We may be approaching “the most wonderful time of the year,” but as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the country (and the world), it is difficult, for some, to embrace the holidays this year. The health crisis has torn apart families, uprooted educational systems, politically divided the nation and has most of the country on edge about contracting a virus that may be stronger than our bodies can handle. And on top of all of that, it has caused an economic situation that hasn’t been experienced since The Great Depression. Unless Congress acts facts to secure funds for struggling businesses and individuals, things will only get worse.
So, yes, Christmas may be just around the corner, but it looks financially bleak for many struggling Americans that are having a hard time just putting a hot meal on the table each day and keep up with the bills, let alone thinking about holiday spending.
If you are experiencing a loss of income, it can be hard to think of anything else. Many will go to bed tonight worried about money and will wake up with the same thoughts weighing them down throughout the day. For those folks, or anyone who has experienced a reduction in income due to #COVID19, we’ve compiled a few thoughts on approaching the colder weather and the holiday season when financially strapped. The first step?
Lay it all out. It’s always best to know where you stand financially and, while it may be easy to ignore the financial pile mounting in the background, this will do you no good. This first step is simple. Sit down with a pencil and paper and write down, in full detail, what’s coming in and what needs to go out. Find your bottom line and let this serve as a snapshot of your current situation. It could either be better than you thought or worse, but it sometimes helps to just clear the cobwebs from your mind in order to move on to step 2.
Make a plan. This time of year brings with it extra expenses and with finances already piling up, it can be hard to keep things straight. Check out some of the best deals and shop when the shipping is free or stores are offering extra perks. With Christmas aside, many businesses have offered protections during this trying time, but you won’t know unless you do your research. Make a list of your creditors and begin by checking out their websites. Explore unemployment options that have been opened up for those who wouldn’t otherwise be eligible or are self-employed, contact your utility provider and call a loan officer to see how you can protect your home. There are options out there; you just need to discover them.
Increase your income. The job market is tough right now to find employment and if you weren’t already dabbling in the freelance world, it can be hard to find new opportunities to work from home. And if you’ve got pre-existing conditions, you may be hesitant to take the risk of working in a public position. Start by contacting friends and family and letting them know you’re open to opportunities. Creating a LinkedIn account is a great way to explore what might be available and to network with those who might be searching for the right candidate. Taking a look at a few freelance sites is also a great idea. There are thousands of businesses that are looking for applicants in various fields, from design and writing, to data entry and customers service. And it never hurts to look around your home to see what you might be able to sell through online marketplaces. There are always individuals looking for great buys at this time of year. Your trash may be another man’s treasure (and an extra couple of bucks for you).
Give back. It may seem counterintuitive, the idea of giving back when you, yourself, might be in need, but sometimes lending a hand to others can offer countless rewards. Use your time and talent to help out at a local food distribution center, donate cold weather clothing that you no longer wear, or offer the gift of music or art to the down-hearted. Oftentimes seeing that you are not alone and that things could always be worse can provide the comfort to help you get a better night’s sleep. And better sleep leads to better mental health, which leads to a more positive outlook on life. Volunteering has even been proven to lower blood pressure and reduce stress levels for those who participate, so give it a try and see how you, too, could be rewarded with countless benefits.