Coronavirus—aka COVID-19. It has flooded our social media, nightly news, and has even made its way into some of our communities. It goes without saying that this thing has created mass hysteria and panic across the globe. But if you’re looking for that here—you won’t find it.
We haven’t lost our hope, and you shouldn’t either. We’re going to get through this, folks. Emotions are running high surrounding the coronavirus, and it feels like there’s so much uncertainty. But you don’t need to live in fear.
Yes, this virus has impacted all of us, whether it’s by coming down with the sickness itself, becoming filled with anxiety from your newsfeed, or being out of work (and out of a paycheck). We’re all feeling it in some way. And with 78% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck,1 it’s easy to see why the loss of even just one paycheck could be devastating.
Will Your Household Miss a Paycheck Due to the Coronavirus?
It’s no secret that things are shutting down all across the world. And if your workplace (or that of a spouse) has closed its doors and isn’t offering pay, then it’s time for you to (calmly) regroup and get some things in order. The thought of being without a paycheck can be overwhelming. But we don’t want to scare you. We want to give you sensible, level-headed actions to take. But first, step back and take a big, deep breath.
Did you do it?
Now let’s look at some things you can doto keep you on your feet—even without a paycheck.
7 Things to Do When You Miss a Paycheck
1. Get on a budget.
If you aren’t already living on a budget, the time is now! Making a monthly budget will show you exactly where your money is going—no ifs, ands or buts about it.
Without a budget, you really can’t make every dollar stretch because you might not even know how much money you have to work with. Plus, your budget will show you places where you can cut back and save money (more on that later). And you don’t have to rely on a yellow lined notebook to crunch the numbers. Give our free budgeting app, EveryDollar, a try and see how simple budgeting can be. Use your SmartDollar information to log in and get the premium version at no cost.
If you don’t have any income right now, then make a budget based on the amount of money you do have. If you have $600 left to your name, budget out exactly where each of those dollars will go. It’s time to squeeze every last penny out of what you’ve got.
If you still have cash coming in from your spouse’s job or some other source, then adjust your budget to reflect that. Maybe the two of you usually bring in a combined $5,000 a month. But with the loss of one income, you’re down to $2,500 a month.
Adjust your budget to live off of that one income for the time being. It might be tough to switch up your lifestyle, but you’ve got to make temporary sacrifices to get through this.
2. Take care of the Four Walls.
When the going gets rough—like it is right now—you need to focus on the things you really need to survive. We call these the Four Walls. Forget the student loan payment, the vet bill and the cell phone bill (for now). The Four Walls are your priority, so pay for these things in this orderbefore anything else:
These are the basics you need to keep going so you can live to fight another day. And it’s really hard to fight when your family doesn’t have food, isn’t it? So if there’s no food in the fridge, don’t pay the cable bill.
If there’s any money left over after you take care of the Four Walls, make a list of what else you need to pay and tackle that in order of importance. When you run out of money—that’s it. Someone on the list isn’t getting paid, and that’s just how it goes. But it sure as heck isn’t going to be the checkout lady at the grocery store. Remember, that’s priority number one!
If you’re renting and having trouble coming up with cash right now, don’t stress out. Reach out to your landlord and be honest with them about what’s going on. They might be able to work something out with you for the time being, but they can’t help if they don’t know. Be up front with them and pray for the best.
3. Pause your debt snowball.
When you’re just trying to make it to another day, you don’t need to pay extra on your debt. Instead, focus on piling up cash as high as you can. This will help with peace of mind until you have income again. Once life gets back to normal and everything is okay, you can pick up where you left off with your debt snowball.
If you’ve been chipping away at your debt, you probably don’t want to see all your progress come to a screeching halt. But the reality is, if you’re not getting paid, then you’re in the middle of a crisis. So pause your debt snowball. If it’s within your budget to keep paying the minimum payments on your debt, go for it. But remember, the Four Walls come first. Don’t let your family go hungry for the sake of your FICO score.
4. Sell stuff.
Get radical. No, we don’t want you to go selling hand sanitizer on eBay for $50 a bottle. But this is the time to sell what you can to bring in extra cash. Maybe that’s your jewelry, clothes, baby items or even the extra car sitting in your garage. If you know you can part with something and get extra cash in your hands—do it! Well, within reason.
5. Get a temporary job or start a side hustle.
If you’re out of a paycheck because of the coronavirus (or your business is taking a serious hit from it), that’s a real thing. But you don’t need to freak about it—just go get some part-time work.
With so much being shut down right now, there might not be as many traditional ways to make extra money out there. Your local hotels, movie theaters and restaurants probably aren’t looking for help. So think about who might be hiring more right now.
And even if one of those doesn’t work out, you can still take up odd jobs around your neighborhood (think cutting the grass, picking up leaves, babysitting, or dog walking). Be on the lookout for opportunities that will add a few extra bucks to your pocket. In this situation, every little bit helps.
This is the time to cut back on any unnecessary expenses that you can. Tighten it up. Stop or pause your subscriptions (think streaming services, meal delivery kits, specialty makeup boxes). They aren’t going anywhere, and you can easily pick them back up once everything blows over and you have extra cash to spend again.
Don’t forget to call your cable, internet and cellular providers to see if there’s anything they’ll do to work with you during this time. Be open and honest, and let them know your situation. You’ll never know if you don’t ask! And since you already have them on the line, go ahead and downgrade or pause your service for now. None of these things fall into the Four Walls, remember?
And have you heard of this thing called “social distancing?” It means people are encouraged (and want) to stay away from each other right now. Which can make it easier to not spend money. Sports venues are closed, Disneyland is closed—heck, even bars are closed. And even if places are open, this is a time when most people are staying home anyway. Your friends probably won’t pressure you to go hit the town this weekend. That’s good news for your budget.
We know making sacrifices like this can feel like adding insult to injury when you’re already hurting. But keep reminding yourself: This is not forever. We’re going to make it through this! You’re making temporary sacrifices to tread water until this storm passes and you’re back on your feet again.
7. Connect with your local community groups or charity organizations.
Let’s be clear here: Try to do everything in your power first before you seek help like this. Make sure you cut back where you can and take any temporary jobs to work hard and get back up on your own two feet.
But, in times of real need, don’t be too prideful to ask for a helping hand. Many community groups, churches, and organizations in your area exist for situations like this. They want to help you! If going to a food bank means your family is fed, then do it.
Don’t Lose Your Hope
Times might be tough and the headlines might be discouraging, but that doesn’t mean you need to lose your hope too. Hang in there! Keep a level head and an open mind to get through the downturn. And once the clouds have cleared, make getting out of debt and building an emergency fund a priority.