Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans are now unsure if they can meet their essential needs for the coming months. This crisis has brought about sweeping changes in our day-to-day lives, not to mention our economy. Hundreds of businesses have shut down, and thousands of Americans are left feeling anxious, not just for their physical health but also for their wallets.
Admittedly, there is no perfect way to minimize the anxiety we feel because of this pandemic. But there are actionable steps that we can take to adapt our finances to the ravages of this unmerciful global crisis.
It is healthy to acknowledge your anxiety, guilt, and shame. However, it will get you nowhere if that’s all you think about.
You may have been struggling with your finances even before the pandemic, or maybe the loss of economy has only just made you realize that you should have been better prepared for an eventuality such as this. Regardless, the time has passed for feeling guilty about the things you have no control of. Now is the time to act.
If you cannot cover for even the most basic needs, don’t let your shame and guilt prevent you from looking for help. If you’re still employed, don’t hesitate to ask your employers about their plans for their workers‘ financial alleviation. More than that, many financial institutions are working to give their customers forbearance programs. You may even qualify for more aid beyond what you already have. The important thing to do is to start doing something.
If you’re not prepared, acknowledge that you’ve made a mistake, move on, and do your best not to repeat it. You need to give your mind some space to process, which you would not be able to do if your head is filled with negative thoughts.
We have to admit, a lot of the aspects of this pandemic are completely out of our control. Don’t let this uncertainty paralyze you into inaction. Instead, take measurable steps on what you have power over.
In short, the key to coping with financial stress is taking control of your finances.
You can begin by naming the factors that you do have control over and adjust your expectations appropriately. For example, the mandatory lockdowns have eliminated the need for constant travel, which means that you most likely wouldn’t be driving anywhere if you have a car. You can let your insurance companies know and explore options to reduce fees. Or you can even begin by cutting down on food delivery and start eating homecooked meals—simple steps, but ones that can potentially set aside hundreds every month.
Once you’ve determined how much of your current income is going into essentials and bills, consider building an emergency fund if you can. It’s never too late to do so, and this current crisis makes having an emergency fund more important than ever.
Taking a small step forward is still moving forward. Don’t obsess about perfecting your budget in these times – but be mindful of your budget.
Mapping out goals and properly allocating your resources to cover the essentials can do wonders not just for your financial health but also for your psychological well-being. This helps you avoid being overwhelmed by everything that’s been happening and gives you concrete steps to focus on for the rest of the year.
To make things easier, try budgeting apps. They help you plan and track your expenses. Some are even more powerful, helping you analyze your spending patterns and income flow and then determine disposable income levels without putting your entire financials into disarray. Some of them are even completely free of charge.
Because there’s still no end in sight to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, you can’t be overwhelmed by your fears. Nobody wants to feel this way, and everyone wants their finances to get better immediately. However, don’t let this deadly combination of fears and desires develop into unrealistic expectations that can encourage financially-unhealthy practices.
Instead, please take a few minutes every day to do an emotional check to catch your fears before they escalate. It’s important to develop a perspective of doing the small things you can today and hope that they will significantly affect a few years into the future.
Be patient with yourself and learn to be pragmatic – your emotional well-being is a huge factor in your finances.
Your financial health is inherently tied to your mental health. With scares about the future of the economy, your career, and your financial situation, there are indeed a lot of reasons to be discouraged in this pandemic.
However, don’t let it overwhelm you. Adapt and strive to overcome. Being overwhelmed with negative feelings will only propel your already uncertain finances further into the dark. Instead, take control of your emotions and finances alike by not dwelling on guilt and shame, focusing on things you can control, taking small steps forward, and keeping a positive view of the future.