By now, it is no secret that the coronavirus known as COVID-19 (“coronavirus” is a family of viruses) is spreading across the globe, including the United States. How might this impact your life? Whether or not COVID-19 cases have been reported in your area, and whether or not you yourself are ill, there is no doubt that the outbreak is going to affect your life somehow. That is going to include your financial life, from outstanding car loans to your plans to visit ATV dealers or find used boats for sale, all the way to stock market investments. But while many businesses are closing or restricting their activity, others are still open, and you don’t necessarily have to quarantine yourself 100%. Stay clean, safe, and smart, and you can handle your finances just fine during times like these. For the most part, taking out loans now may not be a good call, but in some cases, it might be.

Pandemics and Budgeting

Perhaps your place of work has asked you to stay home, or perhaps you worked from home anyway or you are living on social security. In any case, it’s a good idea to assess your spending habits carefully and figure out how to adjust to this new lifestyle while the pandemic is ongoing. There are over 32.5 million businesses across the United States, from trucking firms to restaurants to hobby shops. You may not spend much money at some of these businesses, but others will still be worth your money.

So, how can you get your financial life on track so you know how which loans to take out (or not), or whether to spend the money on kitchen remodeling or perhaps installing a piping system for your home? Start by performing a self-audit. This is a good idea in any case, though many Americans neglect to track their own finances, and during a tricky time such as this, it is more important than ever that you know what your cash flow looks like. Now is not the time to take out loans you cannot afford or default on current loans, such as an auto loan or student loans for a high education.

To begin, note how much money you are making, both for the year and for every month. Whether you earn a salary, wages, or self-employment freelance money, factor in this number, and add any passive income that you may have, such as rent for properties that you own or an investment. Next is the really important part (and the one you have more control over): your spending. Some Americans make more than others, but everyone can control their spending to some degree or other. And whether you make $30,000 or $200,000 per year, spending habits are everything.

Include major expenses, loans, or bills such as rent/mortgage, utilities, your current auto loan (if any), repaying student loans, medical bills that you are paying off, cell phone data plan bills, groceries, and just about anything else you can think of along those lines. In addition, count up all leisurely or non-essential spending that you do, such as going to a hair loss specialist clinic or corrective procedures at the dentist’s office, sports or hobby equipment, eating out, cable or video streaming bills, and even the odd Starbucks coffee. What’s interesting is that you may be shocked by the numbers you see, since spending like this (both essential and non-essential) is a habit, and therefore practically invisible. You don’t really notice that kind of spending, and you might be spending dangerously large amounts per month or year without noticing it, preventing you from saving anything substantial. But a self-audit like this will make everything clear.

Now, you can figure out how much you actually need to spend per month, and how much you do not. You may have heard money-saving advice such as “stop getting Starbucks” or “cancel your magazine subscriptions,” and there is merit to that. Such things can add up fast, and now you know which to cut out. Other expenses might be lowered, such as changing your cable plan or reducing how much is spent on hobbies or eating out. Now, in what ways might you continue to spend money, and which loans or expenses might not be worth it while you are surviving the pandemic with everyone else?

Savings and Dentistry

Of course, the healthcare industry is bearing a lot of the burden to keep Americans safe and handle sick patients, and many medical staff members are risking infection themselves during this time. But what about visiting the dentist for some routine dental care? This may be a tricky question to answer, but there are some factors for you to consider before making a decision. On one hand, it may be risky to come in close contact with the dentist and their assistants, but then again, bear in mind that some people are more at risk than others. The elderly, or anyone with diabetes or lung issues, are most at risk of becoming dangerously ill from COVID-19, and some American states have reported more cases than others.

There are valid reasons to go to your dentist even during this time, however. For one thing, your oral health is always important, and if you do not visit the dentist at all, you may develop serious oral health issues, from cavities to infections to teeth coming loose or rotting, and that is a whole new problem entirely, never mind COVID-19. Such serious dental health issues can cost you in the long run, and may endanger your overall health, too.

Dental offices across the United States will not necessarily close themselves and bar the front door during this time, but many of them may adjust their hours of operation to reduce how many people visit, and thus lower the risk of disease transmission. So, you may call or email your dentist’s office and ask them for their new hours (if you haven’t already been notified), and reschedule a dentist appointment if need be. You may also consult your primary care physician and ask them if going to the dentist is a good call, and your doctor will refer to your current health and other factors to give a sensible answer. Emergencies such as a loose or badly chipped tooth may call for a timely visit to the dentist, but for routine visits, try not to get there early, especially if you feel ill. The staff and other patients may be at risk if you (while ill) are running a fever or coughing or sneezing a lot in the office. The risk is even higher if you have recently been exposed to someone who has COVID-19.

