Making Ends Meet
Families and friends are struggling with so many things right now it may be difficult to know which one to tackle first. For many, money is the one that can cause the most stressful problems. If your income has been reduced because of unemployment, fewer working hours or unexpected expenses, there is hope in turning your financial situation around.
When your income decreases, or becomes uncertain, but the bills keep coming, remember these five “Cs” to making ends meet in mind.
- Control. Control as much of the situation as you can. Don’t panic or waste energy blaming yourself or others. Remember, you and your family can take control of your actions. It is best to approach this as a family so that you can lean on each other for help and support.
- Claim. Claim benefits due to you. Check eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits and other assistance programs as soon as possible. We are in a unique situation because of the pandemic. Numerous programs have increased their level of monetary support and others are popping up almost daily. For instance, the farm to families produce boxes, meat donations to food pantries and more. Do not make claiming these benefits a pride issue. This is a time when we all need a bit of help from our friends to get through this crisis.
- Communicate. Communicate with family members about the new limitations on your resources. Analyze your situation as a family unit and plan accordingly. All family members need to do their part and need to contribute to working together to get through this. If a special event or celebration needs to change to option, be open and positive about giving it a try and see what happens. Who knows you may like the new version better than the old!
- Confer. Confer with creditors. Don’t ignore the problem and simply default on payments to creditors. Make every effort to work out a mutually acceptable repayment schedule. This is one of the worst mistakes you can make when it comes to your finances. Talk to your creditors, explain your situation, and ask them what options may be available to you. The big take away is to keep talking to them!
- Change. Change your lifestyle. Be prepared to make changes in your lifestyle at least temporarily, so you can maintain basic essentials. Change can be one of the hardest parts, but you can make it easy if you adopt the right attitude. Embrace change as a good thing and encourage others in your family to at least give it an honest try. Attitude can make all the difference.
Look for ways that you and family members can use time, energy, talents, and knowledge to reduce other expenses. Take better care of things you already have. Recycle clothing. Swap items and services with a friend or neighbor. Plant a garden or produce items normally purchased. Use community resources available to you such as SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps), utility assistance, and health clinics. These suggestions will decrease the amount of money that must be spent on necessary items. They will not help you continue your normal style of living but they will help you through the hard times.
To make it through hard times, your family will need to make informed decisions and work together to carry out these decisions. A family commitment to the five “Cs” — control, claim, communicate, confer, and change — will help you make ends meets and handle tough financial situations better.
Source: When Your Income Drops Publication Series available at www.johnson.k-state.edu