Gina Richardson September 1, 2020 at 8:49 AM

The New Normal: Paying Bills (when you’d rather not think about money)

A lot of people have seen their finances affected by the pandemic. There’s so much uncertainty these days, and adding anxiety about money makes it harder for so many of us.

But while you can’t control the pandemic, you can ease some of your stress by taking control of your finances. Here are some of the tips and ideas I share in my workshops about Mindfulness and Money and Managing Your Finances in Challenging Times.

Where do I begin?

The first step is to determine where you are realistically. If you used to make a certain amount of money a month but now only make half of that, then base your budget on what you make now. List all of your income and all of your necessary expenses to get a clear view of your current situation. While a pencil and paper can do the trick, SAFE members can use our Money Management Tool that gives you an in-depth look at your financial situation. Once you determine where you really are, congratulations! That’s the first hurdle. 

Next step: Reduce your spending

With less money coming in, you’ll have less to spend. It’s just basic math. But there are ways to reduce your spending. It will take some phone calls and researching online, but here are some ways to help you trim expenses. 

  • SMUD, PG&E, and other utility companies offer discounts based on income. They can also help set up payment plans to smooth out some of those higher seasonal bills.
  • Contact your phone and internet providers to discuss ways to reduce your expenses by changing your plan or other options that may be available.
  • It also may be time to cut the cable cord and satellite TV link if you haven’t done so yet. If you’re now paying for streaming services, consider limiting which ones you use to save money.
  • Contact your vehicle insurance agent to see how you can trim that bill. Consider changing coverage or whether you can get a discount if you’re driving much less these days.
  • It may seem counterintuitive to add insurance and asset protection program costs to your budget, but some options can save you money in the long run and help you during challenging times like these. Consider coverage like the SAFE Payment Protection Plan that can help cover certain loans in the event of disability, death, or involuntary unemployment. Accident and sickness insurance options pay you when you’re hospitalized in certain circumstances. And a life insurance policy can ensure your loved ones are taken care of if you’re no longer there to do so.
Lifestyle changes

Sharpen your grocery shopping skills to maximize what you purchase. Plan and prep meals in advance so you stick to a plan and a budget. It’s time to learn how to embrace leftovers and make a meal stretch!

Consider if your current housing is realistic for your situation. This is most people’s largest expense, and now that you’ve embraced your “new normal” reality, you may determine that it is time to move. 

Find additional income

Most of us have a very fixed income. We may get a yearly raise but we all pretty much bring in a set amount each month. If you’re earning less these days, it could be time for you to find ways to increase your income. Here are some ideas to get your wheels spinning:

  • Take on a side gig.
  • Use Facebook Marketplace or LetGo to sell things at your house.
  • Are you crafty? Time to make a profit from it. Sell your wares on Etsy or Facebook Marketplace.
Let’s talk savings

For a quick rule of thumb, it’s best if every household has enough savings to cover six months of expenses. I know it can be difficult to save up that amount, but having a budget plan and knowing where each dollar goes can help you more easily save money.

I invite you to attend my upcoming webinars. It’s perfect timing for what a lot of us are going through right now. I look forward to sharing my own journey with saving, how I do it, how I set goals, and what I recommend for savers at all levels.

Other money hurdles we all face during hard times

Don’t play the blame game or use guilt. It’s not productive. Instead, I encourage you to ask yourself: How can I live the life I want to live? How can I be accountable to myself?

Give to Get

I truly believe we are rewarded for the gifts we give. When I was in a different financial situation than I am today and struggled, I still managed to prioritize giving because it was on my heart. I am certain it benefited me in the long run. Giving from the heart, to the best of your ability, will always come back to you in a good way. Now, we can’t all give like we’re Oprah! But I always encourage people to give within their means.

For myself, I want to be able to give a larger percentage of my income away, and so I set a percentage goal. It may only be 5% now, but I am working to get that to 10%.

Set goals to stay inspired and on track

I have been through challenges in my own life, being between jobs, being unhappy in my personal life, all these things at once. So I can tell you that being at rock bottom is not a great place to be, but it can really make you take stock and realize how much better you can be as a person.

This pandemic has hit so many people very hard financially, there’s no easy way around it. So now is the time to pivot and do things differently. Stop shopping, stop spending money without thinking. Open up to the possibilities. This is an eye-opening time for all of us, and we can use this time to decide what we want the rest of our lives to look like.

 Learn more about the SAFE's no-cost financial education webinars.

 Join SAFE and see what over 236,000 members already know. SAFE is dedicated to fostering YOUR financial well-being so that you can take control of your finances.


Gina Richardson

Senior Financial Wellness Educator