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Managing Your Money: Pandemic Personal Finance Tips

Has 2020 hit you hard in the wallet? These smart ideas will make managing financial ups and downs a little easier:

Business shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have upended lives throughout the United States. Millions of people are unemployed, and millions more find themselves making a fraction of the money they once did.

If you're struggling to maintain your financial health as you protect your physical health, keep these tips in mind:

Revisit Your Budget

Most households have a monthly budget, but any significant change in your financial situation demands that the budget adapt as well.

Examine your records to determine how much you intend to spend on rent, utilities, food, transportation, and basic needs, and how much you are actually spending on these items. Often, our actual spending outweighs our intended spending - offering an easy way to reduce how much money goes out without having to recreate your entire budget.

Renegotiate Costs

Many costs in a household budget can feel as if they're fixed - but due to the pandemic, many institutions and companies are open to discussing a new payment plan or more flexible options for making payments.

If you have rent or mortgage payments, student loan payments, car payments or similar debts, consider seeking help by contacting your loan servicer for a renegotiated payment plan. Many companies are willing to work with payees who speak up proactively about the need for more lenient terms.

Reach Out for Financial Help

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, made available up to $1,200 in stimulus payments for adult individuals, plus additional money for each dependent child in a family. Some families spent their stimulus money on essentials right away, while others were able to save the money for later needs.

In addition, expanded unemployment options throughout the country made it easier for freelancers, gig workers, and others to seek unemployment assistance during the pandemic. Unemployment benefits can be backdated, which means it's not too late to file if you find that you may have qualified all along.

Finally, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) offers interest-free loans that may be forgiven entirely if spent on the expenses of keeping a small business open. These funds are also available to people who have their own home businesses, so consider learning more about the program if you do freelance work or have a home business on the side to help make ends meet.

Explore Free Entertainment Options

The COVID-19 pandemic led to an explosion of art, movies, music, exercise classes, and streaming events given away for free - not only by individual creators online, but also by many local businesses and even some national or international names. Currently, there's enough free content available to keep humans entertained through several pandemics.

The proliferation of options means there has never been a better time to seek out free entertainment as a way to lower your overall spending. You can stay fit, learn new skills, or simply enjoy a good movie or a family sing-along, all without spending any extra money.

Give the Gift of Time

A tighter budget is likely to shrink many families' ability to give gifts, both for birthdays and during the winter holiday season. Often, the most thoughtful gifts are those that require little or no money.

For instance, gift your time in the form of offers to help with gardening, spring cleaning, babysitting or pet-sitting, or teaching a loved one a new skill. Homemade foods and crafts help you stay both entertained and productive during the pandemic and offer a way to give meaningful gifts at a fraction of the cost of a retail shopping spree.

Job Seeking in a Tough Economy

Finding work is tough right now. Fortunately, staffing firms are open and ready to help.

Your recruiter can help you connect to temporary or long-term positions that can help you supplement your income or make a career change that leads to a larger paycheck.

Recruiters understand that when money is tight, you need a way to put your best foot forward that doesn't break the bank - and they know how to help you stand out in the hiring process without needing extra cash.