Things To Do While Stuck In Your Apartment During the Coronavirus Pandemic
By now, almost everyone in the country is under some kind of shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders from government agencies due to the coronavirus pandemic. Authorities stress that this is the main way to try to flatten the curve of new infections.
OK, so what can you do while cooped up in your apartment.Â The options arenât quite unlimited, but they are numerous. Take advantage of the space you have and undertake any activity that will be good for your mental or physical well-being. Hereâs a look at some of the most popular:
1. Do a jigsaw puzzle
This has become quite popular around the country, with people finishing a jigsaw puzzle and then posting a picture of it on social media. The more pieces, the better, say, 1,000 or more. How long youâll be able to do this to remain occupied depends on how many puzzles you have on hand, or how many times youâre willing to do the same puzzle over again.
If you donât have jigsaw puzzles, maybe you have a Rubikâs Cube or a book of crossword puzzles. You can also find crossword puzzles online and in your daily newspaper, if you still subscribe.
If you have a set of weights in your apartment, use them. Or maybe youâre a packrat and still have exercise routines on VHS tapes or DVDs. If not, there are plenty of routines you can find for free online.Â
If you can leave your apartment, go for a walk or a jog, as long as you observe the social distancing rules that are now the new normal. If you donât want to go outside, walk up and down a stairwell or walk up and down your hallway. Again, give others their personal space.
Short of that, you can go old-school and do crunches, sit-ups and push-ups on your floor. You can also do isometric exercises using a rolled-up bath towel. For a refresher on the techniques, check out these workouts you can do in your apartment and then get to work.Â
Whatever you chose, mix it up and keep it fresh as you stay in shape.Â
OK, the first two suggestions will put your mind and body to work. At some point youâll feel like being a couch potato, so why not catch up on a series youâve been meaning to watch on Netflix, Disney Plus or one of the many streaming services available? Youâve never had a better excuse than now.Â
âTiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madnessâ has become all the rage on Netflix. It was released in mid-March and has given people something to do in the age of coronavirus. It is a true-crime documentary television series about the life of former zoo operator Joseph Maldonado-Passage.
If thatâs not your thing, there are favorites such as âNarcos: Mexicoâ and âStranger Thingsâ on Netflix. If youâve already seen them, whatâs the harm in starting over? On Disney Plus you can watch âThe Mandalorian,â âStar Wars: The Clone Warsâ and âThe Simpsons.â
4. Spring cleaning
Itâs spring, and you have a lot of unexpected time on your hands. Nowâs a great time to get in some spring cleaning of your apartment. Cut through the clutter and organize your closet and dresser. Most importantly, regularly clean and disinfect important areas such as kitchen surfaces and appliances that are used often. You should also keep your bathroom clean.Â
5. Other stuff
There are plenty of other things you can be doing, such as catching up on your reading, playing a musical instrument, writing emails to friends and family and getting plenty of rest.
Read Things To Do While You’re Stuck In Your Apartment on Apartminty.
The pandemic has hastened the online move of services as well as goods.
Healthcare, therapy sessions and education are some of the services that have migrated online, voluntarily or involuntarily, due to the pandemic. What if you paid for an online service and either didn’t receive it or are not satisfied?
Reader Wanda finds herself in such a situation. She writes, “I have a pending charge of $200 on my credit card for a video consultation with a nurse practitioner who runs a medical marijuana spa and the fee is for a prescription for a medical marijuana card plus the video visit.
“I waited for over an hour online for the video visit, which I did not receive. The person finally called me and explained the process telling me an email would be sent to me that night with a link to get my medical marijuana card. I texted her the next day saying I received nothing and she texted back and said ‘give me about an hour’ and she would contact me. As of 9:30 p.m. today, no email or text from her. Can I get a reversal of that charge?”
See related: Filing credit card disputes in the coronavirus crisis
Chargeback for services
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It seems the situation involves getting a chargeback for a service that is not provided. If the chargeback involves merchandise that you didn’t receive, the situation is clearer; either you received the merchandise, or you didn’t. In case of services not received, there is more scope for ambiguity.
Chargebacks 911, a website that helps merchants deal with chargebacks, explains how a chargeback situation could come about for services that a consumer says they didn’t receive:
“The merchant failed to do something as promised. Or, the merchant’s policies and procedures weren’t clear, and there was confusion regarding what the consumer would actually receive. It’s also common that marketing causes chargebacks; unrealistic promises might be made.”
The firm advises merchants to adhere to the following procedures to avoid these situations:
Make sure that the way they describe the services is accurate. The description should provide detailed information but should also be easy to understand. Supplementary videos and images could help explain any confusing aspects.
Get consumers to sign off on the terms for providing the service and make sure they know what they will receive in return.
Provide excellent service, responding to all customer questions and grievances quickly. Give customers various ways to get in touch, such as live chat, phone and email. And check social media accounts regularly to respond to comments.
If it comes to that, Chargebacks 911 also advises merchants to issue credits promptly. If they sense that their relationship with the customer is strained and a chargeback situation could ensue, it advises them to cancel the service and issue a refund.
