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How to deal with sudden income loss

If COVID-19 and its aftermath have left you without work — or without enough work — it’s time to hit the reset button on all things money-related. Here’s a cheat sheet for dealing with the new normal when the outlook is less than rosy.

Act now!

When times get tough, many people stop opening bills and bank statements and carry on like everything’s fine. The key to dealing with sudden income loss is to act immediately so you can preserve every dollar.

Use the “B” word

No one, except for that kid who sat in the front row in math class, likes budgeting. Then again, no one likes going to the dentist either. But in both cases, avoiding it for too long can have some pretty painful consequences.

In a war room situation like sudden income loss, getting a grip on how much is really coming in and how much is really going out is mission critical. It’s also important to look at the timing of income and expenses to avoid relying on credit cards.

Fortunately, we live in the twenty-first century, when pencils have been replaced by apps. A few to try:

  • Mint can help you keep track of money spread across different accounts and stay on top of bill payments.
  • Pocketguard links your accounts and keeps you from overspending by telling you how much you have left in your budget.
  • Goodbudget uses the tried and true envelope system to help you manage monthly spending; couples can use it jointly.

Sub your salary

Have you applied for any government programs you qualify for?

Have you considered ways to generate money to replace some of your lost income? Could you rent out a room, pick up some gig work, offer online tutoring or become a virtual personal assistant?

Get a handle on debt

This is also the time to get real about how much debt is piling up from all sources and take steps to stay on top of it:

  • Be sure to make at least the minimum payments each month to protect your credit rating.
  • If you’re carrying a lot of high-interest debt, consider applying for a consolidation loan. The lower interest rate will help you either pay it down faster or leave you with a little more in your budget to cover other expenses.
  • If you’re really struggling, you might be able to arrange a debt (or mortgage) deferral from your bank.

Trimming isn’t just for hair

That weekly trip to the barber’s or the nail bar felt like a necessity when you had a real office to go to. But now it’s time to be brutal and slash everything except essentials. If you’ve gotten out of the habit of distinguishing needs from wants, here’s a refresher:

  • Needs are expenses that are necessary to keep a roof over your head, food on the table, maintain health and safety and contribute to finding the next (or better) job. And ok, an occasional treat to help you stay the course.
  • Wants include purchases related to vanity, entertainment, time wasters, upgrades, gifts, subscription services and any expense that you can safely put off until later.

Say something

The biggest mistake made by people with income and debt issues: not asking for help. There are many places to turn, including government programs, debt counselling, your financial institution, family. And, when you need help from someone who can offer solutions tailored to your situation, your FORTAX Private Wealth Advisor is also here for you.