Surviving financial downturns requires many of the same skills as surviving a zombie apocalypse. You must be able to recognize the signs of a zombie economy and act before it can hurt you. Your survival is at stake.
The zombie horde is at your door. There’s only so long you can hide and delay.
“They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”
It’s time to grab your tools and begin securing your financial shelter.
1. Assess Your Income (Ammunition)
To survive the zombie apocalypse, you want to check the strengths and weaknesses of your house. You probably earn less and spend more than you think. This puts you in a vulnerable position.
Eliminating the weakness in your financial fortress starts with figuring out your actual income. This is your financial house and you need to know its strengths and limitations.
- Start by writing down your actual take-home income. Gather your last 6 paychecks and write the date and the amount (after taxes and all deductions). Not sure how much you get paid? Check your bank records or ask your Human Resources department.
- If your last six paychecks are all the same, write down that amount as your average. If you get paid every 2 weeks, double the paycheck amount to get your monthly income. If you are paid every week, multiply the average paycheck amount by 4.
- We know that some months have 5 weeks, but it’s always a good idea to underestimate your take-home pay. This provides the pleasant surprise of extra money during those extra-long months. By underestimating your monthly take-home pay, you will be better equipped to tackle the living debt.
- If your paycheck amounts vary, all you have to do is add them all up and then divide by 6 to get your average paycheck amount. Again, if you get paid every 2 weeks, double the average paycheck amount to get your average monthly income.
- If your monthly average income doesn’t seem right to you, go back and check your math. While it may seem lower than you think, math doesn’t lie.
- Self-employed? Calculate the amount you were paid by clients for the past six months by checking your bank and check deposit records.
- Earn money from tips? This can be very difficult to determine since tip income changes dramatically, but it’s a good idea to get an estimate. Start tracking your take-home tips. Add up your total tips for two weeks. Then take this number and multiply by 2 to get your average monthly tip income. Remember, this is an estimate. Make sure you track your tips regularly, especially if your shift schedule changes.
- Have a side hustle? You want to gather as many tools and weapons as possible to face the coming horde. Side money can come from selling items online, freelance work, investments, and odd jobs. If you have regular side money coming in, don’t forget to list it as well. Give a good, conservative guess.
Finally, add up all your paychecks, tips, and other income for the month. This is your average monthly income.
2. Assess Your Costs (Zombie Threat)
Think of every bill as a zombie. Left alone, they will only get stronger and create more zombies, like late fees, overdrafts, and collections.
The longer you lets bills sit and accumulate, the stronger the zombie army gets.
Here’s what to do:
- First, remove all distractions. Board up the doors and windows if you have to.
- Write down your monthly income. If you freelance or have unreliable monthly income, make an estimate. This is how much you have to spend for the month.
- Now, write down all of your regular monthly bills. Since many of us have gone paperless with our bills, it’s a good idea to check your debit and credit card history. This is where you can see exactly how much you paid last month for things like rent, gas, and utilities.
- Divide up your bills into necessary and unnecessary columns. Necessary bills are anything that you need to survive. Think rent, food, water, electricity, gas, and car payments. If you have children and/or pets, you need to think about their survival too: childcare, diapers, baby food, child support, and pet food/care. Unnecessary bills are things you don’t need to survive, like Netflix subscriptions, gifts, and entertainment.
- Pay all of your necessary bills NOW. Like, right now. We’ll wait.
- And just like that, you’ve slayed the zombies at your doors and windows—at least for this month.
- Next, evaluate all of your unnecessary bills and cancel as many as you can. These are your financial weak spots. If you don’t need them for work or survival, they should go. You can find free entertainment at your local public library and ask friends and family for their video streaming passwords. And how often do you actually go to the gym? Honestly? Instead of a gym subscription, think about paying for a day pass instead.
- You may also want to reevaluate your insurance plans. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and shop around.
- After you have paid your monthly bills and eliminated any unnecessary ones, add up all of the monthly costs for your absolute necessities.
