1. Pinch pennies
Forget the tempting "quarantine sales" and free shipping promotions. Redirecting all your spare change to emergency savings should be top priority right now.
If your employer lets you go, you’ll need to have as much cash on hand as possible to tide you over until your unemployment benefits kick in.
So right now, that could mean temporarily lowering your 401(k) contributions or other retirement account deposits and putting that money into your emergency savings account. If you don’t have an emergency savings account, you need to start one ASAP.
You could do that by opening a high-yield savings account to grow your emergency fund more quickly. A high-interest account could earn you 1.90% APY, which is nearly 200 times more than some regular savings accounts.
2. Keep up your networking
Even if you’re still working and your employment situation seems relatively secure, things could drastically change at a moment’s notice. Don’t get blindsided by a layoff. Keep up your networking, even as you’re social distancing.
Start by polishing up your resume, both in print and online. Add new skills to your LinkedIn profile and strike up a relationship with recruiters. Keep in contact with professional friends and former colleagues via phone, email, social media and video chat.
You’ll want to start laying the foundation for your job search while you still have a job — and thanks to job listings websites, it’s never been easier to connect with a whole host of employers just waiting to meet you.
3. Diversify your income
Hunting for a potential replacement job shouldn’t be your only fallback. What happens if you lose your job before you’ve found other opportunities?
You may want to carve out a side gig for yourself to make sure you’ll keep your finances afloat. That could mean driving for Uber or Doordash, or becoming a groceries courier for Instacart.
Even if this bridge job isn’t exactly in line with your career path (or several rungs below your experience level), having a side income will at least give you a bit of a soft spot to land on if your regular paycheck goes away.
If you’ve got digital skills, you can garner some serious pocket money by putting your talents to use. A freelance marketplace can help you find money-making assignments if you’re a whiz with film editing software, Photoshop or even have a niche skill like voice acting.
4. Put away the credit cards and use cash
To start getting a handle on your finances, your first step should be the most obvious one: Stop accumulating debt. Ditch your credit card wherever possible to avoid piling up more debt.
Instead, use cash.
Consider trying the popular “envelope method,” where you work out your monthly budget, withdraw that amount from the bank and then separate the cash into envelopes labeled for “gas,” “groceries” and other day-to-day spending.
The idea is that it’s so easy to go a few dollars over budget when you swipe your credit card, but cash forces you to be more mindful.
If you like getting cash back from a credit card, remember that using a debit card is the same as using cash, and you can find companies offering cash back on debit card transactions — sometimes up to 10% back.
5. Make money without a side-gig
You have plenty of ways to make extra money without working.
First, take a look at your credit card debt. Are your interest rates sapping every last bit of income you had for the month? Quit making a credit card company richer and instead consolidate your debt into one lower-interest loan.
If you’ve got a mortgage you’re scrambling to pay, look at your options for refinancing. Mortgage rates have plummeted to new all-time lows since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning you could be saving a bundle through a refinance.
And, since you’re spending so much time on your smartphone, why not earn some money for it?
For example, one app asks you to take short, simple surveys and will compensate you for your time with gift cards — sometimes up to $100. A $100 gift card just for my opinions? I’ll take it.
6. Get all the benefits you can
Even if your workplace hasn’t experienced disruptions due to the coronavirus, you should take advantage of as many special government benefits as possible during the pandemic.
Earlier, we mentioned you might tap into your retirement funds to boost your emergency savings. In fact, the government has made that easier during the crisis.
Americans who are years from retirement and are dealing with COVID-19-related hardships can now take up to $100,000 from a 401(k) or traditional IRA without having to pay the usual 10% penalty. You'll have three years to pay taxes on the withdrawals.
If you’re laid off, you’re eligible for an extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits — on top of the usual state amounts — through late July.
Those who haven’t been able to file for unemployment because of state backlogs needn't worry — because payments, when they come, will be backdated to March 29.