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Color of Money: Are you facing a loss of income? Here are four moves you need to make now.

Michelle Singletary on

When you're faced with a pending disruption in your income or you've been laid off, here are four things you must do:

-- Stop any aggressive debt reduction. Right now, you have to preserve your cash. You can't afford to pay extra on your debt. You may need that money to keep the lights on or buy food. Concentrate on the essential expenses until you're past this crisis.

-- Call your creditors. Put your pride to the side and get on the phone. Call every creditor and ask for a reprieve on paying your bill. Explain your situation and see if you can get a month or even two months of deferral.

Don't be afraid of being turned down for more time. Better to ask for help than stay silent and suffer as you try to manage bills with money you don't have.

-- Cut back on the nonessentials. Here's something I found astounding in the CareerBuilder survey. There were certain things employees said they would not give up even when faced with a financial hardship. People said they wouldn't give up cable (21 percent), eating out (19 percent), traveling (17 percent) and buying gifts for others (13 percent).

This is, as the saying goes, doubling down on dumb.

Cut what you can as soon as you can. Actually, lots of people not facing a shutdown or job loss could stand to revisit their budgets to cut the fat. My husband and I spent the last few months of 2017 combing through our budget to trim unnecessary spending. We got rid of subscriptions to magazines we weren't reading. We changed cable companies to reduce service charges. And if it weren't for our kids and their threats to smother us in our sleep, we might have gotten rid of our cable altogether.

-- Talk to somebody. If you're covered by health care that provides behavior health services, go see a therapist.

 

My husband is a federal government employee, and the constant shut-down threats are nerve-wracking. And we've got emergency funds.

If counseling isn't covered under your health plan, look for free services in your community. Don't keep your angst bottled up. My fear is you'll make some bad financial moves because you've got so much pent-up anxiety.

Maybe a federal shutdown will be avoided and a long spending agreement can be reached by the Friday deadline. Or there could be another short-term funding measure that keeps agencies open so that federal workers and contractors can get paid on time. I also certainly hope all the displaced retail workers find jobs quickly. But better to have a plan in case the worst happens.

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Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary). Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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