As of this writing, the United States Government is currently in a partial shutdown. A number of agencies are unfunded and therefore, employees have been furloughed or are working unpaid. Additionally, many government contractors are also in a non-work status because of the shutdown. (Personally, I am a federal employee at an agency with funding, so I’m still working and getting paid, though I’ve been told my paycheck may be delayed.)
Now, in an ideal world, we would all have 4-6 months of expenses squirreled away for emergencies, and this shutdown wouldn’t affect us. But not everyone is at that point in their financial journey, and that’s okay. I have read a number of accounts from people who are worried about how they are going to pay their bills without increasing their debt.
Talk to your Mortgage Provider
For many of us, our biggest regular expense is our mortgage payment. If you are at all concerned about paying your next mortgage payment, call your mortgage provider now. Ask if they have a forbearance program. Forbearance can reduce or suspend your mortgage payment temporarily due to a hardship situation – such as illness or job loss, and the government shutdown will likely apply.
Forbearance programs can work in various ways – sometimes you pay the missing payments in a lump sum at the end of the forbearance period, sometimes your monthly payments are increased to cover the difference, some banks have other options. And this can affect your credit score, though nowhere near as much as missing a payment.
Discuss with your Landlord
If you are currently renting, there isn’t a standard payment delay procedure like forbearance. In this situation, all you can do is speak with your landlord and see if there are any options. Most likely, your landlord would prefer to keep you in the rental unit and not have to deal with eviction procedures, but at the same time, the landlord also has bills to pay and may not be able to assist. Either way, in this situation, it doesn’t hurt to ask. You may want to try to negotiate partial rent (with the remainder to be paid later).
While there has been some advice to offer to do handyman-type work in exchanged for reduced rent, this advice probably helps very few people. If you are renting a house in need of work, your landlord might be amenable to this, but it may not hurt to ask. That said, don’t be surprised if your landlord says no. Also, note that this requires some skill. While I might be willing to attempt some maintenance work on my own home, I’m not sure my skill level would be good enough for anyone looking to pay for my services.
Cut Back Where You Can
This is an obvious tip, but do what you can to cut back on your expenses, even if it is only temporarily. Make a game of it. How many meals can you make without having to go to the grocery store. If you do go to the store, can you manage by just buying fresh items to add to what you already have at home? I know that in my budget, food always ends up being my biggest variable expense, and there is plenty of food in my house. So for me, an easy way to cut back would be to sit down and look in the pantry and freezer and figure out what meals I can make.
Take Advantage of the Time
If you’re currently not working, take advantage of the extra time. It’s a frustrating situation to be sure, but try to use this time wisely. Have you been putting off projects around the house, projects that perhaps you were considering hiring out? Maybe you’ve got that one room in your house that really needs to be cleaned out. And as you’re cleaning out, decide if you have any items that you can sell. Maybe you’ll find that you’ve got enough for a yard sale when the weather improves. Maybe you’ll just want to make a big donation of items to charity. While this may not help your financial situation much (or at all), the feeling of satisfaction can distract from the frustration of not being able to work.