Saturday, February 21, 2009

How to Deal in a Bad Economy

If you've experienced a job loss or a paycut, then your head is probably spinning from fear and confusion of what to do next. It doesn't help that you keep hearing all over the media about the unemployment rate going up and the availability of jobs going down.

You also probably have the very real fear of losing your home. How can you pay for your rent or your mortgage when you don't have enough money? What can you do? What are your options? I'm going to try to help you in this area.

First of all, if you don't have a budget, make one. You need to write down all of your monthly obligations and total them out. Then you'll know how much money you need. Also, a budget only works if you follow it, so try to avoid any impulsive expenditures.

Of course, you have to have enough money to make your budget work. If you're having trouble in this area due this bad economy, there are programs out there to help you.

My state has a program called The Utah Department of Workforce Services (here is their website: http://www.jobs.utah.gov/jobseeker/dwsdefault.asp). Through this program you can find out how to see if you qualify for financial assistance, food stamps, health care, or it can even help you look for another job. Check your state government website to find out what programs they have in your state.

Are you low income and having trouble paying your utilities? Winter is a hard time when it comes to paying that gas bill. In my state we have a program called HEAT (http://housing.utah.gov/seal/heat.html). Those who qualify for this program can get help paying for their gas and electric bills. Our program opens in November and goes until it runs out of money. Check with your utility company and they should be able to tell of the programs available in your particular area.

Do you have children in school? See if you qualify for free or reduced lunch. Many schools also offer breakfast to your children. This can really help you lower your food bill. The program is confidential, so no one else will know if you're paying for your kids' food or not.

Call your mortgage company, if you have one. See what options they have available to you. Don't give up if you don't get the answers you're looking for the first time you call. Your answer there is only as good as the person's knowledge who works there. Sometimes, oddly enough, the person you're talking to may not know what your options are, so ask to speak to their supervisor.

Sometimes you can modify your home loan and add what you've fallen behind on to the end of your mortgage. Sometimes they can even lower your interest rate or your payment to make it more affordable to you. They can also help you negotiate a short sale on your home, if that's what you need to do. Check with your mortgage company.

I checked to see what my mortgage company, Countrywide Home Loans, offers. They have their Financial Hardship Program information listed on their website (http://my.countrywide.com/media/FinancialAssistance.html). Your mortgage company's website might be a good place for you to start looking.

Also, you might want to try going to your church. Many churches have programs and funds available to those in need. The church I go to helps many people with food and other necessities. Check to see what's available to you in that avenue. Don't lose faith. We have to go through these hard times to get to the good times. It can be scary, but realize that God is there for you and will take care of you. He may not always take you in the direction you want to go, but trust that He knows better than you.

I hope these tips will help you in your hard time. If you know of any other resources out there that I haven't listed, please let me know.