Hobbies and Saving Money

Should your hobbies be put on hold while the outbreak is ongoing? There are reasons to freeze spending on your hobbies, and reasons not to. Or, you can simply adjust your lifestyle and try out new hobbies that cost very little, if any, money to do.

Suppose your hobby is a costly one, such as tuning cars or using leisure vehicles such as ATVs or boats or dune buggies. It is one thing to buy replacement parts for these vehicles to keep them in good shape, so they do not fall apart and require even more expensive repairs later on. Some parts, whether stainless steel or items made in plastic injection molding workshops, may very well be worth it. Routine vehicle care is a smart investment at any time, and if your budget allows it, it may be a good idea to keep your vehicles in tip-top shape.

But buying or leasing a new vehicle is a different matter. During this time, you may risk going into debt or falling behind on loans if you go and buy a new ATV, only for your job to require you to stay home for another month without pay. Different employers have different approaches for the COVID-19 case, and it may be difficult to predict what your employer will do in the coming weeks. So, the best route is probably to take on a financially conservative attitude and avoid risky spending or investments, just in case. Save that money as financial padding in case you can’t go into the office or factory for some time. That new boat or ATV you’ve been wanting to buy can wait for another time. For now, keep that money for bills.

But this doesn’t have to lead to boring days. Some of your current hobbies may fit nicely in your virus-emergency budget, and even if they do not, you have some new options on your hands. Some hobbies are very inexpensive or even free, and now is the time to consider them. And some of these hobbies are best shared with your children or spouse, making for some good social time.

Some of these low-cost hobbies include running or jogging outside, especially in parks or nature trails, and the social distancing rule should be easy out there (staying six feet away from other people at minimum). You don’t have to literally stay in your house for the next few months; just be sensible about personal proximity and touching items. Better yet, being outside in the sunlight and fresh air (and nature) is good for your mood and your whole body, and it can cheer you up despite the grim news of the pandemic. Out in nature, you can get away from it all for a time. All you need is the right pair of shoes for jogging, running, or hiking.

Meanwhile, why not try drawing or sketching or watercolors, which have low material costs? You’ll never “complete” these hobbies, since you can always improve, and if you really like it, the possibilities are endless. The same is true of writing poetry, fiction, or even nonfiction, both on paper and on electronic devices (or a typewriter, if you happen to have one). Bird watching or general nature watching is also free if you already have binoculars, and light exercise in your back yard (calisthenics, stretches, etc( won’t cost you a thing. And if you have items lying around from previous hobbies, try getting back into those hobbies. What if your old guitar or saxophone is collecting dust? Time to make use of those items once again.

Hiring Lawyers For Accidents

Unfortunately, COVID-19 isn’t necessarily the only hazard out there. Even if you are not sick, you might end up in a car accident, suffer an injury at work (such as construction work), or you may suffer a medical malpractice incident. Should this happen, is it a good idea to pursue litigation and hire an attorney? This is something to carefully weigh into your current virus-emergency budget, and if you have not already drafted a budget like this, now is certainly the time to do it. If you were injured in a car crash, you will most likely have medical bills to pay and cannot perform paid work in the near future (or ever), and that’s going to impact your financial life further.

You can look up local law firms of the correct type (general personal injury, workplace injury, car accident injury) and get consultations from the attorneys working there, which may or may not incur a fee (depending on the firm). If your budget allows it, hiring an attorney can do a lot of good, especially if those medical bills are high and now you’ll never do paying work again. Getting settlement money might actually be the only way to stay afloat after a major car crash in times like these, or if you got badly hurt while at work.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is at best a major inconvenience and at worst a major health hazard and reason to worry, this does not mean that you are helpless. Far from it; now is the time to use all of your budgeting and planning skills to map out your near future, and a smart budget, along with smart health and safety practices, can allow you to carry on through the pandemic with hardly a hiccup. It is true that many of your life plans may be put on hold, anything from buying a new house or car all the way to a kitchen remodeling job or retiring from work (don’t take on huge loans at a time like this!), but safety comes first, and right now, it is best to think on the moderate to short term and act cautiously and slowly. The big projects will be there waiting for you later when you are ready for them.

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