Millions of Americans have been laid off or furloughed due to COVID-19. Cash flow has slowed, or worst, stopped. The bills, on the other hand, keeps coming. How are you going to pay them when you are unemployed? Below are some tips to help you out.
Looking for money
Ideally, you will have saved an emergency fund just for this kind of situation. If one is not accessible, you can use your credit card for a few months. Pick the one with the lowest interest rate and move to another once you reach your credit limit. Aim to pay at least the minimum balance that is due on your cards each month.
Other alternatives include your debit cards and checking accounts. Of course, the amount you can withdraw from an ATM is limited to the balance of your checking account. Once the balance hits zero, you can turn to your credit line or overdraft lines of credit for the emergency cash.
Your last option should be dipping into your retirement accounts. You can either take a loan or withdraw. In general, cashing your retirement account is a bad idea. Exhaust all other options before trying this one.
Prioritizing your bills
After food, your highest priority should be your shelter and utility bills. If you are renting, talk to your landlord and explain your situation. See if you can put off paying or make reduced payments. At worst, remind your landlord that there is a moratorium on evictions under the CARES Act. The same goes if you have a mortgage on your home. Contact your loan servicer immediately. Many banks offer COVID-19 relief. Explore what options are available for you.
For utilities, visit the website of your provider and look for special payment plans that can help you conserve cash. Many utility companies have voluntarily suspended shut-offs due to unpaid bills and some state governments have stepped in to force them to do so. It is not an easy time but the best thing that you can do is communicate with your bill providers. Do not just stop paying because there will be consequences!