But no matter what, you cannot change what happens in the market. If it confuses or scares you, reach out, if it stresses you out, just stop following it for a while. Eventually, it will sort itself out.
- How Others Respond: Raise your hand if you have seen people acting in ways or saying things through this crisis that are inconsistent with what we are being asked to do or the spirit of human kindness. I’m sure that we all have. But for every person going out there is one practicing social distancing. I think this is a good example of the fac that we are all responsible for our own actions and choices. Do your best to not let other people’s responses add to your stress. And do not let their panic force you to spend money you may not have on goods that you already have plenty of.
- Schedule Changes: This one is HUGE! Schools are being cancelled and moved online, universities are shutting down, businesses are going remote, and scheduled surgeries, appointments, and visits are being cancelled. I’m going to be honest, as a Type A person who LOVES her planner, this one has been tough for me. I have realized that in going out less to run the odd errand I have spent less money, which is good. I think this is a good time to develop our flexibility muscles and remember to take each day as it comes. And it’s ok if you get mad or frustrated as things change, just do your best to keep it in perspective and reset your thinking when needed.
- What the Stores Have in Stock: I’m hearing from friends and clients in different parts of the country and one thing is clear, stores are running out of and running low on lots of products. I am a preparer, so this instantly causes me to stress. I’m also someone who will run to the store for one or two things more often then I care to admit. So, from this I am learning to make my list and only go when I need to. I’m also working on learning substitutions, cooking from my pantry, and being grateful for what I have. We cannot control what the store has in stock. What we can work towards is buying what we need and sharing what we have. Repurpose things in your home, find alternative ways to solve problems, and stay calm in the face of panic.
- How Long This Will Last: I wish that there was a definitive time frame on this, but it really doesn’t seem like there is. No one seems to know how long this will last, this is an unprecedented event on a global scale. And I think this can make it even more overwhelming and scary. But, at the end of the day, we have no control over how long this lasts. So, do your best to take it one day (or one hour if needed) at a time. And if you are scared, worried, or need to talk find someone to reach out to!
This is big and scary and there are aspects of it that we cannot change. So, take control of the things that you can change, practice kindness, and extend grace to yourself and others. We are learning as we go, but we can and will get through this together! What are the things that you are focusing on during this time? How are you finding ways to save money here and there? I’d love to hear from you!Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands!