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5 ways you can prepare your finances and credit for the end of additional unemployment relief

With the additional $600 per week unemployment benefits ending this week, Select speaks to a debt expert about how you can get your finances in order.

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For the past few months, millions of Americans have been relying on the increased federal unemployment benefits that provided an extra $600 per week for those who have lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

But as the $600-a-week benefit is set to expire this week, many collecting unemployment are awaiting to see what will happen.

In the meantime, Select spoke to Leslie Tayne, a debt-relief attorney and founder of Tayne Law Group, about how you can get your finances and credit in order as these benefits come to an end.

Below, Tayne outlines five tips for preparing yourself for the end of additional unemployment relief.

1. Adjust your budget

Tayne says that the first place to start is with your budget. Try to cut back on any expenses you don't need right now. It helps to start a list of all your essential monthly expenses, such as housing and car payments, food and utilities. Take a look at your credit card statement to see where else you've spent your money since March when the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and unemployment benefits were passed. Opting out of any monthly subscriptions is an easy way to cut back on recurring costs you don't necessarily need at this time.

Once you have done a thorough audit of your spending these last few months, there may be non-traditional ways you can add to your income even if you're still without a job.

"Selling unwanted items from your home or picking up a side hustle can be a good way to bring in some extra cash until you're working full time again," Tayne tells Select.

She also suggests utilizing your network, such as friends, family, old colleagues and bosses, to see who they have heard of anyone needing work at this time. And if you've been furloughed, speak with your employer about what a return to work looks like or ask about taking on flexible hours in the meantime.

2. Contact your creditors

If you haven't already, call your creditors to see what options you have for further deferring your bill payments or getting a reduced interest rate.

Many credit card issuers have offered financial hardship assistance during the coronavirus pandemic, but it's worth going back to them as your additional unemployment benefits run out.

"If you've already been taking advantage of this assistance, consider contacting them again to explain that your situation is still difficult and you need more time," Tayne says. Be ready to prove how you are still being directly financially impacted. If you've been furloughed, it may be a note from your current employer or if you've lost your job show that you have been collecting unemployment.

Depending on your situation, you may want to also contact your electric and utility provider as well as your cell phone company and car insurance to ask for discounts and deferment options.

3. Expect a credit drop

It's important to have healthy credit, but during these hard times realize that it just may not be realistic and that's okay.

"Credit can and does fluctuate in times of crisis," Tayne says. "If you aren't able to work out something with your creditors, your credit may just have to go on the back burner when you're out of work and struggling."

The good news is that you can still keep your credit stable if you can at least pay the minimum on your bill payments on time. Your payment history is the most important factor that determines your credit score and the best thing you can do for your history is make your payments by the time they are due.

Once you are back on your feet again with a more steady income, you won't want to continue paying the minimum on something like a credit card and accrue high interest. The interest rate on even beginner credit cards is steep: The Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card comes with a variable APR of 12.99% - 26.99% variable and the Capital One® Secured, along with the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card, both come with a 26.99% variable APR.

4. Understand your housing costs

When you are cash-strapped, prioritize bills that if not paid immediately have an immediate impact on you and your family's well-being. Housing payments fall into this category, so it's crucial you know how you're covered.

"Many housing relief measures are also ending, including eviction moratoriums and relief for renters in federally owned properties," Tayne says. Because different states and localities have different regulations with these measures, she suggests researching what's going on in your own area. 

If you're still struggling to pay rent, consider having a conversation with your landlord, even if you already have. "Your landlord has no obligation to help you once the eviction moratoriums are over, but if you've been a loyal tenant and built a good relationship they may be willing to work with you," she says. For tenants living in federally-backed properties, the moratoriums meant that they couldn't be evicted for 120 days under the CARES Act. Whether you live in a federally-backed property or a private property, perhaps you can take in a co-tenant or rent a room out in your home for extra income.

5. Turn to other resources

Your local city and state government is equipped with information and resources to help you.

When the additional unemployment relief runs out, you may be able to qualify for other government assistance programs, such as SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid and HEAP, Tayne says.

She also suggests looking into local churches and charities that could offer help in the form of food donations or job search assistance. Your relatives and neighbors are also good resources for sharing things like clothes, bulk food items, furniture and school supplies. 

"Don't be afraid to go into your community to look for assistance in a swap or barter," Tayne says. Maybe your neighbor has excess perishables that they can swap to you for something in your closet that you no longer wear. "Creativity is key now with budgeting and preparing finances."

Information about the Capital One® Secured and Capital One® Platinum Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Petal 2 Visa Credit Card issued by WebBank, Member FDIC.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.