Adapting Your Finances During This Coronavirus Crisis with Debt Free Divas

As many families find themselves dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it's becoming a necessity to adjust our finances and more.

Today we break down how you can create a plan to protect your family's finances during this crisis!

Dealing with Financial Stress from the Coronavirus Crisis

Our budgets and routines have been upended. For many families that means having to shift and adjust their budgets to ride out these tough times.

My friend and fellow personal finance author Toni Husbands has been there. She and her husband have paid off over $107,000 in consumer debt.

I interviewed her on my marriage and money podcast here or you can read her amazing journey on her site Debt Free Divas.

She's here to discuss with me:

  • how families can review and reevaluate their budget so they can cover their essentials,
  • grow their financial cushion, and
  • gives ideas on which resources to tap into to reduce financial stress.

She also shares how parents can use this time to connect with one another as well as keep the kids busy when work has to get done.

You can watch our chat right here or go through an edited transcript below!

Reducing Financial Stress

Elle Martinez: Thank you so much for joining me this morning. It's Friday, sunny, but cold here in Raleigh, and you have snow over in Chicago.

Toni Husbands: Oh, it's coming. I think it's not here yet, but it's very gray outside. Oh, OK. So it's not like the thirty five degree temperature range. And you want to come over, hang out.

Elle Martinez: Now, there's a reason I'm in North Carolina. I'm just born in New York. Lived up and down the East Coast. But I'm going to settle in the south and just keep everyone out there on Triple Bay. Well, I like to visit in, you know, get like that experience of snow and come back.

Elle Martinez: But, you know, all joking aside, I'm really I am glad that you've joined me today, cause, you know, in the community, I'm sure your community to my community, the conversation, of course, is more serious, especially with COVID-19 going around. But I feel as many people as been affected directly by the virus. The financial situations of a lot of people are affected with stay at home orders if someone is sick trying to figure out everything. So I kind of wanted to talk to you about this, because when you're in the thick of things, it's hard to. Not stress out, but, you know, you've been through. I've had you on the podcast, you've been through a lot. You've done some extraordinary things as a couple as a family to get your finances in a stronger spot. So, you know, when tough times happen, even unexpected things like this. At least you can ride through it. So thanks for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Toni Husbands: Thanks for asking me. I definitely love to talk about this. This is the time to really focus in on what we can do to to alleviate some of that financial stress that comes with, you know, just uncertain times. And so this is this is the right conversation for the right time right now. Yeah.

Adjusting Family Finances

Elle Martinez: Yeah. And I think one of the first things people worry about and understandably so is like, what does this mean for our budget, whether it's because they've seen reduced hours or been furloughed or even if both are working. It's still like, wait a minute, there is this big question mark. What's the next month, two months, even longer going to be like? How should I adjust my budget? And so I kind of want to talk to you because you have been fantastic. Like I've. No, you for years and one of the amazing things you've done is like paid off six figures of debt. So I know for a fact that at least you've had to readjust your budget to hit a big goal like that.

Toni Husbands: Absolutely, yes. My husband and I paid off one hundred and seven thousand dollars and kept some of that. So that doesn't include the house. Are you guys a mortgage in some in some localities. But yeah, it definitely required an adjustment to our attitudes towards what was important towards our behaviors in terms of what we did with our spending. And it also required just kind of settling in to the long haul, which is which can be kind of a difficult thing to to process because. Pay off that much money, paying off that much debt. It took us seven years so that I might say I like it. It's so interesting for me to say that and just kind of like it rolls off the tongue. But thinking about like each day that we're turning each week, which turns into each month and trying to kind of hold it together over that period of time really requires a shift in mindset, a shift in my style. And that might be some of the things that we have to do today might not be a fun thing. It might be for us, but actually it might help us come out stronger on the other side of this. And I think in terms of like looking at your budget, it's right now we're in where we're in crisis mode right now.

Prioritize Your Expenses

Toni Husbands: So right now we're looking at survival. So the things people want to focus on are the essentials, food, medicine, you know, housing, transportation, if you are an essential worker. Those are the things that you definitely want to focus, you're prioritizing. And in a way, like I said, it's not fun while we're going through it and sometimes change. You know, I can think of so many, you know, trying to exercise more, trying to eat that are none of those things are necessarily pleasant when you're going through them. But once you make the adjustment and once you come out on the other side. Often times, you know, I'm sure that often you are better for it as a you know, as a person, as a as a family, as you have children, as a parent in terms of setting an example for your children. So it is hard work. Yeah, it's hard. Some people are really struggling, whether financially or even just like from a mental health perspective, because this is you know, we don't know what's going to happen. We don't know how long this is gonna last, you know, but what we can do is focus on the things that we have control over.

