This is an unprecedented time of trying to manage our lives, take care of our loved ones, help neighbours and strangers, and somehow make ends meet with the income we have left. Concerns over the economic impact of COVID-19 are very real; no matter who you are or where you live, this is one crisis no one can escape.
Part of financially & mentally coping in this COVID-19 pandemic crisis is to ensure we’re looking after ourselves in other ways too. Our physical, psychological and emotional health will play a role in our financial health too. With that in mind, here are things you can do immediately to counteract that feeling of being out of control and help you navigate the ever-changing coronavirus crisis to make things easier for your family right now.
1. Cancel all unnecessary subscriptions
Anything you’re currently paying-for repeatedly and you’re not getting an enormous use out of, or something you could be sharing with someone else to reduce that subscription, you should cut right away. It’s an easy way to find a little bit of space in your budget and to make sure you’re not paying for things you don’t absolutely need or not using.
2. Prioritize your payments
If there isn’t enough money to go around, you may not be able to make all of your payments. So it’s important to prioritize which bills you’re going to pay first. Take care of your basic needs first—food, shelter, utilities, clothing, and transportation.
Develop a list of the order in which you need to cover your bills and basic expenses. Keep in mind you may need to let your credit card bills wait, or you may need to forgo the cable bill. Those things can wait until you have more financial security. This doesn’t mean you should just ignore your bills, however. Contact the companies, and explain your situation. They may be able to assist you while you are out of work.
If you’re someone who has always prided themselves on paying their bills on time, not being able to make payments may feel overwhelming and scary. But, remember that right now, the usual rules don’t apply so don’t beat yourself up for it. We’re in an emergency situation and that calls for things to be done differently.
Many banks, credit cards, and other financial institutions are offering assistance. They may forgo late fees or allow you to pay less. Contact your institution to talk about any relief programs you may be eligible for.
3. Contact your creditors.
Debt payments will be a crucial part of your emergency budget and, fortunately, Rwanda’s major banks have all said they will review requests for assistance on a case-by-case basis. Even Ugandan commercial banks, under Uganda Bankers Association, have said they’re open to loan payment restructuring. If you can contact your creditors before you start to get behind, or as quickly as possible once you realize you’ve gotten behind, they will be in a better position to be able to help you.
Mortgage payment deferrals, skipping payments, loan extensions, revised terms or even reduced interest rates are all things your lenders can consider. What they’re able to offer you will largely depend on what it is you need help with, your payment history, how soon you contact them, and your credit behaviour.
4. Avoid the temptation of cheap credit
While it’s true that some interest rates are once again near historic lows, avoid the temptation of borrowing during a time of huge transition. Instead of committing to payments, set that money you would have been using to make those payments aside in a saving account until you know how you’ve weathered this storm. There is every chance that interest rates will stay low until well after the coronavirus has passed to help the economy recover more quickly.
5. Search for alternative sources of income or Temporally work.
It’s not clear how long the pandemic will last or how long jobs will be affected. You may want to begin looking for alternative sources of income. Some companies are desperate to hire workers right now. Grocery stores, delivery companies, and online learning companies are scrambling to hire people to help them keep up with the demand.
You might also look for opportunities to join the “gig economy.” Whether you have graphic design skills, writing skills or you’ve got some editing skills, there are many ways to earn extra cash from home.
You might also look at things you can sell. With slower shipping and few stores open, people may be more willing to pay for items you have sitting around the house. If it’s something that is best to sell local, like furniture, turn to social media to list your items. If it’s something that might sell anywhere internationally, consider listing on eBay or a similar type of site.
6. Vent to a loved one.
We all have someone or at least I hope we all have someone in our lives who you can always talk to about all the things you’re afraid of and really be listened to. Sometimes we want people to provide us with pragmatic solutions while other times all we want is to be heard and told: “well that sucks”. It’s important to remind that often times when we work ourselves into a total anxiety spiral and panic it’s because we’re living in our own heads and only listening to your own internal monologue. Simply listening to someone else’s situation, hearing what they think about it, bouncing ideas off of them or realizing they might be in the same boat can bring you some sort of solace. But if a loved one is not enough for the kind of emotional support you may need to look into finding an affordable therapist in your area.
7. Stay Physically Active.
Research shows exercise is important to mental health. It can boost your happiness and help keep depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues at bay. If you can safely exercise outdoors, it may be especially good for your mental health. But if you can’t, then get some physical activity inside your home.
You can find plenty of workouts on social media. Right now, many fitness trainers are offering online classes that are meant to be done at home with little or no equipment.
8. Ask for help or Offer help
If you sense that you might need some immediate financial help beyond what might be offered to you structurally, make a list of people in your life who you would feel comfortable going to and asking for that help, whether it’s financial or in terms of a place to stay or maybe help with food even help for perhaps find another job. Try and find people you know you can reach out to or count on to be welcoming and nonjudgmental because at the very least if you know you’ve people you can turn to, you won’t feel very panic and alone if you find yourself in a tough situation. But most importantly if you’re someone who is in a position to help, you can help people financially or with food whatever it might be, if you’re in a more privileged position and could be of help to people in your life you sense might eventually need it, find a way of letting it be known that you’re a safe place to turn and are willing to help.
All these may not apply to your situation but at least some of them will help give you some sense of peace and direction. Again stay safe, stay home!