Living Without a Paycheck? How to Save Money and Make Ends Meet

The COVID-19 crisis is putting record numbers of Americans out of work while overwhelming the unemployment insurance system. While coronavirus stimulus payments promise to slow the bleed, they won’t be enough for most households to make ends meet. If you’re worried about how you’ll stay afloat financially during the coronavirus lockdown, here’s what you can do.

Apply for Unemployment

Whether you’re a W-2 employee or a 1099 contractor, you’re eligible for unemployment benefits if you’ve lost income due to the pandemic. Go to your state’s website to apply. If you experience crashing websites or long phone wait times, be patient and keep trying.

Stop Debt Payments

People who have been financially impacted by the coronavirus outbreak also have the option to pause certain debt payments. Federal mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have agreed to put mortgage payments in forbearance for up to 12 months for borrowers affected by the crisis. Big banks may also offer mortgage relief on a case-by-case basis, but ask your lender if you’ll incur late fees or hits to your credit rating.

Federal student loan payments have been suspended without interest until September 30, including automatic payments you’ve already set up. That means you don’t have to do anything to stop these debt payments, but keep in mind that this only applies to certain loans. If you have private student loans, reach out to your lender to learn your options.

Cancel Memberships and Subscriptions

Canceling memberships and subscriptions is an easy way to help you save money, especially when you can’t use that gym membership right now anyway. However, you may want to hold onto streaming services for cheap entertainment during the lockdown. (Although you can use free streaming options if you’re really tight on cash.)

Have an Interview Outfit at the Ready

Cutting costs is only half of the equation. You also need to find ways to generate income while laid off. Even during the lockdown, companies are holding interviews remotely, so make sure you’re prepared with a professional interview outfit. If you don’t own anything that’s interview-appropriate, look to outlet stores like Nordstrom Rack for low prices, free shipping over $100, and cash back on your order.

Pitch Your Skills on Freelance Sites

While traditionally the stomping grounds of tech and design workers, many freelance job boards have expanded their scope to include a wide range of remote-friendly gigs. Before applying for openings on freelance job boards, make sure you understand the fees. Some job boards take a higher percentage of freelancers’ pay than others, reducing your earnings up to 20 percent.

These are some of the most well-paid freelance jobs you can find online:

  • Website and mobile app development
  • Graphic and web design
  • Video and audio editing
  • SEO content, copy, and technical writing
  • Branding and social media marketing
  • Data entry and transcription
  • Virtual assisting and customer support

Set Up an Inexpensive Home Office

Before landing your first freelance client, set up a home office where you can work in peace and quiet. Even if you don’t have a spare room, there are creative solutions to a home workstation.

First, get a computer with a camera and microphone for video conferencing. While high-quality webcams cost well over $100, there are models that get the job done for much less. Business Insider recommends the Logitech C615 for a budget-friendly webcam with a built-in microphone.

Next, look for a comfortable workspace that lets you alternate between sitting and standing. If you already own a desk, you’re in luck. If not, get creative with low-cost solutions like clearing a shelf in your walk-in closet to use as a standing desk or turning your patio table into an outdoor office. If you prefer a more permanent solution, turn to IKEA for budget-friendly workstations.

Drastic times frequently call for drastic measures, and few situations are more dire than realizing you don’t have the cash flow to make ends meet. While sudden unemployment can be a shock to the system, don’t let it paralyze you into inaction. Whether it’s cutting expenses, earning income on the side, or a little bit of both, these tips will help you keep your head above water until the coronavirus crisis is over.


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