Right now, 8.7 million Americans are unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many of those people are relying on unemployment insurance to get by, and for some, those benefits will soon be expiring.
Prepare now for tighter times ahead by cutting any expenses you can.
“Take a hard look at where you’re spending and consider ways to reduce costs,” said Nicole Watson, SVP and territory delivery director at UMB Bank. “For example, if you’ve turned to food delivery or grocery delivery during the pandemic, you may have noticed an uptick in items you wouldn’t normally purchase. Impulse buying snacks can be just as easy with a click as it is with tossing items into a cart. Aim to cook more at home or stick to your must-have grocery needs.”
“And, if you have multiple subscriptions to streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, pick your favorite and cancel the others,” she continued. “Each of these expense reductions may seem small at first but they add up, especially over time.”
Contact Your Creditors
If you have outstanding debt and fear that you won’t be able to pay it without your unemployment income, don’t panic just yet.
“Times are tough, and those you owe bills to may be more understanding than you realize,” Watson said. “If you don’t think you’ll be able to make your minimum credit card payment, contact that creditor, explain your situation, and find out if you can get a lower interest rate, minimum payment or payment deferral. Similarly, if you don’t think you’ll be able to pay your mortgage or your rent, get in touch with your landlord or mortgage provider and ask for leniency. You may be surprised how willing people will be to work with you.”
Look Into Part-Time or Temporary Jobs
“As you continue to seek long-term work, you could pick up some side jobs in the meantime,” Watson said. “You could work as an independent contractor for companies such as Uber, Lyft, InstaCart, GrubHub, Postmates, Wag or Rover. These side jobs don’t necessarily have to become your permanent source of income but could help bridge the gap while you find your next full-time position.”
Just make sure you are aware of how these gigs will affect your taxes.
“Check with your tax professional on the paperwork and tax needs for getting started with work like this,” Watson said.
Seek Support From Other Government Agencies
“Even when federal and state unemployment benefits expire, there are other government programs that can help you stay on your feet during turbulent times,” Watson said.
Some of these include:
- Home Affordable Modification Program: “If you’re a qualified unemployed homeowner, this program can help reduce mortgage payments.”
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: “Each state has a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which can help with food stamps, financial support, and job training and searching.”
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: “This federal food stamp program can help you purchase food and other qualified items.”
- Medicaid: “If you’re unemployed or under-employed, Medicaid can help provide medical benefits and services.”
- WIC: “If you’re an unemployed or low-income woman, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) can help provide food and nutritional support if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, postpartum or have children under age five.”
Seek Support From Nonprofits
If you don’t qualify for federal aid or will still need additional support, seek out nonprofits in your area that may be able to help.
“Nonprofits can be another resource to turn to for help keeping your kitchen stocked, preparing for job interviews, babysitting assistance and other needs,” Watson said. “If you’re not sure where to start, the 2-1-1 Call Center can help you identify resources in your area.”
Tap Into Your Emergency Savings
“You have your savings for a reason,” said Jeremy Quittner, resident money expert and editorial director at Stash. “This may be the time to tap into your emergency fund, especially if you don’t have that extra unemployment money coming in. It can be scary to rely on your savings, but remember that you save to help you get by when something unexpected — like a pandemic — happens. That said, try not to pull from your retirement savings since you can incur penalties for withdrawing from those accounts before you’re legally allowed to do so.”
Take On Debt (Smartly) If You Need To
If you’ve exhausted all other options, it’s OK to take on some debt to help make ends meet.
“No one wants to take on more debt than they normally would, but there are some ways that you may be able to do so in a financially wise way,” Quittner said. “If you need to temporarily keep a balance on your card, you’ll want to get a card with a low APR. You can even find credit cards with APRs as low as 0%. As with all credit cards, read the fine print and ask about any hidden fees before you sign up.”
You should also make a plan now to pay off your debt when your financial situation improves.
“For example, include debt repayment in your budget and prioritize paying off that extra debt as soon as possible,” Quittner said. “If you feel overwhelmed by your debt, consider using the avalanche method or the snowball method to attack it.”