See related: What to do if your online order never arrives
Disputing a charge with a credit card company
It seems a service provider would be wise enough to recognize a potential chargeback situation and promptly take steps to issue a refund if that’s called for. However, that’s not always the case, and you could also take recourse to the Fair Credit Billing Act to dispute a charge with a credit card issuer if that becomes necessary.
You should put in a billing error dispute in writing with the credit card company within 60 days of receiving the bill with the charge for the service that was not provided. You could also call the company, but you should send something in writing first, the California Attorney General’s office advises. Send this letter to the company’s address for billing inquiries or errors, not to its address for payments.
The letter should provide all your details, an account of the dispute and any evidence you have about the matter. The card issuer should acknowledge receipt of your letter within 30 days. And it has 90 days to look into the matter.
Also, you should inform the credit card issuer if you are holding back on paying the disputed amount, which you can legally do while it investigates the matter without triggering a report to the credit bureaus. However, you should continue to pay the rest of your credit card bill. If the credit card company rules in your favor, it will credit you for the disputed charge and any interest associated with it.
See related: Can I get a chargeback credit on a canceled card?
What if a chargeback is not provided?
If the card issuer rules against you, it will provide you a written explanation of its findings, and you will have to pay the disputed amount and any interest charges on it.
If you disagree with the card issuer’s findings, you can get back to it within 10 days to present any other evidence you might have. You could also ask to see any input it used to reach its decision.
Another recourse is to put in a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You could even sue the card issuer if you believe the investigation was not conducted fairly.
See related: What to do when your bank won’t refund fraudulent changes
Wanda, if you never received the services you ordered from the medical marijuana spa, after first making your best efforts to sort out the matter with the nurse practitioner, you should initiate a dispute with your card issuer, asking for a chargeback. Since this is all online, you should have a digital trail for evidence.
Good luck getting your money back!
Contact me at email@example.com with your credit card-related questions.
Hopefully, you’ll never be put in this situation, but it’s important to have domestic violence awareness as a renter.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, âon average, more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States will experience rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner.” The coronavirus pandemic only worsened those statistics: CNN reported that incidents of domestic violence in the U.S. increased by 8.1 percent after lockdown orders were in place.
Such high numbers mean that there is a likelihood that someone you know directly or someone you live near might be a victim of domestic violence. How do you deal with this type of situation, if it’s a neighbor in your apartment building?
Here are some ways to educate yourself about the signs of domestic violence and improve your domestic violence awareness.
What are signs a neighbor is experiencing abuse?
The signs of domestic violence may come in the form of mental or physical abuse. You might hear one person threaten another with injury or you might hear someone humiliating their partner. But the cycle of abuse sometimes is quieter, more subtle. Domestic violence often is a private form of control by one person over another.
Here are some of the warning signs of an abuser as determined by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
Extremely controlling behavior
Demeaning the victim either privately or publicly
Embarrassment or humiliation of the victim in front of others
Of course, not everyone with a bad temper is an abuser. Depending on how friendly you are with your neighbors, you will likely not see many of the more intimate forms of partner abuse. These include sabotaging someone’s birth control method or forcing sex on an unwilling partner.
If you hear verbal abuse and other aggressive sounds (yelling and screaming, plates breaking, doors slamming) through the walls or you see controlling or stressful interactions on the patio â take note.
Should I call the police?
According to the NDV Hotline, if you hear suspicious noises that you believe might be an abusive situation, speak with the survivor as soon as possible.
âMake sure to approach them in a safe, private space, listen to them carefully and believe what they have to say,” reads the NDVH website. If you were to call the police, the victim might experience blame and face terrible consequences.
Say something like this: âPlease forgive me for intruding into your life, but I’m hearing it through the walls. I’m worried for your safety. Here’s a number you can call.”
Do call the police if you believe your neighbor’s life or your own is in danger.
NDV suggests doing the following:
Give the victim NDV’s number, (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or that of a local crisis hotline.
Take notes so that if the victim presses charges you can make a statement.
Support the victim as best you can. Let them know that they are not the cause of the abuse.
Am I in danger if I call the police?
First, if you believe that someone is being harmed, you should absolutely call the police. That said, you can tell the police that you are requesting a âwellness check.”
In many municipalities, there are separate domestic violence units â you can request a transfer to speak to someone in that unit. You can also make an anonymous call to 911.
If the police arrive on the scene, they will not tell the abuser who called them.
Should I tell the leasing office?
You can make your landlord aware of what you’re hearing or seeing, but it’s a secondhand account. Unless the landlord or property manager witnesses something firsthand it is difficult for them to get involved.
However, if you make your landlord aware of possible domestic violence, at least they can monitor the situation. Keep in mind that many property managers do not live on the premises â so it is tricky for them sometimes to know what is going on at all times.
Can an abuser be evicted?
As much as you’d like this to happen, it’s not your place to initiate an eviction. It’s up to the victim to contact the landlord or property manager. The victim must then provide proof of domestic violence. This often comes in the form of a restraining order, evidence of criminal charges or a letter from a âqualified third party” like a law enforcement officer.
