Money problems can be tough on a relationship even in normal times. But with the coronavirus threat bringing on shelter-in-place and a paralyzed economy, this period is anything but normal. Many families are facing loss of income. And some people have lost their jobs entirely.
According to a recent survey, the Covid crisis has financially affected a majority of households. So far, half are seeking some type of debt relief. About a third have suffered a significant loss of income. Sixty percent say the government stimulus check won’t get them through even a few months of the current economic slowdown.
The added pressure on a family’s finances underscores the most important aspect of money management: communication between partners. A couple needs to keep talking if planning and budgeting are to work. This is especially true for partners with radically different ideas and values regarding money — say if one tends to be a spender, the other a saver. Regular, honest communication can clarify unspoken conflicts, foster compromise and lead to an effective response to financial challenges. Learn these 5 Ways to Increase Financial Communication Between Spouses.
Although it’s easy to succumb to despair or helplessness at a time like this, it’s better to address the situation constructively. Here are some practical tips for managing money during the pandemic:
- Hold regular budget meetings with adult members of your family to discuss where your finances are headed. Take an inventory of all expenses and possible sources of income.
- Resist the urge to hoard food and other items. Take stock of what you have and buy only what you really need.
- Evaluate all discretionary spending. For example, instead of buying restaurant takeout food, cook less expensive meals at home.
- Evaluate all recurring expenses, such as cell phone, cable TV, video streaming services, memberships, etc. Can you save money by negotiating a better deal, or just living without?
- Postpone major purchases, such as a home or car.
- Refinance. With interest rates at record lows, it may make sense to refinance a home mortgage and other types of debt.
- If you’re not working, delay paying off credit card debt and focus on the essentials: food and shelter. Take advantage of government grants and unemployment compensation, if possible. Some lenders and utilities are offering temporary relief for families who are struggling financially.
- If your income hasn’t changed, put more money into a savings reserve. And consider donating money to a worthy charity, such as a food bank, animal shelter or group supporting medical professionals.
The virus crisis may be the most challenging period many of us will live through. We don’t know how long it will last, or how tough life will get. So it’s important to stay centered, as often as possible to approach problems constructively, and to keep the lines of communication open with family and friends.