Have you heard about the coronavirus? If you’re reading this at the time I hit “Publish,” I would venture to say you have. You’re likely working from home, tucked in your toilet paper fort, incessantly washing your hands.
If you’re reading this in a few years, hopefully the global pandemic is a chapter in the history books, and we’re all still here.
Either way, the lessons that we’re learning as the threat of the coronavirus has shut down schools, businesses, and sporting events, emptied the shelves of food and water, and oddly, toilet paper, and put a premium on hand soap and hand sanitizer are ones that we can take with us as we move forward.
Many people have had to stay home from work either to self-quarantine, to take care of a sick family member, or because their place of employment has been closed for the time being. The government is working on passing a bill that makes provisions for people who have to stay home from work to either self-quarantine because of the virus or take care of a family member that has become ill among other provisions to help ease the financial stress that this event is causing across the country.
But wouldn’t it be nice to feel financially secure independent of government bills and legislation that may or may not come in a crisis?
Don’t get me wrong. An event like the coronavirus doesn’t happen often, so having government support for those out of work is going to be necessary. Just as relief is sent to areas hit by tornadoes or hurricanes. But this should be a wake up call that setting yourself up to be financially ready for something like this isn’t something that would just be nice. It’s necessary.
I cannot imagine the stress this is causing for people out of work without money in the bank. And if you’re one of those people, use this as a time to get mad and motivated.
Get through this first.
But then take that motivation and set yourself up so that a future crisis can be dealt with without the added financial strain. There is enough stress in a crisis that topping it off with financial stress can almost be too much.
Think about how much less stress there would be if you had no debt-which translates to fewer bills. If you had 3-6 months of expenses sitting in an emergency fund, so you could be out of work for 3-6 months without worrying about how to pay the bills you do have. If you had extra savings ready to go to buy food to make sure your family doesn’t go hungry.
I’m sure the government will do what they can, but relying on outside sources to take care of your family during a time of crisis is a gamble. What if they don’t pass the bill? What if the money doesn’t come when you need it? What if, for some reason or other, you don’t qualify even though you need it?
This isn’t meant to scare you, but it’s reality.
We’ve set ourselves up for an emergency and have money saved and food in the freezer (multiple freezers, actually. We live in the country.) But last night, after writing the majority of this post, my husband was informed that his hours are going to be cut. Even though we’re prepared, my stomach still dropped and my mind started racing trying to make sure we make the best decisions moving forward. This is all scary, but being prepared means that we don’t have to panic.
Pay off debt. Save an emergency fund. Be ready the next time something like this happens. This is easier said than done. Getting to a financially secure place is hard, especially if your income isn’t high. But it’s possible. And it’s one of the best decisions you can make for you and your family.
Here are some practical tips for things you can do right now to start setting yourself up for the next crisis (which will hopefully be faaaaaar off into the future):
- Take stock of your actual expenses. Chances are, if you’re not working or worried that you won’t be working for much longer, you’re going to be slashing expenses. This is a good time to figure out how much you really need in order to survive. What’s the bare minimum you need to make per month to get through?
- Use that number for your budget. The first step to getting finances under control is setting a budget. Once you’ve decided how much you need to live on, you can start thinking about how to budget your money moving forward.
- Set up sinking funds. You probably won’t be able to contribute to them at the moment. I know we’re pushing pause on all non essential spending. But since we’re all pretty much confined to our homes, now is a great time to set up a plan for when the money starts coming in again. Simply put, a sinking fund is a short-term savings account that is intended for a specific upcoming expense. For instance, I have a garden sinking fund that I’ve been contributing to, and today I pulled money from it to buy our seeds. Sinking fund categories are completely up to you and your situation, so now might be a good time to map them out.