Every state has its own rules regarding how a landlord must respond to instances of domestic abuse. The landlord can let a tenant who is in an abusive situation break their lease without penalty, for example.
As a concerned neighbor, if the noise from next door encroaches on your âright to quiet enjoyment,” you might be able to push for eviction.
Keep in mind that it can take anywhere from two weeks to three or more months for an eviction.
How do I cope with the situation?
Living close to a domestic violence situation is extremely stressful. Verbal and physical disputes can happen at any hour of the day and many tend to occur during evenings, often into early morning hours.
You may find yourself on a work call hoping your colleagues don’t hear the neighbors screaming at each other on your end of the line or you may find yourself awake at 3 a.m. by a fight that eventually ends in a 911 call.
Getting rest could start becoming difficult, and you can also begin to feel like you’re walking on eggshells â basically, you’re living with the ups and downs and unpredictability of abuse by living too close to it.
It’s important to maintain your own self-care.
Understand that you are not responsible for your neighbor’s choices to stay in or leave the abusive situation. Seek professional help if you’re having trouble disengaging.
You might feel better by being proactive. Join (or start) a Neighborhood Watch group. You will get to know your neighbors, and more people will be aware of what’s happening in the complex.
Jog, take walks, do yoga, meditate â whatever you can do for yourself to help you cope. You don’t want the situation to overwhelm you. If you are friendly with the victim, you want to have a healthy headspace to support them.
If whatever is happening at your neighbor’s is too stressful, you may choose to break your lease and move.
It’s difficult to end the cycle of domestic violence, but one step on the way to healing is to ask for help. Victims need to reach out to people that they trust, friends, neighbors, clergy or therapists.
If you suspect that a nearby tenant is having trouble, do what you can to make yourself available and supportive. Keep in mind how important it is for you to remain healthy and strong so that you can stay helpful.
The post Domestic Violence Awareness for Renters: What to Do About an Abusive Neighbor appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.
Now that warm weather is upon us, we long for beautiful days outside enjoying ourselves under the sun â this definitely includes hanging out at your apartment complex’s pool so you can cool off. However, there’s still a pandemic, so your usual swimming pool etiquette will look a little different this year.
Because the pandemic is still a concern, many communities are reopening their pools with a long list of rules designed to keep renters safe and healthy. Here’s what you need to know when visiting the apartment poolÂ this season.
Is it safe to swim in a pool during a pandemic?
While COVID-19 can spread through airborne droplets, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there’s no evidence you can catch the virus through the water in a swimming pool. However, outdoor swimming pools rank less risky than indoor ones, which are not as well ventilated.
Because the chlorine in the pool is a disinfectant, experts say the main risk is being in close contact with other people around you. Following public health guidelines designed to keep you safe is the way to go â so here is what you need to know about the swimming pool rules for your building.
Know the swimming pool rules
Some apartment pools might post information online about swimming safely. If not, call the pool management team or building manager. Most local officials have implemented rules for public pools based on CDC guidelines. You might want to ask:
Is pool management restricting the number of residents using the facility or staggering arrival times?
Is there a reservation system in place so you can book swim time?
Are locker rooms and restrooms open?
Ask about the pool’s cleaning routine
Aside from the pool water itself, tested by the staff, everything else in the area needs disinfecting too. Find out how often equipment such as lounge chairs, outdoor tables and chairs undergo cleaning. You might want to bring sanitizing wipes with you to clean things yourself.
Follow instructions for entering, exiting the pool area
Your apartment building might assign separate entrances and exits to the pool so that people move in one direction and stay six feet apart â just a few inches longer than a typical pool noodle.
Time your visit to the pool to avoid crowds
Try swimming at off-peak hours so you can easily stay six feet away from people you don’t live with. Your apartment pool might have signs and markers on the property reminding residents about physical distancing.
Avoid gathering at the edge of swimming lanes, on the stairs, near the diving board or on the pool deck, unless it’s with the people in your household.
Don’t invite friends to your apartment’s pool
Most buildings strongly suggest limiting visitors during the pandemic. Anyone not living in your apartment should not accompany you to the pool.
Arrive at the pool ready to swim
To avoid indoor areas as much as possible, come to the pool ready to swim: Shower and put on your swimsuit in your apartment. Skip the pool’s locker room!
Pay attention to signs about limited capacity
One safety standard required for reopening pools is the number of people in the space â so everyone can stay six feet apart. If you get to the pool and it’s crowded, come back later.
Wear a mask
Until you actually go into the pool, wear a face mask to protect yourself and others on the pool deck.
Do not wear a mask while you’re swimming â the CDC warns that a wet mask makes it harder to breathe. If your mask gets wet, it’s less effective for protection too â so pack an extra one in case yours gets a good splashing.
Bring your own pool accessories
Even if your apartment pool has goggles, snorkels, life jackets and noodles available for residents’ use, you should bring your own. These items are difficult to disinfect and most come in contact with your face â so unless you find out how often they’re cleaned between uses…avoid taking this risk!
