Remember the $1,200 federal stimulus check you got a few months ago? Wasn’t that a lifesaver? Wouldn’t another one of those be nice right now?
While politicians in Washington bicker and point fingers and fail to successfully negotiate another stimulus bill, the rest of us are all wondering the same thing: Am I going to get another $1,200 stimulus check or not?
If you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans who are out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic, you desperately need that money to pay for necessities like food and shelter. Even if you’re still employed, you need that extra money to pay for things like school supplies, unexpected child-care costs or skyrocketing power bills because you’re home all the time.
If the politicians fail us and you don’t get another stimulus check, we’ve got five tips to help you get through this time:
1. Negotiate to Stay in Your Home
If you can’t afford housing, don’t panic. Look at your options instead.
Are you a homeowner? If you’re struggling with your mortgage payments, keep in mind that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are extending their moratorium on foreclosures on single-family mortgages until at least Aug. 31, 2020.
Mortgage companies can also offer to homeowners in COVID-19-related forbearance the option to defer missed payments until they sell or refinance their homes or reach the end of their loans.
Are you a renter? If you can’t pay rent for the upcoming month, it’s best to speak with your landlord sooner rather than later. You may be able to come to a resolution that doesn’t involve eviction or having delinquent payments on your credit report.
Renters should also check with their local housing agencies about relief programs. Many cities have funds that will help you by paying at least part of your rent directly to your landlord.
2. Ditch Your Current Car Insurance and Save Yourself $800
If you need to free up extra room in your budget, one of the easiest places to start is to cut back on your monthly bills — like your current car insurance.
In most places, it’s straight up illegal not to have it, so you’ve probably accepted that you’re going to pay through the nose for it. But you don’t have to.
A free website called Savvy will help you find the best rates — in just 30 seconds. In fact, it saves people an average of $826 a year.
All you have to do is connect your current insurance, then Savvy will search hundreds of insurers for a better price on the same coverage. It’ll even help you cancel your old policy and get you a refund from your current insurer.
Best yet: This is totally free.
If you find a better deal, you can switch right away and don’t have to wait for your next renewal or even your next payment.
3. Talk to Your Credit Card Companies
Ask your credit card company about hardship programs. Many credit card issuers are offering relief on a case-by-case basis. Those options can include:
- Waiving late fees
- Waiving interest charges
- Reducing monthly payments
- Temporarily reducing interest rates
- Allowing skipped payments
- Changing payment due dates
- Increasing credit limits
4. Cut Your Food Budget by Planning Ahead
Even if you’re gainfully employed and not in imminent danger of being evicted, you’re probably struggling with bills like most of us are. Groceries are a huge part of everyone’s budget these days, so they’re a big target for savings.
Try preparing for the week ahead with some meal planning. This goes beyond just making a shopping list. Real meal planning helps you save money because it helps you use what you buy, preventing food and money waste. It also prevents you from spending extra cash on emergency lunches or late-night takeout.
First, figure out how many meals you’re responsible for making every week. If it’s just you, your answer might be 21: seven breakfasts, lunches and dinners. If you have a family, count meals per person — a dinner for three people counts as three dinners, even if you all eat the same thing.
Now figure out how much food you’ll need to buy to make it until your next grocery trip. If you buy the same items repeatedly, you know which ones to stock up on when they go on sale. Stocking up on sale items also helps you freeze meals for the future. If there’s a way to buy in bulk and prep the foods you eat the most often, do it!
5. Get Your Unemployment Benefits Extended
Still out of work? Your state’s Unemployment Insurance benefits may be expiring soon if you were approved at the start of the pandemic. If you’re still out of work and unsure how you’ll pay the bills when your benefits run out, panic may be setting in.
Here are two important things you need to know: One, extensions are available. But, two, they’re not automatic.
If your state benefits are expiring, apply for an unemployment extension through Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PEUC, funds — a 13-week extension from the federal government.
The catch: You can only apply for this extension once you have run out of your state benefits.
In the meantime, focus on landing a bridge job, which is basically any work that can help you survive, even if it’s not in your field.
If you’ve been denied unemployment benefits, you may want to apply again. At least 25 states require you to be denied for regular unemployment before you can apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is available to gig workers, side hustlers, independent contractors and others who wouldn’t traditionally qualify for unemployment.