MISSOULA — Many of us aren't spending as much money on gas or 'extras' these days as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to stress the economy.
It's reminiscent of the 2008 recession, but with a few big differences. For example, many Americans have a bigger financial cushion now than what was available a decade ago. There are also increased unemployment benefits, stimulus money, and employers who can use the Paycheck Protection Plan to help keep people on the job.
Since we don't know what the 'end game' of this pandemic looks like, we conducted a Facebook Live interview on Tuesday to ask Rural Dynamics executive director Tom Jacobson -- who is a consumer credit counseling expert -- for some advice on how to handle your money in a global pandemic so you're not caught empty-handed.
"If you get that $1,200 check and you are like ‘I need to pay off this credit card debt,’ maybe right now is not the time to pay it off and rather hold on to that $1,200,” Jacobson said. “And if you need to ask for delays on those payments talk to your creditors. Try to hold on to that especially if your future is uncertain."
Some good things to do right now:
- Make a budget.
- Save your stimulus to try to keep cash on hand.
- Don't ignore mounting debt problems. Contact your credit card company, mortgage or lender if you're having trouble making your payments. You could get a deferral or negotiate a lower rate.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help -- either through a nonprofit credit counselor or even using some of the relief programs offered by the state.