Stick to your own lane
Pay attention to your surroundings before and after entering the pool so you can avoid people coming in and out right beside you.
Once you’re in the pool, leave plenty of room for other swimmers and don’t try to pass anyone if you’re swimming laps. This is basic pool etiquette anyway. Some pools might limit the kinds of strokes you can do to avoid excess splashing, such as the butterfly.
Forget pool games
Whether you love playing Marco Polo or pool volleyball, it’s harder to keep your distance when you’re throwing a ball around. It’s best to avoid close-contact games this season.
Keep your hands clean
Just as you would in any public space, wash your hands before and after touching things. If you’re using sanitizer, wipe off your hands with a towel first because greasy sunscreens reduce how well sanitizer works.
Don’t bring food and drinks to the pool
Because you need to take off your mask to enjoy refreshments, the CDC discourages eating and drinking at the pool unless you can distance yourself from anyone you don’t live with.
Use pool etiquette common sense and keep everyone safe
Many pools have staff on site who will ask if you are feeling healthy. Be smart and respectful of other residents and follow pool etiquette. Please stay away from your apartment’s swimming pool if you have a fever, cough or any other coronavirus symptoms that could put people at risk.
Last but not least â don’t forget to wear SPF! Kill two birds with one stone â protect yourself from COVID-19 and sun damage.
The post Swimming Pool Etiquette: Staying Safe During the Pandemic at Your Apartment Pool appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.
Not everyoneâs career path is a 40+ year marathon working full time until you can finally come up for air in your golden years.
Sometimes you need a little break along the way.
Taking time away from the workforce â whether itâs to travel, take care of loved ones, learn a new skill or whatever â can be a beneficial thing. But money â or the lack thereof â is what stops many people from even considering it.
With some significant planning and budgeting, however, itâs possible to make your career break dreams a reality. Here are five steps you should take when budgeting for a career break.
5 Steps for Career Break Budgeting
1. Think About What Your Career Break Will Look Like
People take career breaks for a number of reasons. Take some time to reflect on why you are planning time away from the workforce and what you intend to do.
When thinking about what your new day-to-day will look like, try to get as detailed as possible. Hone in on aspects that will affect you financially.
How long will your break last? When would you like it to start? Will you be staying at home or traveling the world? What adventures would you like to experience?
While itâs nice to dream about your best life ever, youâve got to be practical too. Ranking what you want to do with your newfound free time will be helpful if you have to cut your list down to fit what you can afford.
2. Explore What Your Costs Will Be During Your Break
After youâve fantasized what your work break will look like, itâs time to focus on the numbers. Youâve got to know what your expenses will be in order to determine whether your plans are realistic.
If you donât already budget your income and track your expenses, nowâs the time to start. Your budget will give you a good idea of how much you spend on essentials and where you can cut costs as you save up for leave.
Research all the additional costs you expect to incur during your break. If youâre taking extended parental leave after the birth of a child, youâll be dealing with a ton of new baby-related expenses. If youâre taking time off to travel, youâve got to pay for transportation and lodging.
The length of your break will also be a big factor here. Obviously, the longer youâre away from the workforce, the more money youâll need saved up.
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3. Set Up a Sinking Fund to Cover Expenses on Your Break
If you havenât heard the term âsinking fund,â thatâs just personal-finance speak for a stash of savings that you regularly contribute to over time to break up a big expense.
Once youâve estimated the overall expenses for your leave, divide that by how many months you have left to come up with your target monthly savings goal.
Switch to a bare-bones budget or try these other ways to save money fast so you can free up cash to add to your sinking fund.
If you already have existing savings you want to use to fund your career break, that will cut down on how much youâll need to put aside each month â just make sure you donât touch your emergency fund!
Your emergency savings should only be used on an actual emergency â like if you get into a car accident or Fido needs to be rushed to the pet hospital. Being away from work wonât make you immune to emergencies, so do not plan to use your emergency fund to tide you through your break.
In fact, before you focus on building up your sinking fund, you ought to have adequate savings in an emergency fund first.
4. Explore Opportunities to Make Money On Your Break
If youâre able to make money while youâre away from work, youâll be less financially burdened. You wonât have to save up as much or worry about burning through your entire savings.
The first income stream you should explore is your current job. Taking a career break doesnât necessarily mean calling it quits where you work now.
Depending on what type of leave youâre taking, your job may be protected and you might be able to continue collecting your salary â or a percentage of your current pay.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible workers with up to 12 weeks of leave after the birth or adoption of a child, to deal with a serious health condition or to care for an ill or injured family member. While this type of leave is unpaid, youâll continue to be covered under their workplace health insurance plan and there may be the possibility of coupling this leave with short-term disability pay.
President Joe Bidenâs proposed coronavirus stimulus package includes extending the expired paid time off policies for sick workers and those needing to care for family members due to COVID-19.
Find out if your employer offers any other paid leave programs â whether thatâs parental leave, unlimited PTO or sabbaticals. According to the Society for Human Resource Managementâs 2019 Employee Benefits Survey, 27% of employers offered paid parental leave, 6% offered unlimited paid leave and 5% offered a paid sabbatical program.
