April 16, 2020

Financial Resources for Uncertain Times with COVID-19

It seems overnight all of our lives have changed and continue to change. Everything seems uncertain, from our jobs to a simple grocery store visit. We are faced with new challenges each day; Which resources can I trust? How do I stay productive? How do I move forward? This post will help you with financial resources for uncertain times.

Over the past few weeks, Flourish Savings invited several personal finance gurus to chat on Instagram live and we asked them those pressing questions. While they all came from different walks of life the main messages were clear:

1.(Emergency) Budget. Take this time to assess all of your necessary expenses to create an estimate of the minimum amount you would need to get by. This is your emergency budget and can stretch your typical 3 months of savings to 4/5/6 months in times of real uncertainty. It’s good to start with your regular budget and remove the things that are not necessary.

Don’t have a budget? No better time than now to make one. Your monthly expenses will help you set your emergency savings goal for the future! Knowing how to start a budget can be hard but the best strategy is to break it down to categories that are most relevant in your life.

My partner who rarely goes out might create a category for “entertainment” to include all of the eating out, shopping and going out he does. For me, as a dedicated foodie, I would need a category for “eating out” that is completely separate from shopping or other entertainment.

Some resources for creating a quick rough budget are tools in your bank’s app and the app mintBanks such as Bank of America and Chase allow you to look at a month of spending broken down into categories. Mint is an app that allows you to track your spending across several accounts and is highly customizable to what your goals are. Like to go analog? Excel and Google sheets have several templates to create your own budget.

2.Keep Saving. If you are able to, keep contributing money to your savings account. Reduce your spending where you can and take this time to test the minimum amount of money you need to get by (aka your emergency budget). If possible try to leave your savings untouched.

A great resource to start saving small amounts is Flourish SavingsFlourish is a free app that allows you to easily and safely open a savings account. You can start saving with as little as $5 at a time and Flourish will reward you for reaching savings goals and consistently saving with Flourish coins. You can use these coins to join raffles for prizes or to play games! It is like your typical savings account but better.

3.Seek Help. You are not alone in your hustle and struggle! Reach out to creditors if you are having difficulty paying bills and keep open communication. Check-in with friends and family around you and look for alternative forms of income, potentially their job is hiring short term employees with an influx of demand.

If you are not sure how to move forward a great resource is pro bono financial advisors, which are financial counselors that offer their services free for low-income individuals. The Financial Planning Association has a list of active pro bono advisors in your area that you can check out here!

4.Stay positive. In these extremely uncertain times, it is easy to spiral into a “what if” moment. Several times in the last few days I have found myself reading articles for hours looking for answers and beginning to feel desperate for some sort of direction. At the end of the day when the direction is still unclear, I realize the answers are out of my control. What I can control is the way I react and keep pushing on in the current situation.

Our gurus suggest spending time with family and friends, creating a new hobby and taking screen breaks. A great platform like House Party allows you to play games with friends virtually. Netflix Party is a google chrome extension that makes it super easy to catch up on Tiger King with your friends.

If you are feeling really stressed check out these online resources from the CDC and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Don’t forget to take a moment each day to disconnect from the screens and reconnect with the physical space around you. We are all going to grow from this pressure and build resilience as we get through this new way of living.

Links to Resources:

  1. Budget: MintBank AppsExcel Templates, Google Sheets Templates
  2. Saving: Flourish
  3. Seek Help: FPA Pro Bono Advising and Online Jobs
  4. Mental Health: Cope with stress and anxiety with CDC and NAMI
  5. Stay Positive: House Party and Netflix Party