The pandemic has us feeling uneasy in more ways than one.
The future feels uncertain, and we’re all waiting to see how things will pan out.
But, instead of feeling completely powerless, there are a few simple, unexpected ways you can be proactive — to take steps to pay off your debt, lower your bills and secure your future.
1. Stop Paying Your Student Loan Debt
If you need some room in your budget to take care of more pressing monthly bills or want to pay off some higher-interest debt, you can stop paying your student loans.
You thought you’d never see the day, right? But the federal government passed the CARES Act, which suspends payments and interest on federal student loans until Sept. 30.
Of course, this doesn’t cancel out those payments. You’ll still owe the money. But because you’re not getting charged interest, this could be a good opportunity to put this monthly payment toward more pressing bills. You could also take the money and put it toward your car payment or pay more on your credit cards, which hold higher interest rates.
This six-month pause is automatic, but be sure to double-check your account and make sure your amount due reads $0.
2. Tell Your Car Insurance Company You’re Not Driving as Much
Did you know some car insurance companies are offering refunds? Yup — they’re handing out credits, mailing checks and depositing money back into customers’ bank accounts because people are driving less. This could give you a little more breathing room in your budget right now.
Here are a few big companies doing this:
- Allstate is refunding 15% of monthly premiums in April and May.
- Geico is giving a 15% credit to customers renewing or purchasing new policies between April 8 and Oct. 7.
- Liberty Mutual will refund 15% of premiums for two months and pause late fees.
- USAA will give a 20% credit on two months of premiums.
If you don’t see your insurer on this list, don’t be afraid to reach out. Let them know you’re driving less, and ask if it’s offering refunds to its customers.
3. Leave Your Family $1 Million in Life Insurance For $5/Month
While you’re taking stock of your debt and your monthly bills, you probably can’t help but consider how overwhelming it’d be for your family to handle these if you weren’t around. How could they afford the mortgage? The kids’ schooling? The bills?
Now is a good time to start planning for the future by looking into a term life insurance policy.
You might be thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But you might be surprised to hear your application can take minutes — and you could leave your family up to $1 million with a company called Bestow.
Rates start at just $5 a month, but the peace of mind of knowing your family’s financial future is taken care of is priceless.
If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam or even leaving the house, get a free quote from Bestow.
4. Ask Your Electric Company For a Discount — Even if You’re Using More Energy
At this point, many of us are spending more time at home, which probably means you’re using more electricity and are bracing for a higher bill.
But here’s some good news: Some power companies are lowering customers’ bills, because fuel costs have been lower. For instance, Florida Power & Light plans to reduce residential bills by 25% beginning May 1. Duke Energy Florida is also temporarily reducing bills.
Even if you haven’t heard from your electric company, it doesn’t hurt to reach out. Give them a call and see if they’re offering any refunds or discounts.
5. Strike a Deal With Your Credit Card Company
If you’re struggling to keep up with your monthly bills, it might be time to call up your credit card company and strike a deal. You don’t want to let your credit card debt get away from you right now — those high interest rates can really send you into a spiral.
Many companies are offering case-by-case relief, so reach out to your issuer. While you sit on hold (hold times are longer than average these days), figure out what type of relief will help you the most.
A few things you could ask for include: Waiving late fees, waiving interest charges, reducing monthly payments or reducing interest rates.
Of course, this probably can’t be a “forever” thing, but ask for three months of relief. It could save you a ton of money.
6. Ask For Help
If you’re in a particularly dire situation and want to avoid emerging from this pandemic tens of thousands of dollars in debt, ask for help.
Sure, many of us would rather do anything but ask for help, but these are unprecedented times, and life’s a little bit out of our control right now.
For example, if you’re struggling to make your mortgage payments, reach out to your lender. Sure, foreclosures and evictions aren’t allowed right now, but your accounts could still get pushed to collections and you could still face penalties.
You might have to provide proof that you’re been paid off or need financial assistance, but it never hurts to ask about your relief options.
This same idea can be applied to any of your other bills — rent, utilities, cell phone and car payments.
Carson Kohler (email@example.com) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.
This story originally ran on The Penny Hoarder.