Another 11% of employers surveyed offered an unpaid sabbatical program. While unpaid leave isnât as ideal as paid leave, it gives you peace of mind that youâll have a job to come back to after your break.
Other options to make money during your leave include picking up a side gig, bringing in passive income, renting out rooms (or your entire place) on Airbnb or selling your belongings.
If you need to pick up a little work while youâre on a career break, just make sure it doesnât conflict with the reason you needed to take leave in the first place.
5. Develop a Re-Entry Plan
You need to plan for all aspects of your career break â including your transition back to the workforce.
Your budget needs to not only cover your expenses while youâre backpacking through Europe or nursing your elderly mother back to health. Youâve got to add a cushion for that period at the end where youâre actively seeking your next gig.
While data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the average length of unemployment is about 23 weeks, how long itâll take you to find new work will vary depending on your industry and the position youâre seeking.
Plan to keep up with contacts in your field and engage in relevant volunteer work or continued education while youâre away to improve your chances of quickly finding a new job.
If your savings run low toward the end of your leave, donât brush off finding a bridge job â a temporary role to help you pay the bills while you search for better opportunities.
A resume gap isnât the kiss of death it used to be. You can even craft a way to include side gigs on your resume.
A career break should provide you with freedom to pursue something outside of your typical work life. You donât want that freedom to drag you deeper into debt or put you in a worse financial position if you can avoid it.
Do your best to budget for more time than youâll need so you can enjoy your career break stress free.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
Credit card balances edged down in December, even as consumers engaged in holiday shopping, as uncertainty about a second round of stimulus checks extended to the latter part of the month.
Consumer revolving debt â which is mostly based on credit card balances â was down $3 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis in December to $975.9 billion, according to the FedâsÂ G. 19 consumer credit reportÂ released Feb. 5.
In December, credit card balances were off 3.6% on an annualized basis, following Novemberâs revised 0.8% dip and Octoberâs 6.7% drop, which came on the heels of Septemberâs 3.2% annualized gain.
The Fed also reported that student loan debt outstanding for the fourth quarter rose to $1.707 trillion, from the third quarterâs $1.704 trillion. And auto loan debt outstanding gained to $1.228 trillion, from the third quarterâs $1.219 trillion.
Total consumer debt outstanding â which includes student loans and auto loans, as well as revolving debt â continued to grow and rose $9.7 billion to $4.184 trillion in December, a 2.8% annualized gain.
For the entire year, credit card balances were down 11.2%.
Card balances had been growing before the coronavirus impacted consumer spending and bank lending in 2020. They dipped below the $1 trillion mark last May, for the first time since September 2017.
See related: 51% of consumers accrued more debt duringÂ the pandemic
ABA sees brighter days ahead for credit availability
The American Bankers Association reports, based on input provided by chief economists of large North American banks to its credit conditions index for the first quarter of 2021, that credit conditions (both credit quality and availability) have rebounded from their lows of last summer.
However, all three components of the index (the headline credit index, the consumer credit index and the business credit index) remain below 50, which is not a robust index reading. It indicates that while bank economists expect credit conditions to remain âsoftâ in the coming six months, they are less pessimistic than they were in September 2020 when the ABAÂ conducted its last credit conditions survey.
The consumer credit index component of the survey gained to 45.3, its highest level since mid-2019. Economists are optimistic about both the availability and quality of consumer credit compared to September. They expect credit to be more available to consumers in the coming six months, although a small majority expects credit quality to decline.
âAlthough credit quality is still expected to worsen over the first half of the year for both consumers and businesses, the overall outlook for credit markets has improved significantly since the summer and fall,â said Rob Strand, ABA senior economist. âAs widespread inoculations against the virus and new fiscal stimulus measures help heal the economy, banks will continue to work closely with policymakers, consumers and businesses to ensure that affordable credit remains available and recovery strengthens.”
Fed reports easing of credit card lending standards in fourth quarter
According to the Fedâs senior loan officer opinion survey on bank lending practices for January 2021 (which is based on input related to the fourth quarter of 2020), a âmoderate net share of banksâ reported that they had eased up on credit card loans.
As a result, a âmodest net share of banksâ also hiked up their credit limits on credit card accounts. And a âmoderate net share of banksâ reported that there was higher demand for credit card loans during the fourth quarter.
As for the outlook, a âsignificant net share of banksâ is expected to ease up on their standards for credit card loans. They are doing so in anticipation of an improvement in their loan portfoliosâ credit quality, as well as a hike in their tolerance for risk.
Also, the New York Fedâs survey of consumer expectations for December 2020 finds that consumers are less concerned about the possibility of missing a minimum debt payment in the coming three months. The average perceived probability of this occurrence dipped to 10.5% for December, from Novemberâs 10.9%.
See related: What happens when you miss a credit card payment?
Jobs edge up in January
The New York Fed survey also finds that on average fewer consumers expect the unemployment rate to be higher a year from now, with this probability declining to 38.9%, from Novemberâs 40.1%.
