You’re Down To Your Last Dollars, Now What?

woman in profile, arms lifted up to head, closing eyes
Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

When the pandemic erupted, we could see that a storm was coming. It seemed like a weird dream, not knowing what the crisis was going to look like. Now that it’s been here for a couple months, we have learned a new lifestyle, with social distancing, economic free-fall, furloughing, and stock-piling essentials.

My husband and I both work as nurses at our local hospital. We looked at worst-case scenario, and braced ourselves for a treacherous few months of increased shifts at the hospital, increased exposure to COVID-19, and increased stress from both of these stressors.

Since I’m considered an essential hospital worker, I believed I would continue to work. Surely there’d be an influx of very sick patients, and I planned that my role as a hospital discharger would be greatly needed.

I was wrong.

Currently, in the state where I reside, we have successfully followed social distancing. All elective surgeries have been cancelled, and all the medical clinics closed. Our hospital census (the amount of patients we have admitted in the hospital) has decreased to half the average number. Staff has been cut; week by week our shifts kept getting canceled. And now, I’ve been furloughed, like millions of other people.

I am a nurse who is unemployed during a pandemic.

This is all good news, because it means that locally, people here are not sick and dying from the coronavirus.

However, I still need to put food on our table and pay the utility bills.

The realization that I would not be bringing in an income to our much needed expenses has left me worried. I understand that this is not a problem that will go away soon, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to return to work.

jar tipped on side, coins spilling out onto floor
Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

Today, I dipped into our emergency savings to pay for our housing expenses, groceries, and some other needed bills. I’m so glad we have this additional money saved up. That emergency money won’t last long, and then I’ll have to dip into my other savings, my Fuck Off Fund — or otherwise known as emergency savings for a long-term situation — which I believe is where we will be very soon, like, within the next month.

I know I’m in a large boat with many others, spending down to the last dollars in the checking and savings accounts. It doesn’t feel good to pay expenses when there’s not enough money to cover the bills.

hands holding seeds
Photo by Joshua Lanzarini on Unsplash

I’ve found that spending while on a very tight budget gives a different perspective on money. I’m not so quick to spend my money on things I don’t need. I’m also slow to spend my money on things I really do need.

In a different financial mindset, I can justify spending on anything. Without money, I find I need very little, except food, clothing, some transportation, and a roof over my head.

However, lack of money have driven me down to my life necessities, my basic living needs. No non-essential shopping. Find a way to cut back on any bills. Delay other bills if allowed and necessary. Use up anything in the pantry before making a store run. These actions help slow down the spending.

For the basics, I’ve cut back on the food bill by doing a couple things:

  • We typically garden, and will be relying on that garden this year more so for food.
  • I like to can, and have preserves stored for now. As summer comes, I will continue to preserve for later what we cannot eat now.
  • I cook from scratch. My pantry has dried beans and lentils, frozen fruit and veggies, flour and sugar, dried pasta. With staples, I cook all of our meals now rather than getting food out (which we can still do here; get food to go).

These steps decrease our food bill by a lot; a big budget expense.

For mortgage, utilities, and other bills:

  • We are refinancing our home, which will help decrease our payments. Plus, typically there’s a gap month with no mortgage payment when you refinance. If we weren’t refinancing, I would request a payment delay. I still may do this after the refinancing goes through, if I’m able.
  • We’ve placed payment delays on our car loans.
  • I’ve filed for all the possible government help that I’m qualified for, and am still waiting.
  • I’ve applied for other jobs; ones related to assisting with the coronavirus containment, and I’m still waiting.
  • If things get really dire, I have things to sell. You know, like jewelry. Cheap. If you’re interested.

I’m fortunate that I have loved ones at home, that I’m healthy. I’m glad I’ve created a savings for emergencies, because right now is an emergency. I’m glad my husband is still working, he’s our only source of income right now and helping curb the financial free-fall.

I hope everyone has something that they can financially fall back on. And if you come to your last dollars…breathe.

Written by

Advocate for Women / Editor of The Virago

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