By Shannon Moore
In a world centered around COVID-19, we have had to navigate new territory in many aspects of our lives. The events industry, in particular, has taken a massive hit. A sudden cut in event job opportunities has left brand ambassadors scrambling to make ends meet.
Brand ambassadors that rely on event work as their sole source of income have learned, even during the busy season, that opportunities can be hit or miss, and it’s important to plan and budget for the ups and downs. With that said, now is a good time to take a look at how to manage personal finances during uncertain times.
Evaluate and list your current and anticipated expenses to get a realistic idea of how much you spend each month.
Look at your monthly net income (income after taxes) and savings to understand how much money you have available.
Tally and subtract your total monthly expenses from your net income to get a grasp on where you stand financially. Understanding where and how you spend your money is the first step to adjusting your finances to fit with your current circumstances.
Your standard budget is what keeps you at your average, comfortable financial level. There are a variety of standard budgeting formats that you can explore online, and one of the most popular (and easy) budgeting methods is the 50/30/20 rule:
An emergency budget cuts out all unnecessary expenses to financially survive a state of emergency. To create an emergency budget, you can strip your standard budget of all non-essential spending (such as takeout meals, entertainment, etc.).
*For a modified emergency budget, you will cover your essentials first, eliminate some of your wants, and if any income remains, it should go to savings.
Make a list of all of the things that you spend money on – your essentials and other expenses. Next to each item, label it as a “want” or a “need.” Of course, focus on your essentials first, and then prioritize your other expenses. If necessary, you may have to adjust your spending habits and cut some expenses such as subscription plans, movie rentals, online shopping, takeout meals, etc.
Evaluate your debt and adjust your payments accordingly. While it is always a good idea to pay more than the minimum amount due, you may need to reconsider that if you are facing financial challenges and make minimum payments for the time being.
Additionally, you may be able to apply for payment deferments on some debts such as a mortgage, car loan, or student loan. Deferments temporarily suspend your payment for a pre-determined amount of time through an agreement you make with the lender. Although you are not obligated to pay during your deferment, you may continue to accrue interest on your balance. If you go that route, be sure to read through all terms and conditions so there are no surprises.
Small tweaks in your grocery spending can save a lot of money. Some quick research online will reveal tons of creative tips on how to cut back on your grocery spending without feeling deprived.
Reassess and adjust your financial goals around your current income and move forward from there. Whether it’s paying off a debt or saving for a home, you may have to temporarily adjust your goals to align with your current financial situation.
Diversify and supplement your income by exploring side gigs that interest you.
Whether we like it or not, COVID has limited us in how we spend our free time. Embracing a simple lifestyle will aid in cutting costs and relieve the fears of going over your budget. Consider the following free or low-cost activities that will most likely bring you just as much joy (or close to it) as paid entertainment:
If you’re looking to cut or limit your online shopping expenses, avoid social media. In doing so, you will avoid those impulse purchases – you know the ones, those little items that are just too cute or too funny to pass up. Besides, too much time on social media can negatively affect our mental health, increase anxiety, give us FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and take a toll on our self-esteem.
Fear, shame, and anger are common emotions that surround money. Although it’s normal to have anxiety about money, avoid getting stuck there. Journaling about your relationship with money, reading books on personal finance, and/or exploring financial therapy can help you face your issues head-on.
The psychological impact of a pandemic and underemployment is real, so it’s imperative that you take good care of yourself in order to stay as healthy as possible. Rest when you need it, eat well, hydrate, connect with others (safely), and practice self-care.
Dealing with personal finances during a crisis is unavoidable, but having a realistic picture of your current financial situation can help you clarify and plan for your future. The most important thing to realize is that you are not alone. Most people are dealing with some type of financial upheaval due to COVID-19, and banks and lenders understand that. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance and/or to take advantage of the resources that are available to you.