Right now, my state is one that isn’t in a formal shelter-in-place situation, but we’re definitely close, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in a week, we are forced to stay home. I’ve actually been home for two weeks – last week, my office recommended we all work from home, and the week before, I was fighting off a cold and opted to stay home to not freak people out with my coughing. Let me tell you, getting a cold when there’s a scary respiratory virus going on is terrible timing.
It’s definitely a scary time for everyone. But what should you be doing?
If You Can’t Work
If you aren’t able to work and aren’t getting paid, definitely take note of the services available to you. A number of loan companies and utility companies are willing to work with people who will be missing payments. It’s never an ideal situation, but do what you can with what you can and stay safe. This is a tough situation, but there are a lot of support systems being set up for people in your situation, so look out for them.
If You’re Working From Home
Being forced to work from home is tough – you’re happy that you still have a job and still have a paycheck coming in, but you’re also dealing with working in a less-than-ideal situation. You may be trying to work while also trying to home school your kids. You might be working from home along with your partner and stumbling all over each other.
The best thing you can do is setup a schedule.
And I personally recommend ignoring all the people who say “Dress as if you were going into the office.” This is an awful time. If you’re happier working in sweats, work in sweats. Besides, it’s less wear and tear on your work clothes. At least that’s my theory.
Avoid the Desire to Hoard
As things were beginning to ramp up, I definitely struggled with the desire to go to the store and stock up. Even though I had a full pantry and freezer and plenty of toilet paper (only because I had bought a bunch on sale earlier in the year), I kept thinking I should go and get more… something. I wasn’t sure what I needed it, but seeing all the lines at the store made me think I should be doing the same.
It’s still hard to find certain things in the stores. Weird things, like toilet paper, but also normal things, like ground beef. This isn’t a supply issue – the stores are getting restocked every night. People are just hoarding things out of fear.
Rather than hoard things, when you get a chance to go to the store, shop reasonably. One of the things I’m doing is cooking with what I have in the house. I have plenty of things in the freezer and it’s good to start using up some of those things. I’ve also been doing some very random baking, using up some baking supplies. Obviously, I’m not going to let my stock dwindle to nothing, but I might as well use up a few things.
Don’t Change Your Retirement Accounts
Right now, the markets are tanking. It’s tempting to sell off before things get even worse. But don’t. Things will come back. It might take time, but you need to stick with it. This kind of investment is for the long haul. In fact, if you’re still getting paid, keep those contributions going into your account. As one of my coworkers put it, he is buying 1/3 more shares with the same amount as compared to two months ago. And those shares will return. The economy will bounce back.
Support Small Businesses
If you are able, try to support small businesses in your area. In my area, even though restaurants are closed for eating in, many are still offering carry-out and delivery. Consider taking advantage of one of these services. It’s a way to treat yourself a little bit and also help keep those restaurants open. Maybe consider starting your holiday shopping early and check out some crafters on Etsy or other small businesses. I just placed an order with a small coffee company rather than stock up at the grocery store. I’m spending less money right now, so I have room in my budget to spend a bit more on coffee than I normally would.
Take the Opportunity to Declutter
Now is a great time to declutter your house. Weekends look very different right now, so I’m taking the opportunity to do some serious spring cleaning of the house and also clean out closets and storage spaces. Sure, you might not be able to actually get rid of things right now, but you can start boxing or bagging up items to donate or sell at a later date.
This is a stressful time. It’s frustrating, it’s scary, and we don’t know how long it’s going to last. Accept that you will have those feelings. Reach out to friends and family. Interact with strangers on social media. Do what you need to keep yourself safe and sane. Follow these simple financial tips during a pandemic. We will get through this.
Megan is a 40-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.