Right now, many Americans are stuck at home, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re trying to figure out how to better your finances today — without leaving home — know that there are several things you can do to make a difference.
Following are some actions to better manage your money as we settle into a situation that may not end soon.
File a tax return soon
If you haven’t filed your tax return yet, get on it. You might need your refund sooner than expected. Use software to file from home, and file electronically — with your bank account for direct deposit — to get your refund faster.
Filing your 2019 tax return is also the best way to ensure you receive your stimulus payment from the federal government, as we report in “4 Things Retirees Should Know About Their Stimulus Money.”
Once you get that tax refund, read our story about how to use the money to become richer.
Start budgeting — or at least tracking expenses
Take a look at where your money is going. Check your bank statements from the last two months to see how you’ve spent cash.
Find expenses that are unnecessary and cut them from your budget. Redirect that money to your emergency fund so you can boost liquid savings before times get harder.
This is all much easier if you use a software program like Money Talks News partner YNAB (short for “You Need A Budget”) to track and budget your money.
Now is the time to look for ways to boost your income — before you potentially lose your job. There are several ways to make money from home, allowing you to diversify your income and protect against difficulties in the future.
Plus, if you’re carrying debt, paying it off ASAP can be a good way to use extra income in the future.
Lower car and homeowners insurance premiums
One of the best ways to save money each month is to compare different premium costs and switch your insurance coverage.
Once you find a lower premium, ask your current insurer to match it. If they don’t, make the switch. You can bank any savings each month, using the money to protect you in the future.
Lower credit card rates
Even if you usually pay off your credit card balance in full each month, you might need to carry a balance if we end up in a recession or depression. As a result, you also might pay a lot of money in interest fees.
One way to reduce the cost of carrying debt is to ask for a lower rate. You might be surprised to discover that you can get a lower APR just by asking.
Now might also be a good time to consider getting a 0% APR credit card. You can get one with a long introductory period so you don’t pay interest on purchases made during the recession. Or, you might get a 0% APR balance transfer card and move balances over to that card and avoid interest during an introductory period.
Just be aware that you need a pay-down plan that allows you to get rid of the balance before the introductory period ends and your interest rate skyrockets.
Cut the cable cord
If you’re still paying for cable, now is the time to cut the cord. While some streaming services can be as expensive as cable TV, they don’t have to be. Do a little research, and you’ll find some dirt-cheap streaming options like those we outline in “4 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less.”
Raise your credit score
A good credit score can save you money in the long run. If you end up needing just about any type of debt — whether it’s a loan for economic hardship or a mortgage that can help you take advantage of a possible coming real estate crash — you want to qualify for the lowest rates.
We have seven ways to improve your score fast, allowing you to make the most of your finances to weather this storm.
How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes
Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.
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