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What to do with your money and how to prioritize your payments

With COVID-19 changing life for everyone, people are trying to figure out how to pay all their bills -- many doing so without a job. We have some help for you.
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DALLAS — Many people across the country are trying to figure out how to do the most with the money they already have. Here are some tips to reduce monthly payments and avoid penalties during an unprecedented pandemic.

PRIORITIZE YOUR MONEY

Most people build their days and weeks around routine. Some involve a trip to the gym, to the coffee shop or a certain mall.

Now that many of those routines are broken because of the impact of COVID-19, it's a good time to assess where your money has been going on a regular basis.

Dale McCarty is the president of the Retirement Designers Financial Group. He said this type of prioritizing is the first step towards making smart steps with your money.

"While being confined more to our homes than we ever have been, people are going to realize -- especially if you look back at some of your old bank statements and credit card statements -- how $20 here and $20 there will all of sudden be meaningful money."

After looking at your habits, divide things into "wants" and "needs." Then prioritize those regular wants. 

Whatever ends up at the bottom could become what you go without.

MAKE A CALL

Many payment structures are built around a monthly payment system. However, companies will sometimes restructure into a plan that allows you to pay over an extended period of time.

When it comes to credit card companies, utility services, or your mortgage, have a conversation with someone if you are unable to pay. Explain that this isn't about not wanting to pay, it's about being unable to pay because of a pandemic most people didn't see coming.

"Maybe you can't pay everything, but make sure you're in contact with the people you can't pay so you don't get penalized even more," McCarty said.

If you have memberships to places that require visiting in person, make sure those monthly payments are canceled or postponed. For example, if you have a gym membership that you make monthly payments for, make a call.

With most people at home right now, having the Internet is an important outlet. However, this might be a good time to switch to a cheaper service and save money over the next few months.

WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR STIMULUS CHECK

It might go without saying, but once you get your stimulus check, your first priority has to be what is in your "needs" column. If you're able to take care of that, McCarty said you should create or replenish a rainy day fund, since you might have already taken some money out of here.

If you are lucky enough to already have some stability in place before this check gets to you, consider helping others through non-profits or local businesses. Even if you have figured out a way to stay afloat, there is always a neighbor nearby you can provide a lifeline.

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