Here are some tips to help you manage through the financial crisis Covid -19 has created.
The world has changed significantly in the past month with many Canadians struggling to make ends meet. Canadians were carrying large debt loads and with more unemployed, many are facing a grim reality financially. Government income initiatives will help to some extent but they are not likely to cover all your expenses. We have become accustomed to buying pretty much we want – it is time to rethink our habits.
Apply for any government assistance you may be qualified for. Help now is better than later but make sure you follow any guidelines and remember income will be taxable a year from now – although your tax rate may very well be lower by then. Get your tax return done ASAP to receive any refunds you qualify for from 2019.
Prioritize your NEEDS. Food first and transportation if you are one of our emergency workers; then your other necessary expenses such as medication, toiletries, and basic personal needs; next is shelter (rent, mortgage, utilities, etc.). Clothing can wait unless your child has a sudden growth spurt, then look for hand-me-downs.
We cannot survive without food so any money coming in should be directed first to meet your basic requirements – soups, stews and casseroles can go a long way and provide nourishment. Shop carefully for items you can stretch and have a shelf life that is reasonable until you next shopping trip in 1-2 weeks. Avoid over buying produce that will go bad before being eaten, replace it with frozen fruits and veggies if you have freezer space. Paper products and cleaners add to your cost unless you need it! Food banks are overwhelmed, but if you need help, them seek them out in your community. If you have extra, donate it.
Limit your travel to reduce costs. If you are working from home and you normally drive, ask your insurance company if they are offering a reduction in premiums while you work from home. Good news for those who need their car – gas prices are lowest in decades but don’t be tempted to drive more.
Medications and personal care items should be covered from any available income but remember only the necessities. This is not the time to be trying out the newest cosmetic products just because you are bored at home.
Housing is the big one – depending on your reduced income ask your landlord if your rent can reduced or deferred (if you have no money left), but remember that any leeway you are given will have to be paid at some point. If you have a mortgage, talk to your lender to see what options they have available to you. Remember however that any arrangements are likely to have long term costs of interest at minimum to be paid later so make sure you understand what you are committing to.
Debt is the last thing to get paid – however do not ignore your creditors. Contact each and everyone of them to explain your situation and document your agreement. If there is any extra money left over, pay your credit card with what you have as it is likely to be the largest interest. Try not to think about borrowing money at this time, unless you have a secured line of credit with a very low interest rate and a guaranteed job to return to. Wait until you are back to work with a paycheque in hand to see about options to repay your outstanding debt. Avoid pay day lenders as they charge in excess of 300% interest per year (in Ontario) a cycle that you might never escape from.
Get help if you are stressed and need to talk to someone about your personal situation. Contact any of the not for profit credit counselling agencies for a free consultation and assistance or go their websites to check out the tools they have to assist you with planning your finances. This beast of a virus does not discriminate between the haves and have nots. We are all in it together, so be kind and be safe!
Carol Fraser P.H.Ec.