Hard times – and it is hard to give pieces of advice. Without an income, even good money managers struggle.
Plan what you’ve got. Planning may seem pointless when future seems so uncertain. On the contrary it is even more important. You don’t want to waste any cent (or food either). If you live with your family, this is the time to discuss calmly and seriously about money matters with your spouse/parents. Assess precisely how much money you have, and what you can use it for (e.g. how many days of food it can last for instance). Be creative for your meals in order to get the maximum calories and nutrients for the minimum price – for instance, if the price of rice or wheat flour has increased or there are shortages, choose another type of cereal.
Prioritise now more than ever. If you have money for only a few days’ food, think and discuss how you cut all other expenses. Phone? Do you need two or more phones for example as long as you are all at home? Electricity bill: can you negotiate paying later / or has the electricity company already announced a relief programme? Go through all your expenses of the last two months and one by one see what you can cut and use for food, soap and water instead. If you have not done so until now, start noting down all that you spend. Imagine you are driving a boat in a storm, you need accurate information to navigate – not impression or vague ideas.
Stay safe: Your and your family’s health is your first priority. Can you use spare clothes to make face masks? Adopt a strict hygiene (hand washing etc), limit going out, follow safety tips issued by your country and explain them to all the generations under your roof. Be careful with frauds and scams. They seem to spread quickly too and feed from our fears (“miraculous” medicines, calls to donate, very expensive masks…). Structure your days and space so that you keep mentally sane! Mental health impacts physical health. You don’t want to fall ill!
Resources: You may have lost part or all your income. Think wide: you may have other resources than your past/current income. Have you got savings/investments that you can use? Can you turn your free time and/or skills into income? There are still lots of work required around food production, delivery and sale, and safety/health, or other crucial services. If your income is enough to feed yourself, can you contribute and volunteer to help others? If food is your main immediate concern, are there other ways you can get some food without paying: food banks? Do you qualify for financial aids from your government? Barter with food producers directly (for instance pick fruit/vegetables or plant seeds for them and get some produce in return). Do you have some space/soil to plant some food? Do you have a vehicle and you can deliver food or medicines? If you still have internet access, can you teach online? Look around, discuss (while maintaining a safe distance) the needs in your community and how to fulfill them. If you have a business, what can you sell or produce that is still needed? What can you do to keep at least part of your employees’ salaries? Make sure your employees work in safe conditions.
Solidarity: This virus forces us to isolate physically, but we can only fight it by showing solidarity: researchers have led the way by sharing what they know about the virus and keep working in teams to develop treatments, some manufacturers have made the licence to make ventilators public, etc. The virus spreads quickly from one person to the other, and so do the economic hardships: so, if you are a landlord and you can use your savings or other revenues to survive, discuss with your tenants: consider either delaying rent or cancelling it altogether: if your tenant does not generate an income for three months, delaying the rent for three months means a huge debt that they will never be able to pay, so why not cancel the rents and avoid adding financial stress? If you employ domestic help and you work from home, still earning your income, keep paying your helper – even if they don’t come and work for now: don’t transfer or add more financial misery. You’re lucky to have a job that can be done remotely, share your luck! If you produce or sell food or other vital items, don’t hoard or increase prices. If you can help others financially, do.