To find out how operating fund (not “disposable income”), simply subtract the total monthly amount for absolute necessities from your average monthly income. This is
3. Set Up Automatic Payments (Board the Windows)
If you haven’t set up automatic bill payments, we recommend doing that now! You can usually create automatic payments through your service provider (rent, utilities, etc.), but if you can’t, you can set it up through your online banking system. While you are setting up automatic bill payments, make sure you have an automatic payment set up for your credit card(s). Set it up so you are paying the minimum payment for all cards. Ideally, you want to pay off your credit card in full every month, but if you can’t make that happen, you should be paying at least the monthly minimum payment in order to avoid penalties and late fees. You’ll still be paying exorbitant interest though.
We recommend using a credit card for all of your online payments, including auto payments. Credit cards offer a lot more consumer protection (in the case of fraud or unauthorized charges for instance) and you’ll be earning points/rewards and building up your credit score in the process.
Just call your bank if you have any questions about setting up automatic transfers and payments. We also recommend using calendar schedules and alerts for weekly, monthly, and yearly financial reminders.
Set a reminder to check your credit card statement for accuracy before paying it off every month. This way, you can dispute any charges that don’t seem right. Staying alert and strengthening all of your weak points will help you survive.
4. Eliminate Credit Card Debt (Pull the Trigger)
Credit cards can be a strength or a weakness depending on how you use them. If you pay the full amount every month, it’s like an interest-free loan that provides great consumer protection. If there’s a balance left at the end of the month, however, the interest rate you will be paying is probably the highest interest loan you will ever get.
Unfortunately, the fast access to funds leads many people to misuse their credit card and get infected with a large amount of debt. If you can’t pay off your credit cards in full every month, it’s a good idea to give your full attention to paying off just one of your credit cards.
To do this, pick the “debt avalanche” or “debt snowball” method. The debt avalanche method involves paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first, then moving on to the lower interest debt. The debt snowball method involves paying off the lowest balance debt first, then moving on to the second lowest. While the debt avalanche method can potentially save you more money on interest, the debt snowball method is faster and may provide you with a much-needed motivational boost.
5. Save Money (Stock Up on Supplies)
Even after fortifying your home, the zombies are still out there waiting for the first sign of weakness. How long will your doors and windows hold up? The undead will eventually start ripping away at your structure, which means you’ll need some backup supplies. Ammunition — money — is your most important asset for survival. You must build up your stockpile in case more zombies come. Maybe they smelled blood? Maybe they’ve already hit the surrounding homes and you’re the last survivor on the block?
Whether it’s sudden medical expenses, car repairs, rent increases, or something else pounding at the door, with enough ammunition, you can easily blow them away with your 12 gauge shotgun when the time comes. If your savings account is empty and you’ve already maxed out your credit cards, however, you’ll be standing there defenseless, watching as the door begins to splinter open. Those $150 shoes won’t help. Neither will your iPhone or Bose headphones. Only cold, hard ammo will protect you. Get as much of it as you can.
Even if you have credit card debt, we recommend putting away at least 10% of your monthly income into a savings account. This is an emergency fund that you will need when all else fails. It’s not vacation money. It’s not shopping money. It’s your last resort that keeps you from getting eaten alive.
Assess, store, save, survive. And repeat.
If you have followed our zombie economy survival guide, you will have fortified your structure from the zombie horde. But that doesn’t mean the threat is gone. They’re out there, waiting to get you.
Don’t Give In! DebtBlue Is Here to Help
Have you been infected by the living debt? Regardless of your survival skills or determination to survive, sometimes the zombie threat is just too large.
If that’s the case, then you need to call in backup! DebtBlue has been fighting financial zombies for a long time. We know a thing or two about dealing with debt demons.
Contact DebtBlue for your free debt relief consultation. We can help you find the debt reduction strategy that works best for you. You may benefit from a faster debt reduction strategy using debt consolidation or debt settlement.
Call us today at 855-332-8258 (that’s 855-DebtBlu) to learn more.