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Staying Afloat

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staying afloat

Oh friends, how are you all doing?

I know each one of us is facing uncertainty and stress like never before. This COVID-19 situation seems to warp and change every day (hour?). It’s hard to keep up.

There are many worries keeping me—very literally—awake at night, and one is staying afloat during this pandemic. At first, we were told to shut our business down for three weeks. This felt like a huge sacrifice, but we trusted this would help flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus. We did the math and knew we could make it through with business savings, our emergency fund (remember that $8,000?), and some loan forbearance.

Little did we know that later that same week, we’d find out that our governor would mandate by Executive Order that we would be closed (except for the rare emergency treatment) until June 15.

It was shocking. We worried about our team, their families, and making ends meet for our own family.

In the two weeks since, we’ve scrambled to make a plan. We’ve spent hours on the phone, mailed in forms, and submitted lots of paperwork online. We’ve learned to say the magic phrase, “We’ve experienced a loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” We’ve figured out how to help our team members. We’re feeling a bit more hope.

Here are some of the ways we’re hoping to survive this coronavirus shutdown:

  • Student Loan Forbearance: President Trump stopped requiring payments on federal student loans during this insanity, and won’t charge interest on those loans. Buuut, we no longer have a federal loan. Last fall we got a private loan with Earnest. Fortunately we just found out yesterday that although interest will still accrue, they won’t require a payment until July 22. This is a big break for us because we pay $2,302.49 a month.
  • Mortgage Forbearance: Our $2075 mortgage is with Wells Fargo, and after spending two hours on hold TWICE, we’ve been able to get a break on paying our mortgage. We will be responsible to pay all of the missed payments by summer though. So we’ll still try to pay as much as we can each month, but it’s a relief to know we could let it slide.
  • Business Loan Forbearance: My husband called his rep at the bank that has our business loan to work things out with him. At first, it sounded like their hands were tied a bit. But when our three-week closure became three months, they became even more understanding. They’re going to offer us forbearance for three months.
  • Small Business Disaster Loans: We are applying to take part of the small business stimulus package released this past week, including an Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL). It’s been tough to understand it—we’ve been talking with our attorney, our industry leaders, and other business owners to try to understand what the heck to do (a business degree would be rrrreal handy right now). We’ve made some mistakes, but we’re optimistic that if we keep paying our team, our loan will be forgiven.

If we’re budgeting accurately, we should be okay. And as stressful as this all is, I know things truly could be worse. This storm is a downpour for many, and I’m honestly praying we start seeing a break in the clouds soon.

How are you staying afloat during this strange time?

Hello From Shelter In Place California!

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I’ve been taking the physical side of COVID-19 seriously for quite a while. Staying home. Washing hands. I haven’t hugged or touched my parents or my husband’s parents in three weeks. My mother sometimes parks her car in front of our home. We wave and blow kisses from the porch. The physical separation is rough, especially for our kids who are too young to really understand what is going on.

Stupidly, I didn’t realize the seriousness of the financial side until last week. I received the infamous ‘Your job is safe’ e-mail…which is usually followed by a layoff notice the following week. We all make jokes about it at work, the more your employer says your job is safe, the less safe it is. I am a government employee and we are an essential service but we are not safe from furloughs or layoffs. Revenues are down more than 50%. The math simply doesn’t work to keep us all employed. I don’t know how long I’ll keep my job.

On Friday, my father-in-law lost his job. My sister lost hers. My brother, sister, and father (all at the same company) are on the edge. I would be surprised if they lasted through the week. They all live paycheck to paycheck.

I can’t save them all. But I can’t in good conscience spend $50 on non-essentials when I know that $50 could help with their grocery bill or keep their lights on. I’m hoping for the best but planning for the worst. What does that look like?

1) We are limiting spending to essentials only. The only real money going out other than the standard mortgage/utilities/etc. is for groceries and we rerouted that spending. We are staying hyper-local as much as possible. We support the mom and pop grocery markets. The produce farmers. The egg ranchers. I understand the folks at the big box stores need help too but bouncing back from this is so much harder for the little guys.

2) I cancelled all my work travel (who wants to fly now anyway?!?). My work doesn’t reimburse for trips until they are complete. I keep $2,000 in a separate account for work travel. It was down to nearly zero since I had prepaid for several trips. I have cancelled all of them and have received full refunds so I can add that $2,000 to the emergency fund if needed.

3) I cancelled all subscriptions. Music subscription? Gone. Amazon Subscribe and Save? Gone. We haven’t had cable tv or streaming subscriptions in years otherwise I would have cut those too.

4) I’m using this time to color my hair. Huh? OK, let me explain. I’ve never colored my own hair. I’m terrified to end up like Ronald McDonald. Matching my natural red is so tricky! Now that I’m ‘sheltering in place’ for the next few weeks, it sounds like a good time to try it out. Who cares if I mess it up? No one is going to see me! If it works out, I could see my stylist less often and save on my budget. I’ll let you know how it turns out. And yes, I am aware this isn’t essential but it’s the one time that I’m home for a prolonged period and I’m jumping on the opportunity. Plus, it might bring some joy (or more likely, much needed hilarity) into my life.

5) My husband is taking a LOT of side work. Typically, he’d decline poorly timed jobs since we can mostly survive on my income but these days, but he’s chasing down every clogged sink and every water heater replacement. It means he’s working until 2 am more than I’d like.

Friends, we are in a storm. I don’t know how big this storm is or how long it will last. Worst case scenario, we make fiscally conservative decisions and we hold on. Best case, we are overreacting. We build a stash we can use for big projects later.

Don’t assume your job is safe. Don’t use this time at home to spend in your boredom. Stay off Amazon! Hold tight.

Let’s hope for Best Case…

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