So right now, we have control over where we prioritize, prioritize our spending. And so I would definitely ask people to focus on making sure you can eat. That's number one. Making sure you have your medicines. You know, you can keep that going because your health is very important and your housing situation. However, everything doesn't require that we spend money because at this point, we're all this. Now, if we're gonna go through a financial stress test. Right, it's better that we're all going through it together because there's more resources and more help. At this point, that's a good point. Know definitely. All we might have to be creative. You know, we've seen the lines about people going through food, food, going to food pantries. This might be a time, you know, food pantries or if your state offers, you know, the supplemental nutrition programs that, you know, we might have to, you know, let go of the ego. Sometimes there is an ego thing about reaching out for help. If you've been self-sufficient and there's no shame in reaching out for help, especially in time now especially.

Know Your Relief Options

Elle Martinez: Yeah. And I think you bring up several good points. And I do kind of want to hit on that point, which is right now, because this is such a big issue, state level, you know, federal level with the CARES Act and so forth. There are some relief programs, also some community based programs like you were talking about the food pantry that I know sometimes you want to tackle everything at once, but something to set aside time for, you know, as couples, as families, is what relief options are available to you.

I know here in the state in North Carolina, utilities can't get cut. You can't get foreclosed or evicted. So those are some protections. And the reason I want to know that is because you want to tap into this.

What we're trying to do, you know, in a crisis mode and you probably, you know, done this, too, is what how can we grow this gap between what we're bringing in, whatever level this is right now and our expenses, if we can, you know, grow that, get even just a little bit, it can relieve some of the pressure.

Like you were mentioning, the SNAP program or used to be called food stamps. You know, there is this stigma with it, but this is unprecedented times. So if you need to even temporarily take advantage of that program and it's not like it is a lot of money for you know, if you look at the numbers, sometimes it's only just basically a week's worth of groceries.

But if you can take that money you saved, use it to, you know, take care of the rent or the mortgage or you take that money redirected to have a financial cushion. You know, really, like you said, let go the ego. There's, you know, don't worry about the stigma. We have to take care of your family in those foundational, essential expenses. Right? Absolutely critical. And, you know, just be aware of what's available.

Reflect and Adjust Expenses As Needed

Toni Husbands: Right. Right. Exactly. Take this time, you know, to breathe. I think that's an honorable thing. Like breathe in and then less craft a plan, you know? And I think that's kind of what we had to do. Taking it back to my experience, is it? You know, we were at a point where we went from two incomes to one income and that's kind of way before then. You know, we were able to pay all of our bills and kind of, you know, kind of a, you know, laissez faire existence. Yeah. Because it worked at the time. It wasn't necessarily the best. You know, and we were doing the things, quote unquote, things that smart people did. You know, we bought a condo and we had credit cards and we would travel over it. But but we weren't necessarily being very intentional about when it worked out. And so when we went from the two incomes to one and the reason we that happened, it was a choice. You know, I quit my job to start a business. But then that focused that required us. And so that was that situation for me.

Toni Husbands: It required us to make sure we had our bases covered. And so that's what. Yeah, that's what a lot of people are doing now. It's requiring us to to make sure that we have the funds to care for what's essential. And then also at this point, and it kind of helps that we are most of us are under stay at home orders because some of those distractions that we might have had in terms of, you know, nails or hair or eat out, you know, those things are kept in check. Yes. Essentially kind of taken away from us. And so it does force us to like really look at where we're spending our money and what is what are essential items, what are essential items and what are things that we were we are just want for. Nice to have, you know. And this is again, it's a it's it's going to force us not always the best feeling, but if we take it if we take the best out of the situation, we'll be stronger for it.

Which Bills Should Be Paid First?

Elle Martinez: Yeah. And that's another good point, which is prioritizing your budget in your bills and taking the time. So, you know, sit down. I think we've hit on this like those essentials, the four walls, you make sure you have a roof over your head, the food, the utilities, you know, those things. And then financial cushion, which, you know, we've we've been in the personal finance space for a while. But honestly, like even before then, everyone's heard like have an emergency fund. But I think like this crisis right now really hit home. Like this is why you need to have some kind of financial cushion. There are things that happen that maybe you could have prevented. And then there's things that are just outside of your control. So those expenses you mentioned, like, you know, the nails, the hair. If we're not doing a commute anymore, that gas money, you know, for not eating out with our co-workers, take that money. You know, it's temporary, but take it put it toward savings. You take care your essentials. And then also just talk about it like do you want to continue doing it whenever this gets lifted or how is it going to look in the future? Just even having that reflection about your expenses and then prioritizing those goals are absolutely essential.

