Thursday, April 2, 2020 / by Ken Couture
America's economic chill just got frostier amid the coronavirus stock market crash. Now's the time to adjust your spending.
The good news: the $2 trillion economic stimulus plan, which President Trump signed on March 27, will send $1,200 to most U.S. adults. Most parents will get an additional $500 for each child age 16 or younger.
The bad news: That money is a drop in the bucket amid the coronavirus stock market crash. How long can you live on $1,200? And how many mortgages payments will it handle? How much food will it buy? How many credit card bills will it cover?
And the financial fears for Americans mounted as the Labor Department reported a record 3.283 million Americans filed for jobless benefits in the week ended March 21.
That's more than four times worse than the previous record of 695,000, set in October 1982. This latest filings record came as the U.S. Senate sent a $2 trillion stimulus plan to the House.
Even if you haven't lost your job or suffered a cutback in your paid work hours, you can probably hear a voice inside your head screaming, "Time to tighten your belt before the coronavirus crisis cripples the economy even more!"
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to trim your household budget that don't require you to subsist on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches seven days a week.
Leading financial advisors and other financial experts offer these shrewd tips for reducing your household spending amid the coronavirus stock market crash:
Coronavirus Stock Market Crash: Cut Your Insurance Costs
You can cut insurance bills in several ways. First, ask your agent if you're getting all available discounts. Did you ever notify your insurer of that defensive driver course you took? Does your insurer offer a discount to affinity groups like graduates of your college? Can you get a discount by combining homeowner's coverage with your car coverage?
A multi-policy discount will typically save you several hundred dollars a year.
Cut Your Cable Bill: Another Way To Cut Costs During The Coronavirus Stock Market Crash
One way to tame your household budget during the coronavirus stock market crash is by switching to a streaming service like Hulu, Sling TV or Philo. Also, consider getting rid of premium cable channels. Each one likely costs you about $20 per month, says Nostrom.
Get rid of extra cable boxes at home, too. You can get basic access at lower cost for that TV in, say, your workshop or on the wall in front of your treadmill. Each full-service box costs about $11 per month, Nostrom says.
Further, drop your DVR option. That'll save you about $13 per month, she says. You can even switch to basic cable, which costs a fraction of cable packages with more bells and whistles.
Dump Unused Subscriptions
This applies to such things as gym memberships, which you can drop outright. Or, if you're now working from home or out of work, perhaps your gym offers a less expensive daytime-access option.
Get A Break On Residential Rent
Getting a rent reduction can relieve your household budget while your income may be uncertain, like during the coronavirus stock market crash.
Make an offer to your landlord that benefits both of you. "In nearly all negotiations there needs to be a win-win scenario. "If you are a good tenant, perhaps your landlord will give you a month off rent if you commit to a longer lease term. Maybe they'll give you a month of free rent if you agree to a two-year lease."
Cut Your Credit Card Rate With A Balance Transfer Card
One way to get a lower credit card rate is by switching to a balance-transfer credit card. That's a card from a different company than the one that issued your current card.
When you transfer the balance, the new card issuer pays off your existing debt with the old card. The idea is to get a new card with a lower interest rate.
The move makes sense if the new card charges you little or no balance transfer fee and provides you with a credit limit high enough to absorb your previous balance plus your usual spending.
Also, look for an introductory period long enough to pay off the transfer balance before any rate increase. And make sure you qualify for that grace-period promotional fee. Otherwise, a transfer may not make financial sense.
Negotiate A Lower Credit Card Rate
Here's another way to lower your credit card cost: persuade your credit card company to lower your interest rate.
"If you have been a longtime cardholder and have a history of on-time payments, they may be inclined to try and keep you.
Even if you've been a sterling customer, you may have to threaten to cancel your card, Bibbo says.
Be prepared to have to work hard for this cost-cutter amid the general economic crunch created by the coronavirus stock market crash.
If the first person you speak with declines to provide a lower rate, "hang up and try again with a different person. "Threaten to close your account ... and escalate to a supervisor or account retention manager if you feel you're not getting anywhere."
After all, 56% of people who asked for lower rates got them in 2018. And 70% who asked for annual fees waived or lowered succeeded.
Don't Apply For Too Many Credit Cards
As you negotiate with your credit card company amid the coronavirus stock market crash, make sure you don't apply for too many cards.
The reason is that credit bureaus assume you apply for credit in several places because you're being turned down in some of them. To them, that's a sign that you're a weak credit risk.
And Shop In The Right Places For A Credit Card
While shopping for a new credit card, always check with a credit union in your area. Member-owned credit unions tend to have lower costs than many shareholder-owned banks, she says. "Credit unions also offer higher interest rates on deposits and lower rates on loans and credit cards," Juge said.
Refinance Your Big Loans Amid The Coronavirus Stock Market Crash
Interest rates remain historically low, held down by a cautious Federal Reserve amid the coronavirus stock market crash. The rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages now averages 3.5%, down from 4.1% a year ago, says FreddieMac.
Consider refinancing home loans, student loans, car loans and personal loans that carry high rates.
A rule of thumb says you're most likely to save enough money to make refinancing worthwhile after fees if you refi within the first five years of a 15-year mortgage and within the first eight to 10 years of a 30-year loan, says Harford's Conroy.
The sooner you refi, the better. Your payments are mostly interest early in the life of a loan, so the more early payments you eliminate, the more you save.
Use an online calculator to compare your payments based on your current interest rate with payments on whatever lower rate you can find.
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