While the average perceived probability of losing a job in the coming 12 months rose up a bit to 15% (mainly on account of those without a college degree), respondents were also more likely to leave their job voluntarily. However, they were less optimistic about landing a new job if they lost their current ones.
The U.S employment situation was about stable in January, with the economy adding 49,000 jobs, the government reported Feb. 5. âThe labor market continued to reflect the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it,â according to the Department of Laborâs employment report media release. The unemployment rate dipped 0.4 percentage points to 6.3% and average hourly earnings were up $0.06 to $29.96. Also, the job numbers for both November and December were revised down, with November down 77,000 jobs (to 264,000) and December losing an additional 87,000 jobs (to minus 227,000).
In his daily email commentary, Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, noted, âCoupled with the -159K net revision, this is a significantly softer report than expected, at least in terms of payrolls. Bulls will cite the large and unexpected drop in the unemployment rate, but two-third(s) of the decline was due to a 405K drop in the size of the labor force â a sign of discouragement â while household employment rose 201K.â
He added that âthe labor market was frozen at the start of the year, and is completely dependent on the pace of reopening, which in turn is contingent on the speed and sustainability of the fall in hospitalizations.â
Love it or hate it, many Americans are spending more time at home. The coronavirus pandemic not only accelerated the work-from-home trend to warp speed, but it also shuttered schools and summer camps, scratched travel plans and canceled brunch and dinner reservations across the country.
Jen Dawson, a certified financial planner and managing director in Chicago, found that the uncertainty and stay-at-home lifestyle created by the pandemic prompted her clients to look at their financial situations in a new light.
âI think it just gives opportunities for people and families to reflect,â Dawson says. ââWhat do we want out of life? What do we want from our money?â Those conversations are really valuable.â
As Dawsonâs clients reflect on their goals, they (and many others) are also wondering, âHow should I adjust my household budget if weâre spending more time at home?â
How to optimize your budget for the stay-at-home economy in 4 steps
Ellen Rogin, a former wealth advisor and now a speaker, author and entrepreneur, notes that people across the country were affected by the pandemic in very different ways. While many workers were able to keep their jobs as they transitioned to working from home, many were not.
âThere are people who have lost their jobs and are being forced to make difficult decisions,â Rogin says. âAnd there are people who are still employed and earning the same income they did before, who have more options as they decide how they’re spending their money now.â
Even if youâve been spared serious financial challenges, you should still consider updating or creating a household budget or spending plan. This will allow you to determine how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy.
Rogin and Dawson encourage you to use this opportunity to ensure youâre at least staying on track to meet your savings goalsâand at best, shortening your savings timelines. Itâs also a chance to make sure that your spending habits, which have likely changed as youâve spent more time at home, are maximizing your happiness.
Below, we break down insights from Rogin and Dawson into four actionable steps you can take to save money in quarantine while living the best life possible. It all starts with taking an objective look at how your spending habits changed as you transitioned to a more domestic lifestyle.
Read on to see how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy by creating a new household budget:
1. Compare your spending trends before and during quarantine
As you set about creating a household budget for an at-home lifestyle and determining how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy, start by reviewing your spending.
âMost people donât really know how much money theyâre spending, whether times are good or bad. But it can really make you feel calmer to know what it takes to run your lifestyle.â
Dawson encourages you to refer to your debit and credit card statements to analyze the differences between your spending before staying home became the norm, and after. âYou can compare it and contrast and have observations and discussions around what changed,â she says. âWhat do you like that you want to keep going, and what do you not like about it?”
All you need, Dawson says, is a spreadsheet to total up your major expenses, such as housing, utilities, transportation, food and dining, travel, shopping and entertainment. Then, subtract the sum of those costs from the money you earned (aka income) over the same timeframe.
Do this exercise for three months of spending before quarantine and then again for three months of spending during quarantine. Youâll be able to compare the data to see whether you have more or less disposable income as a member of the stay-at-home economy.
Rogin notes that it can be a little scary to examine your finances like this, but thereâs no reason to feel anxious.
âMost people donât really know how much money theyâre spending, whether times are good or bad,â she says. âBut it can really make you feel calmer to know what it takes to run your lifestyle.â
If you see that your disposable income decreased while in quarantine (or that you no longer have disposable income at all), then youâll need to find ways to cut back on spending if you want to keep your savings goals on track. If your extra cash increased and youâre actually saving more money in quarantine, then you can start to consider how you might hit some or all of your savings goals more quickly.
Either way, you still have work to do as you consider how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy. Rather than focusing on external factors that are out of your control, Rogin and Dawson recommend that, as a next step, you ask yourself what matters most to you.
2. Ask yourself how your spending habits impact your happiness
Rogin considers the distanced, more remote way of life as a chance to reflect on whatâs really important in order to create your household budget. One example she points to is how many people have been cooking at home far more often than they once did.
âMaybe youâre spending more on groceries, but thatâs less than you were spending on eating outâand you enjoy it,â she says. âYouâre spending more time with your family. Youâre eating more healthily. So it gives you the opportunity to really assess your budget in a different way.â
Another example is travel. Rogin says that some people have told her that they really miss it, but others have been surprised to find how happy they are to pump the brakes on their jet-setting ways. In addition to saving money in quarantine from reimbursed travel and no more expensive trips, itâs allowed them to slow down and enjoy their time at home with family.
