If your financial situation has been adversely affected by COVID-19, you are likely feeling stressed, overwhelmed and powerless. No doubt it will be greatly affecting your sleep, relationships and general wellbeing.
Please know that you are not alone and there are things you can do to feel more in control of your situation. To help, we have created a step by step plan to help you feel calmer, stronger and get you through this stressful period.
STEP 1: Strip your spending down to essentials
Create or update your money budget to include essentials only. This should be food, rent/ mortgage, essential healthcare, utilities, car expenses, loan repayments and insurances.
Financial Spectrum has an online Budget Calculator to help you with this step.
Go through your latest credit card statement and take note of all your automatic expenses. Look for subscriptions, gym memberships, streaming, app services, online games or donations to charity. You’ll likely get a shock to find how much you’re actually paying each month. Cancel any that aren’t necessary or you’ve forgotten you even had. If there are cancellation penalties, it’s worth speaking to the provider to see if they can be waived on financial hardship grounds.
This exercise may mean cutting a lot of day to day spending that was standard for you pre-COVID-19, but this is an emergency. Be ruthless, it isn’t forever and you can always make changes again when your financial situation improves.
STEP 2: Compare your expenses to your income
Compare your monthly spending plan with the money you have coming in, whether it be salary/wages, government benefits or from other sources.
Financial Spectrum’s online budgeting tools can also help you with this step.
If you don’t have enough money to cover your basic expenses, read on to find out what help is available.
If you’re concerned that your money will drain too fast, go back to step one and see if there is anything else you can cut out.
STEP 3: Find out what support you’re eligible for
The Australian government has a range of support initiatives to help people through this crisis which can be accessed through Centerlink.
Read our summary of support for individuals and households to work out what help you can get.
If you have a business, we have a summary of support for businesses too.
STEP 4: See if you can get temporary payment relief
If you have a mortgage and lost your income, contact your broker or bank to ask for a pause on mortgage repayments.
Or if you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to pay rent, contact the real estate agent or landlord and ask for a rent reduction.
If you don’t think you will be able to pay a bill, speak up sooner, rather than later. Providers are likely to be more lenient than usual, especially if you’re proactive.
STEP 5: Think of creative ways to generate income
Consider any skills you have that would enable you to provide a service to others from home. For example, do you have any creative skills such as writing, editing or graphic design that you could offer through sites such as AirTasker or UpWork? Perhaps testing websites, managing a business’ social media or providing virtual EA services is more your thing?
Think of the opportunities that have arisen from COVID-19 too. Maybe you could help with homeschooling and looking after children for those that are still working but no longer want to send their children to school. Or perhaps you could use the time in isolation to declutter and sell items you no longer need – people will be looking for bargains at this time.
STEP 6: Start planning for the long term
At this stage we do not know when the COVID-19 crisis will end. We do know that it’s had an enormous impact on the economy that we will feel for many years to come. It’s unlikely you’ll have certainty when your income will pick up again, so it’s wise to think about what bigger changes you can make for the long term.
Perhaps you can move in with family members, rent a smaller place or share with others? Maybe you have a spare bedroom you could rent out? Perhaps you could sell a car, boat, holiday home or other asset? Or plan to generate income through the share economy when it is safe to do so.
STEP 7: Seek help
If you need help, please know that you’re not in this alone. It’s better seek help sooner rather than later before your problems get bigger. Taking action will help you to feel more in control of your situation and help your mental health too.
The Australian Government is providing a range of support packages, accessed through Centerlink.
If you can’t pay your mortgage, rent or other expenses, speak to your lender, landlord or utility provider.
If you’re worried about paying your debts, the National Debt Helpline is a free service that will work with you to find solutions.
Money Smart also has a range of contacts to help you through this difficult time.