If you’re staying at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, you may have extra time on your hands. In this article, I’ll share seven ways to improve your finances while self-isolating. Let’s get started…
- Create Two Different Budgets
- Prepare Your Income Taxes
- Secure a Lower Credit Card Interest Rate
- Ask for Help if You Need It
- Compare Auto Insurance Quotes
- Review Your Monthly Subscriptions
- Get Cash Back for Grocery Shopping
1. Create Two Different Budgets
With so much uncertainty in the job market, now is a good time to create a budget or revisit your existing one. My advice is that you actually make two budgets.
First, start with the CLARK Method to create a budget for a typical month. It includes five steps:
- Calculate your income
- List your expenses
- Analyze your spending and set goals
- Record everything
- Knock out debt and build your savings
Second, create a bare-bones budget. You can make a second copy of the CLARK Method budget worksheet and simply eliminate all nonessential expenses. This is the budget that you use in case of emergency.
If you’re not experienced with budgeting, give yourself an hour to create both budgets using our step-by-step guide.
2. Prepare Your Income Taxes
The federal tax filing deadline has been changed from April 15 to July 15 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you should delay filing for three months.
Are you expecting a refund? Set aside a few hours and get your taxes done using one of these free tax filing options.
“If you are owed a refund, don’t wait,” money expert Clark Howard says. “If you prepare your own taxes, go ahead and file your return. Get a refund as quickly as you can.”
To get your refund faster, remember to file your taxes electronically and select the direct deposit option.
3. Secure a Lower Credit Card Interest Rate
During this time of crisis, major credit card issuers may be more willing to offer you a lower interest rate on new purchases.
Whether you have credit card debt or not, it doesn’t hurt to ask. U.S. News & World Report credit card expert Beverly Harzog recommends that everyone carry an “emergency credit card” with a low interest rate.
I spent 45 minutes on the phone with five credit card issuers. Here are the three that lowered my interest rates!
4. Ask for Help if You Need It
If you’ve had your hours reduced or have been laid off, you may have difficulty paying your credit card bills, mortgage/rent or your auto loan right now.
Don’t let the bills pile up without taking action. Instead, be proactive and call your creditors to ask for help.
For example, one way that mortgage lenders work with those facing a hardship is by delaying payments for a period of time and adding them on to the end of the loan.
When you call, ask the customer service representative to walk you through all options available.
5. Compare Auto Insurance Quotes
If you haven’t gotten auto insurance quotes in a year or two, you may be paying too much! Just a few days ago, I called up four major issuers and was able to save $300 on a 6-month policy.
Start by identifying the best auto insurers and obtain quotes from a handful of insurers — either online or by phone.
Before you get your quotes, have your current policy in hand. That way, you can make sure that the quotes are for the exact same coverage that you’re already paying for.
We walk you through the process in this step-by-step guide to shopping for car insurance.
6. Review Your Monthly Subscriptions
How many monthly subscriptions do you pay for? If you don’t know the answer off the top of your head, that’s probably because these expenses are charged to your credit card automatically.
Take 15 minutes to review your statements and cancel any subscriptions you don’t need right now.
If you aren’t ready to cancel a subscription but want to pause it because you’re not using it during the coronavirus pandemic, reach out and see if that’s possible. Some companies offer a pause option.
7. Get Cash Back for Grocery Shopping
The grocery store is the only place that many of us have been going to lately, so you might as well get money back for your purchases.
If you haven’t taken the time to download the Ibotta and Fetch Rewards apps, now is your chance. These apps and several others provide rewards when you upload receipts from the grocery store.
For new users, Ibotta and Fetch Rewards offer welcome bonuses after you upload your first receipt.
Self-isolating is a big change for most Americans. With more time spent at home, you may be able to get around to some of the action items on my list that otherwise may not be a priority.