For her part, Rogin found that she wore the same two pairs of shoes during quarantine because theyâre comfortable, and no one can see them when sheâs video conferencing during work. As a result, Rogin cut this expense from her stay-at-home budget.
Whether youâre facing a cash shortage or surplus from more time spent at home, Rogin says that extending this line of thinking into a âvalues-based spending planâ for the stay-at-home economy will allow you to direct your money to what matters most to you, while diverting funds away from what doesnât.
Once you add up the expenses that are no longer necessary in your stay-at-home budget, itâs time to put that money to work.
Tip: When looking at quarantine spending, donât get too granular
Dawson underscores that evaluating spending patterns can be an emotional exercise. If youâre reviewing your finances with a family member, partner or spouse, try to resist the urge to nitpick every purchase. The trends should be easy enough to spot from a birdâs-eye view.
3. Put your stay-at-home savings toward your financial goals
Dawson and Rogin recommend having a plan when youâre trying to figure out how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy. That plan should include what youâre saving for, as well as where youâll keep the funds as they add up.
Rogin recommends framing your financial goals from a positive angle. For example, when you create a household budget, instead of focusing on cutting spending, you can set a goal for how much extra money you want to save.
If you have children or live with a partner or spouse, Dawson notes that this goal-oriented approach can help get them involved. The objective might be to start an emergency fund to ride out unexpected headwinds. Or, the focus could be on saving up for a big vacation to look forward to when travel restrictions ease.
When deciding where to keep your savings, a standard checking account wonât allow your money to grow like a high-yield online savings account will. Rather than pooling the money youâve saved in quarantine into one account, Dawson suggests opening multiple savings accounts, one for each of your savings goals.
âBe really clear about what each savings account is for,â she says. âThen youâre more likely to fund it.â
Of course, luxury savings goals like a vacation should not take priority over your long-term savings goals, such as retirement or college funds.
4. When saving money in quarantine, remember to support those in need if you can
If you are saving money in quarantine, Rogin suggests considering all the benefits of earmarking extra cash for philanthropic causes. It could go directly to the local small businesses you love that are hurting for revenue. Or it could go to any number of nonprofit organizations that are doing good in the world.
âSo many people are in need now,â Rogin says. âThere are so many beautiful ways that can help you feel like youâre making a difference for people by reallocating some of that money towards causes and people that you want to support.â
How will you start saving money in quarantine?
The stay-at home lifestyle may not have been in your plans, but you have the opportunity to gain control of your finances inside your home by creating a household budget that works for you in this new reality.
When you analyze, assess and optimize your spending and consider how to save money in quarantine, youâll be in as strong a financial position as possible when life gets back to normal.
If youâve been fortunate enough to save money in quarantine, consider starting or adding to your emergency fund. Not sure where to store your savings? Check out the four best places to keep your emergency fund.
Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.
The post How to Save More Money in the Stay-at-Home Economy by Focusing on What Matters Most appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
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In response to the coronavirus pandemic, major credit card issuers are offering relief to their customers.
Even though many places around the country are open, the pandemic continues to impact the U.S. economy. Workers are still at risk of being laid off or facing reduced hours or pay.
“This is a rapidly evolving situation and we want our customers to know we are here to provide assistance should they need it,” Anand Selva, chief executive officer of Citi’s consumer bank, said in a statement in Spring 2020.
At the same time, scammers are now trying to take advantage of coronavirus concerns by sending out fake emails about the virus that are designed to steal consumers’ personal and financial information or to infect their computers with malware.
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Many credit card issuers are allowing customers to opt into financial relief programs online. These programs are a convenient way to access short-term relief. But it could come with a long-term cost as many cardholders will continue to see interest accrue. With the average credit card interest rate sitting at 16.05%, cardholders might find more cost-effective relief through other options.
Here’s what issuers are currently offering:
Cardholders who are having difficulties can get assistance through American Express’s financial hardship program. Eligible cardholders have the option to enroll in a short-term payment plan, which provides relief for 12 months, or a long-term plan, which can provide relief for either 36 or 60 months.
Under both options, you will receive lower interest rates, plus waived late payment fees and annual fees. But you might not have access to certain card benefits and features.
If you enroll in the short-term plan, you might be able to continue putting new purchases on the card but with a reduced spending limit. If you are participating in the long-term plan, you will not be able to use the card.
Amex will report participating cardholders to the credit bureaus as current, assuming they comply with the program’s rules. But the program’s terms do offer some important caveats: Amex will inform the credit bureaus that you are enrolled in a payment assistance program (if you’re in the long-term plan). And under both plans, Amex will report that you have a lower credit limit.
While these factors do not have as much of an impact on your credit score as a delinquent account does, it could still signal to other lenders that you might be having some financial hardship.
Bank of America
Bank of America cardholders who have trouble paying credit card bills can request a credit card payment deferral by calling the number on the back of their card.
