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Financial Preparedness: When Hardships Happen

by Millie Collins, Cross County

Be prepared for hardships

Financial woes come in various forms:  a layoff or reduction in hours, divorce, disability, death of a family member...the list is long.  In any given 10-year period, approximately 25% of families will need financial assistance for a short time.  Loss of income is central to life; the emotions felt are a normal part of loss and recovery. 

There are circumstances you CAN control when income is reduced.  Here are some basic steps to take: 

THINK – Look outside the box.  Don’t be brand conscious.  Avoid shopping as an emotional boost.  

REORGANIZE – Accept your current situation as your new normal and begin to regroup. List all income sources and look for potential earners in the family or potential second jobs. Record the current market value of what you own and consider selling some items. 

REGAIN CONTROL – Learn the difference in wants vs. needs. Reduce the household budget to basic needs. Set priorities for paying bills. Maintain good health and remember to relax and have fun with your family. Don’t neglect healthy living.  Communicate honestly with other family members.   

PAY BILLS – List your bills from most important to least important.  Prioritize as follows: 

  1.  First Priority:  rent, house payment, utilities, insurance. If you cannot pay your utility bills notify the company immediately and explain. Put it in writing. Discuss options.
  2. Second Priority:  minimum payments for credit cards and other outstanding debts.  Communicate in writing with creditors before the bills are due. Make partial payments if necessary.
  3. Third Priority – doctors, dentists, hospital, retailers 

 Ask for the publication, “Living Resourcefully with Reduced Income”, #FSFCS132 from the county Extension office. If you need further assistance with making a spending plan or communicating with creditors, go to for additional resources or contact the Family and Consumer Science agent in your county.