11 ways to fight back against money stress caused by COVID-19
Way back in December, when we decided that money would be our topic for April 2020, we had no idea just how triggering this topic would be for so many people.
Many of us are scared about money right now.
You may have been furloughed, had your hours reduced, or been outright laid off. Or maybe your partner was, leaving you as a one-income household. You may be a small business owner seeing sales decline, or being forced to temporarily shutter your business. You may have experienced big losses in the stock market. Or maybe you’re seeing your loved ones deal with financial hardship, and feeling guilty that you’re in a more secure position.
We’re all dealing with changes in our financial situations, but we’re also dealing with a lot of fear.
And sometimes, this fear can grow so big that it becomes a bit irrational.
I’ll give you an example of one of my own moments of pandemic-induced fear.
Just a few days ago, I went to reorder my favorite hand soap. It’s made by a local company, and they refine the soap out of cooking oils they collect from restaurants here in LA. I love supporting small businesses, and I love taking whatever actions I can to be environmentally friendly.
But of course it’s more expensive than the soap you can buy at CVS.
I was paralyzed for at least 10 minutes, anxiously debating whether it was “financially irresponsible” of me to spend extra money on soap during these uncertain times.
The reality is that we’re just talking about a few dollars, and the soap lasts for weeks, so this was not a decision that was going to affect Xander and my financial situation in any sort of meaningful way.
But damn did it feel scary for those 10 minutes!
So today, I want to ask you this question:
How is the current crisis affecting your relationship with money?
Think back to what your relationship with money was like at the end of 2019. What feels different now?
Are you feeling more fearful? More anxious? Is all the fun and excitement you used to feel around earning or spending money gone?
If you’re feeling fear, where does your fear feel rooted in reality, and where has it started to become a bit irrational – like my soap example?
Now, Xander and I aren’t financial planners, and we can’t give you financial advice about how to keep your money safe.
But I do know that one of the best things we can do when we’re feeling afraid of something is to take an honest look at it, and see if we can approach the situation with curiosity.
So here’s a super simple and practical exercise you can do: start tracking your income and your expenses. Make a basic spreadsheet, and write down what’s coming in and what’s going out. You don’t need to get too complicated about it; just take a clear, objective look at what your situation is.
Then, consider this question: what do you need in order to feel more secure with money right now?
I want to be realistic: most of us probably aren’t going to feel totally secure right now.
But is there anything that would help, even if it’s just a bit?
Here are some possibilities:
- Create or add to an emergency fund.
- Have your partner look at your financial situation with you.
- Create a crisis-time budget.
- Have a weekly meeting to check in about finances.
- Research loan or grant opportunities that may be available to you, or call your financial institutions to renegotiate or defer payments.
- Check in with each other before making purchases over a certain amount of money.
- Try to calculate all the money you’re actually saving right now. You may actually have fewer expenses right now, since you can’t spend money on gym memberships, concerts, fancy date nights out, gas or tolls, etc.
I also want to point out that “feeling more secure” doesn’t necessarily mean “cutting back.”
Many people are still in financially privileged situations, even if our finances still feel strained at the moment. Sometimes being generous and abundant can actually create more security, relaxation, or joy.
Here are some examples:
- Donate money to your favorite charity, even if it’s just a few dollars.
- Support your favorite small or local businesses by buying gift cards.
- Loan money to a trusted friend or family member.
- Invest in your personal development or learning a new skill by purchasing an online course, book, coaching session, exercise program, etc.