To qualify for payment assistance, cardholders must be carrying a balance, according to the website.
Bank of America sent an email to Preferred Rewards members in May 2020 stating that the company had temporarily suspended the annual program review process. Members whose assets dropped below the regular threshold to keep their status would continue to qualify for program benefits. It is unclear if Bank of America is still suspending this program.
Barclays urges credit card account holders to request payment relief online. As of May 4, 2020, the bank is granting payment relief for two statements, but interest will continue to accrue.
“We understand that this is a time of uncertainty for many people, and we know that there may be instances where customers find themselves facing financial difficulties. Capital One is here to help and we encourage customers who may be impacted to reach out to discuss how we might be of assistance,” the bank said in a statement.
In a March 26, 2020 update, Chairman and CEO Rich Fairbank confirmed that they are offering waived fees and deferred payments on credit cards for some cardholders.
Because each customer’s situation is different, the bank encourages customers to contact it directly. To contact Capital One customer service about an existing account, call (800) 227-4825.
See related: How to clean your credit card
Previously, Chase Bank stated that customers will be able to “delay up to three payments on your personal or business credit card” if needed, with interest continuing to accrue. The website currently does not specify how many payments cardholders can defer.
It also stated that active duty military members who are responding to a disaster might have access to additional benefits. Servicemembers can call the bank for more information.
In a letter to shareholders, the company’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, also promised to not report late payments to the credit bureaus for “up-to-date clients.”
See related: Chase offering limited-time bonus on food delivery for some cardholders
Citi customers who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic might be eligible for assistance. Previously, the bank was waiving payments and late fees for two consecutive billing cycles. However, Citi has ended its pandemic assistance program.
“Due to a significant and steady decline in enrollments, our formal COVID-19 assistance program has concluded and we will focus on providing assistance options to those customers financially affected by COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis. We continue to closely monitor the situation and will evaluate additional actions to support our customers and communities as needs arise,” a spokesperson for Citi said in an email.
During the bank’s pandemic assistance program, interest continued to accrue, but accounts that were current at the time of enrollment were not be reported as delinquent.
Discover will be extending relief to qualified customers who are experiencing financial difficulty caused by the spread of COVID-19.
“We encourage them to contact us by calling and are directing them to www.discover.com/coronavirus for phone numbers for each product line and other FAQs,” Discover said in a statement earlier this year. “We also can provide relief through our mobile text app, which connects a customer directly with an agent.”
Discover it Miles cardmembers can also put their miles towards their bill – including their minimum payment.
See related: What to do if you can’t pay your business credit card bill
Apple Card customers can enroll in an assistance program. Previously, cardholders could waive payments without accruing any interest. The website currently doesn’t specify if this is still the case.
Cardholders can defer payments for three billing cycles. Though interest will continue to accrue, enrolled cardholders will not receive late fees, and their accounts will be reported as current, as long as accounts were not delinquent at the time of enrollment.
Synchrony is extending relief to customers experiencing financial hardship. The company’s website previously stated that this could include payment relief for up to three statement cycles, while interest would continue to accrue. The website currently offers no specifics about what the issuer is prepared to offer.
Truist (formerly SunTrust and BB&T)
Previously, Truist offered payment relief assistance to customers with personal and business credit cards, among other products. As of April 14, it was willing to delay payments for up to 90 days. The website currently offers no specifics about what the issuer is prepared to offer.
Previously, impacted cardholders could defer monthly payments for two consecutive billing cycles. The company’s website currently does not specify what assistance cardholders can expect to receive.
See related: Coronavirus stimulus legislation doesn’t suspend negative credit reporting
ultimate guide to coronavirus limited-time promotions for more offers designed to help cardholders maximize rewards amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Business credit cards
If you are a small-business owner and cash is not flowing and bills are piling up, the most important thing to do is contact your card issuer.
Some banks are also providing assistance in case you can’t pay your business credit card bill.
Another coronavirus complication: Scams
As consumers wrestle with the impact of the coronavirus, scammers are trying to take advantage of the situation.
In a June 2020 public service announcement, the FBI warned that the increasing use of banking apps could open doors to exploitation.
“With city, state and local governments urging or mandating social distancing, Americans have become more willing to use mobile banking as an alternative to physically visiting branch locations. The FBI expects cyber actors to attempt to exploit new mobile banking customers using a variety of techniques, including app-based banking trojans and fake banking apps,” the PSA warns.
Scammers might also be capitalizing on health and economic uncertainties during this time. In one such scam, cybercriminals are sending emails claiming to contain updates about the coronavirus. But if a consumer clicks on the links, they are redirected to a website that steals their personal information, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).
Identity theft in 2020: What you need to know about common techniques
The outbreak of a disease can upset daily life in many ways, and the ripple effects go beyond our physical health. Thankfully, many card issuers are offering relief. If you’re feeling financially vulnerable, contact your credit card issuer and find out what assistance is available. And while data security may seem like a secondary consideration, it’s still important to be vigilant when conducting business or seeking information about the coronavirus online.