How to Thrive Without the Additional $600 a Week From Unemployment
Blog | July 22nd, 2020
In February, the unemployment rate in the U.S. was just under 4 percent. In April, it jumped to more than 14 percent. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many businesses to close their doors or lay off workers. But in March 2020, the CARES Act was introduced. This bill allowed many workers who had lost their jobs to collect an extra $600 in their unemployment checks.
The stimulus was a godsend for many Americans. About two-thirds of laid-off employees ended up making more money than they’d normally bring home in their paychecks. But the supplemental $600 is scheduled to disappear from unemployment checks at the end of July.
If your paycheck has been padded with the extra $600, you’ve probably appreciated it. What is your life going to look like once you stop receiving the supplemental benefit? Here’s how to thrive on a smaller paycheck:
Start Saving Now
If you haven’t put aside any of the extra money you were making, now is the time to do so. If your paycheck has already diminished, though, you might feel strapped.
Almost everyone can save money, no matter the size of their paycheck. Consider putting just $5 every week into a savings account. You could put the money into an investment account such as Acorn or Stash. You likely won’t notice that the funds are gone, and they’ll make money while you sleep.
If you don’t know how much money is coming in and out of your life, you may be on edge all the time. Our central nervous system is in fight-or-flight mode when we don’t know what to expect. If you’re ever unpleasantly surprised when you check your bank account, you could benefit from making a budget.
First, list your income and expenses. If your income is higher than your expenses, you have extra money to save or indulge with. But, if your expenses are greater than your income, you should plan some ways to cut the fat so that you don’t have to stress out about finances. Aim to live below your means as you begin your new budget.
Do Free Activities
Many coffee shops, restaurants, and bars are closed right now. That can help you save hundreds a week. According to Eventbrite, the average partygoer spends $81 a night and heads out twice a week. You could save $162 by staying home and watching Netflix.
Better yet, use this time to get out of the house and spend time in nature. Follow the appropriate social distancing measures, but consider checking out local parks, taking out a kayak, or going camping for a weekend. Many parks are free, and camping costs much less than staying at a hotel if you already have the equipment.
The pandemic is an excellent time to grocery shop more intentionally. Many stores are offering online shopping, which allows you to compare prices from your couch. You can shop in peace from home and have the food delivered, or pick it up at the store.
Clip coupons, and organize them as you shop. You’ll be able to save tens, or even hundreds, of dollars a month on your grocery bills. Plus, when you’re shopping online, you might be less likely to make impulsive purchases.
There are lots of other ways to buy things at discounted prices, such as:
Only take your kids to restaurants when kids eat free.
Shop at warehouse stores as long as your perishable items don’t go bad.
Shop wisely when there is a BOGO sale.
Sign up for email lists and newsletters, which often offer discounts.
Use Your Talents
The working environment is changing rapidly right now. People are changing their lifestyles and behavioral patterns as they’re social distancing. For example, some people are taking this time to organize and deep-clean their houses. They’re hiring cleaning services to help them tackle those jobs that they don’t want to handle.
How could you help someone by offering a service that capitalizes on your skills and talents? Some ideas include:
Blogging or ghostwriting
Teaching exercise classes online
Babysitting and childcare
Making a little money on the side will offset the loss from your paycheck.
If a large chunk of your expenses goes towards bills, contact your lenders, creditors, and service companies to negotiate lower payments. Landlords may be willing to split your rent into two payments a month. Mortgage companies might be offering forbearance programs.
Credit card companies could lower your interest rates if you ask. Even local service companies, like the power and water companies, might be offering measures to help you financially right now. Many are waiving late fees and halting disconnections for non-payment.
Getting used to your lower paycheck might be an adjustment. Being diligent about saving and spending allows you to thrive even without the supplemental funds. Remember that money isn’t everything. Focusing on experiences instead of material things will allow you to flourish.