Americans have been coping without stimulus money since Congress passed the CARES Act in March 2020, and for a lot of citizens, that meant relying on credit cards to make ends meet. And even though there is talk of more stimulus coming from the U.S. government, it won’t be enough to make up for the 9 months since the first $1,200 ran out.
The truth is, you can’t rely on assistance from the government to help your family, but it’s also not a sustainable practice to continue accumulating credit card debt. The higher your bill becomes, the more your minimum payments will be, and before you know it, you’re out of money again. To benefit you and your family, you have to re-arrange your budget to cover your bills and ignore stimulus talks for the moment.
The State of Stimulus
Talks in Congress show a stimulus bill might pass soon, but it looks like direct payments for individuals will be around $600, which is not enough to sustain anyone. Even if the stimulus passes soon, it won’t benefit the average family by much, so it’s best not to rely on the help to come at all.
That’s why it’s essential to look at your budget and create a flow that accounts for each bill with some money left over for savings. If money does come from the government, you can use it as an extra bonus instead of depending on the small payment to survive.
Address Your Personal Budget
If you don’t have a budget set up for your household, now’s the time to create one so you can see exactly where your money is going. Once you have your income and bills laid out, check to make sure your income level is equal to or greater than your expenses. If it’s not, you have to either increase your income or decrease your expenses, so you don’t incur debt by making ends meet on your credit cards.
Increasing Income and Decreasing Debt
Because most of the country needs significant stimulus, it’s safe to assume that the pandemic caused a strain on your finances. And because the unemployment rate is high, it might be a challenge to bring in extra income, although picking up a side gig would certainly help your bottom line.
If that’s not possible, there’s another option to bring your budget in line, and that’s by decreasing the amount you owe each month to other people and companies. Take a look at each expense and see if it’s necessary to keep it in your budget. If it is, call the creditor and ask for a lower monthly bill, but if it’s not essential, eliminate the expense entirely.
The only sticking point on your budget that you must get rid of as soon as possible is your credit card debt. Living on borrowed money isn’t sustainable in the long term, and you’ll pay on that debt for a very long time, so if you have credit cards to pay off, consider a debt consolidation loan.
Sooner Partners can look at your outstanding credit card debt and offer to move it into one personal loan, which means you’ll only have one monthly payment and one interest rate to worry about. Debt consolidation gives you a clear path to paying off your debt and helps to free up money you would’ve paid on multiple minimum payments.
Stimulus money would be helpful to receive, but no one can count on that kind of help from Congress, so it’s best to proceed as if you won’t get any help at all. Stay away from credit cards and use the extra money you find in your budget to pay off debt and save for emergencies. Your financial advisor can help you choose the best places to direct your money so you can reach your financial goals.