How to deal with COVID-19 money worries
Coronavirus has been a hard time financially for many of us in New Zealand and around the world. Lost jobs, cut hours, extra expenses from staying at home: it all adds up. While the community has rallied together to fight this virus, it can be tough to focus on your health and the health of those around you when your income has taken a hit and you’re worried about how you’ll make it to the next payday.
We’re taking a look at a few simple steps to 1) understand your new financial situation, 2) deal with the worst of the expenses and prioritise costs and 3) how to prevent something similar happening in the future.
GET YOUR BEARINGS
First, let’s figure out where your new finances are at after the impact of COVID-19.
Build/review your budget
Building or reviewing your budget is a simple way to give yourself peace of mind during a changing time. Doing this will make sure you don’t get any unexpected surprises.
We recommend you use Sorted.org.nz to make a short-term weekly or monthly budget. Here’s the link. Use your most recent costs as a basis for each section.
It might also be worth making a year-long budget. Here’s the link to our guide.
A quick special note for those families who have had to drop to a single income because of the coronavirus. We recommend you take a look at our dedicated guide to single-income budgets which has tips specific to this situation.
DEAL WITH SHORT-TERM COSTS
If you’ve had an increase in costs or a loss of income due to COVID-19, chances are that your budget shows that things are tighter than usual. Don’t panic! There are lots of things you can do to ease the pressure.
Prioritise needs and fixed costs
Go to your budget and make a note of which expenses are must-have and which are nice-to-have.
- Must-haves are the most important expenses you have, like rent, food and education. These are the costs that you must pay first.
- Nice-to-haves are optional expenses. They’re still important, but you could do without them for a few weeks. Normally this would include stuff like takeaways or going out to the movies, but right now it’s more likely to be online subscriptions such as Spotify or Netflix.
It’s important to do this because if you find that your expenses outpace your income, you’ll need to cut some costs. Nice-to-haves are the best place to make these cuts. Try finding cheaper alternatives or making do without, at least until things smooth out.
You could also spend less on ‘flexible’ costs, even if they are needs. Groceries, for example, are a need: everybody needs to eat! But how much you spend changes from week to week. Find these ‘flexible needs’ and see if you can reduce them.
Work with your lenders and landlord
Some lenders and landlords are providing relief to their customers/tenants during COVID-19. The major banks and some non-bank lenders (Avanti Finance included) are providing deferred or reduced payments on many of their loans, mortgages included.
For tenants, the decision for relief is up to individual landlords. However, remember that there is, at the time of writing, a rent freeze in place. So your rent should not be going up, and there are restrictions on evictions too.
If you’re worried you won’t be able to make your payments, get in touch and let your lender or landlord know as soon as possible.
Get some help
COVID-19 has hit everyone hard and there are lots of Government- and community-backed options to help provide relief. Here are some options:
- The wage subsidy. If you are self-employed, you can apply for the wage subsidy provided by the government. More information here.
- Food bank and community help. Charities and community groups are all working hard to provide what help they can. Try searching for your local food bank if you are struggling with necessities.
- Learning packs. The Government is providing learning packs for children working remotely, including useful materials like stationery.
AVOIDING PROBLEMS IN THE FUTURE
Life has a way of throwing the unexpected at you (like a global pandemic), so it’s always good to be prepared. Once your income returns to normal, consider building an emergency fund. Financial experts recommend that you have a minimum of $1000 saved for emergencies, but if possible they suggest saving 3-6 months’ salary and placing it in a special savings account that you can draw on if you need to.
This can also be used to cover unexpected issues like a car breakdown or a sudden medical issue.
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