When Pinching Pennies Isn’t Enough: Dealing With Financial Insecurity – NerdWallet

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Scaling up streaming subscriptions is solid savings advice for some. But what if the choice you’re facing isn’t to pay for Netflix or Hulu, but whether or not to pay for food or electricity?

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Every year millions of Americans face food, housing, and general financial insecurity, according to data from the US Census Bureau and the Department of Agriculture. And getting help often means navigating a maze of websites, automated telephone systems, and confusing applications that only come with a one-year waiting list or—even worse—find out you don’t qualify.

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The good news: You don’t have to figure it out yourself. Financial advisors, nonprofits, and other local and national organizations exist to help you find your financial situation.

If you are currently facing eviction, cannot support your family or are facing any other financial crisis, dial 211 now to speak to a local specialist who will provide you with food, housing and utilities. Can link to assistance programs for expenses, medical bills and more. emergency situation.

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Not in a state of distress right now but barely keeping your head above water? Take these steps to prioritize the money you have coming in, then get help filling the gap.

back to basics

Start with a budget — even if you don’t think you have enough money coming in to budget, says Amy Smith, a financial advisor in Central Texas.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you’re bringing in—any amount—because you’re at least telling that money where to go,” says Smith, who is also the membership engagement coordinator for the Association for Financial Counseling. Huh. plan education.

Your first budget will not be good. You may not even have a third or fourth. Okay. Try to stick with it and play around with different budgeting methods to find the one that works for you.

“When I started this trip, the end of my budget was in the red,” Smith says, indicating he didn’t have the funds to cover all of his expenses. “At least I knew I needed the extra money.”

If you get some extra income or a few months of utility support, you’ll also know how to reallocate your funds.

prioritize the essentials

If you do not have enough money to meet all your expenses, first meet your basic needs. These include housing, utilities, food, transportation and child care, among other things.

“If that means there’s no credit card payment that month, that’s what happens,” Smith says.

However, bills you cannot cover should not be overlooked. Call the creditor — whether it’s your landlord, mortgage company, utility provider or credit card issuer — and explain the situation. Then, ask if there is any support available. Even a waived late fee can help.

get help where you can

Don’t let perceived social stigma stop you from getting the help you need. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking services like food banks or food stamps, or that things aren’t “so bad” right now.

Getting help from the application can take time, especially for federal programs. The waiting list for some federal housing vouchers can be years long, according to Eric Gartland, a research analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. On the flip side, SNAP benefits (often referred to as food stamps) can kick in within seven days of applying if you have no income, says Dottie Rosenbaum, a senior fellow and director of federal SNAP policy at CBPP. .

Tracking programs, forms, applications and eligibility requirements is difficult and time-consuming, especially if you’re facing language barriers, don’t have reliable Internet access or don’t have time because you’re caring for your family. and are providing .

Lean on organizations with a sole focus of connecting those in need with the help available.

how to get help

These organizations can help you navigate the network of local, regional, and national programs administered by nonprofits, religious organizations, and state and federal agencies.

211.org: You can call 211 or visit 211.org to find local experts who know what support is available where you live and can connect you with the benefits you need.

Association for Financial Consulting and Planning Education®: Financial advisors work with clients on the fundamentals – managing expenses, creating a budget, creating a long-term plan – and they are drawn to local resources and support programs. You can sign up for a free virtual session with a certified financial counselor at findanafc.org/pro-bono.

National Low Income Housing Coalition: This non-profit organization maintains a database of searchable emergency rent assistance programs by city, county, state, or tribe. Importantly, the database also includes up-to-date information on the status of each program: accepting applications, on hold, or permanently closed.

Legal Services Corporations: Legal aid organizations nationwide provide free legal aid to low-income individuals. Their services cover everything from evictions and foreclosures to wage disputes and disaster relief. The Legal Services Corporation is an independent non-profit that provides funding to more than 100 legal aid groups throughout the country and US territories. Go to their website (lsc.gov), select “Get Legal Aid” and enter your address to find a local legal aid office.

This article was written by NerdWallet and originally published by The Associated Press.

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