MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University is offering personal finance tips during the coronavirus pandemic.
Service workers and employees who have been unexpectedly laid off may not have the savings they need during this time, while others may be wondering how best to manage their finances in a time of uncertainty. Lauren Weatherford, a WVU Extension Service families and health agent in Nicholas and Fayette counties, offers tips and advice to help get people through this unusual time.
“When it comes to managing your finances, it’s important to be proactive,” said Weatherford. “Whether you’re seeking discounts, looking to reduce expenses or even pay a bill at all, it’s important to get out in front of it. Take the time to look online, look for specials and deals, compare pricing. But sometimes you need to contact the company directly. There may be discounts and packages available that you’re not aware of. Don’t be afraid to make the call and ask the questions. Things like auto pay, bundling can save a lot of money.”
Weatherford adds that there are other measures that can be taken, but they will end up costing consumers money in the long run.
“In a pinch you can use credit cards wisely. But make sure that you don’t forget that any time you add money to a credit card, it’s going to be debt that has to be addressed later,” said Weatherford. “Sometimes relief programs can allow you to skip a payment which buy you some time to get through. But, these also come at the cost that you will pay additional interest often, and you will also have to pay that payment at the end of the loan cycle. So just be aware. Always ask questions. Always make sure you understand what you’re getting into before you do it.”
When it comes to managing a budget, certain expenses need to be prioritized over others, and Weatherford offers advice on how to do so.
“Prioritizing your expenses is very important. But, there’s a very big difference between wants and needs. For instance, housing, food, utilities, transportation and insurance can be critical to everyday life. But forms of entertainment, including internet and streaming services, expensive data plans, restaurants, clothing, beauty treatments and other personal indulgences, may be optional. First thing you want to do is make a list. Address what’s most important, then decide what you need to eliminate, reduce or find creative solutions to other optional expenses,” said Weatherford.
It is not only individuals facing challenges during the coronavirus outbreak, as businesses large and small deal with uncertainty. Weatherford touched on the importance of local businesses and continuing to support them during this time.
“Support your small and local businesses. These businesses are an important part of our local economy and can be some of the hardest hit during the pandemic,” said Weatherford. “If you have the ability, please continue to support them where possible. Many restaurants are still offering take out options. You can pre-pay or purchase gift certificates for restaurants, shops, hairdressers and maybe even your local mechanic. Don’t hesitate to tell your local business how they can help serve you in this time of social distancing. You might just find that there are some creative solutions you haven’t thought of and it’s in both of your interests to find those options. Your small effort could make all the difference.”
A final piece of advice Weatherford offers is to remain collected and not make irrational financial decisions based on fear.
“Don’t panic. Be financially thoughtful. In this time of social distancing it can be very tempting to follow the crowd and make decisions such as panic shopping,” said Weatherford. “Many products are often ordered and manufactured up to six months in advance, which means we have stock to replace. If you find that you need something or you would like to have something at home just in case, that’s okay. Things like medications, shelf-stable foods – go ahead purchase these for a week or two in advance, but know that chances are that they will be in the stores when you return.”