Connecting During This Crisis

Elle Martinez: And one thing I kind of want to wrap this up on on a happy note and we're really been real serious is you've talked about like this is an opportunity to grow. And one of the things is couples as families, we have this time together forced we're first.

But like I remember like two years ago, I did like a 20 dollar date night challenge or, you know, like a family day. And you're like, I crown you the winner because you always were like posting these things. But, yeah, have you guys done you know, how have you guys kind of kept the sanity and bonded at the same time?

Toni Husbands: Oh, yeah. Actually, I think I might be kind of going a little overboard. You know, kind of taking advantage. But and we've done a couple of things that we've done. Number one is just saying stay in contact with friends and family. And, you know, I was just share with you earlier how I just love that, you know, our group is still meeting that. Yeah, it's digital. It's something different to see a different face. Yes, you're different. You know, maybe a voice or something, you know. So using tools like Zoom or face time or. What's that? You know, you use the tools to stay connected to friends and family. My family does a does a weekly no stupid questions. I where we are tapping into my brothers. My brother is a former financial advisor. So very cool. Yeah. He was just like any questions anybody has about investing or stocks or or, you know, for what we've been doing that once a month on some days. And that's been actually really, you know, not only just cool for. Yeah. But also informative. We're learning and shit and passing on. And he actually lives in Seattle, I'm in Chicago, so they're in Tacoma, Washington, OK. Yeah, I know we are family. That's in Florida. And this in D.C.. So this is this is family that we don't see on a regular basis anyway. So now we're think regular regularly. So that's something that we've done as a as a larger unit. When in my own household, some of the things we do, we've done our my son is very much into like writing stories. And so he's 8, my my daughter six. And so they kind of crazy stories. And so my husband found this little like really cool little comic book maker. I put him on the tablet. Right. Now. So they create their story. So we've taken most thought. We've taken one of his stories and we we created a movie from it.

Elle Martinez: Like, was it flip a clip? Because my my 8 year old is into it, too. Yeah. Oh yeah. That's a that's an amazing.

Toni Husbands: Yeah. That's exactly what it is. OK. So we we took that. Yeah. That story that he created. And we we just did little, you know, with a little cell phone videos and things like that. Yeah. And using like kind of teaching ourself through a movie how to do special effects. And so those are some of the things that we're doing as a family kind of just to, you know, take advantage of this time, not pull our hair out.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, that sometimes happens. Yeah. We've been trying to do crafts, painting. We got a telescope like we upgraded the telescope because we had one and it kind of broke. And that's been fun. Now let's look at at night or we actually did one this morning because Saturn was out in the rings. Oh, kids actually woke up early. That was a good thing. But they wanted to join us.I see that.

Toni Husbands: Yeah. We got a telescope; got to dust that off. That's it.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. So tomorrow. Just to let you know, on the 18th there's a comment that should be visible on you here in Raleigh. I don't. Noon Chicago. Check it out. I should be able to watch it on the telescope. So that's kind of what we've been doing. But, Tony, I appreciate you always have some good ideas. I got to have you on again.

Toni Husbands: Any time, anytime, because I think I think we do need to kind of just like stay connected as a community, tap into the resources that you have. You know, like I said, with, you know, a brother, a financial adviser, something like that. Yeah, my father speaks Spanish. He's been doing Spanish lessons for now. So. And, you know, all through the magic of Zoom so we can really use this time wisely that we would have we'd been otherwise running from here to there and tearing ourselves out, you know, and just, you know, use I think I think repurpose this time when I've gone. I don't think we're gonna be here forever. Yeah. And so, you know, what can we what can we do or ask people what is some of the things that you never had a chance to do that you've always wanted to do? Maybe. Is there some way to take advantage of that time now? You know, I'm mentally set, you know, while you are trying to address some of the financial issues that we're going through.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, that's fantastic. So, guys, if you have any questions, you know, let me know. I love having Toni on. Maybe she can join me again. We can answer your questions. But also, I do want to point out, if you are are doing all right, like things are going well, consider if you can to maybe send someone to give some money to someone in your community. Right now we're in this together or the local food pantry. I know here they've been working overtime. And that's a resource that many of our neighbors need. So if you are doing pretty well, you know, consider giving. I know this is a crazy time or even volunteering. If they are following the protocol. I know a lot of food pantries are asking for volunteers as well. But thank you, Tony. If anyone wants to hang out with you and chat with you, what's the best way they can reach out to you?

Toni Husbands: So I'm on Facebook. You can find us. Just look for debt free divas on Facebook or Twitter. Or if you want to head over to my Web site, that preview that board. All right.

Elle Martinez: Thank you so much, Toni. I hope you have a fantastic weekend.

Toni Husbands: Thanks so much.

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