If you’re taking a closer look at your finances lately, you’re not alone. There’s a good chance you or someone you know may be trying to make a suddenly smaller budget stretch even further.
While that’s certainly tough, know that there are a variety of tips and resources available right now to help you feel more confident about managing your money. I talked with a few Navy Federal leaders to discuss their best tips to stay on top of bills and avoid missed payments. Here’s what they had to say:
- Talk to your financial institution. Dani Hoffmann, AVP of Collection Systems, Projects and Vendor Management at Navy Federal says this should be your first step. "We're here for our members 24/7 and their financial well-being is top of mind for us," says Hoffmann. "It's common for members to avoid our calls out of feelings of embarrassment or hopelessness. When we do make contact, our members often say, "I wish I had talked to you sooner." Navy Federal has multiple options to assist our members during times of financial hardship. We simply need to talk to you to understand your unique financial situation and to match you with the most appropriate assistance option, so before you miss a payment, contact us."
There are a variety of relief options available and different ways to contact Navy Federal, summed up on the COVID-19 relief page.
- Focus on the debt you have. While prices may be at record lows in certain industries, it’s important to prioritize paying down the debt you do have before spending on the nice-to-haves. Booking a trip at an unbelievably low cost may sound like a fun option and something to look forward to, but spending that money may put you one step closer to falling behind on payments. "If you can afford to pay your bills in full, you should. The best way to stay on top of payments is to prioritize bills over other expenses," says Anne Marie Ferdinando, Member Outreach Manager at Navy Federal. “Don’t get caught up in the idea that you can delay payments right now just because the option is available. If there is money left over, absolutely add it to a rainy day fund or earmark it for a trip you’re planning."
- Revisit or Make a budget. Whether or not you work with a financial advisor, now may be a good time to revisit your financial plan and see how you can tweak your budget. You’re likely spending way more on groceries and household items right now and understandably less on retail or entertainment.
"Editing your current budget or creating a new one may work well to free up some cash," says Anne Marie. "See if you have any wiggle room in your monthly expenses to avoid falling behind."
- Prioritize your payments. If you have balances on more than one credit card, Justin Zeidman, Manager of Credit Card Products, suggests you prioritize paying down your higher- interest cards first. "After setting your budget, consider using any leftover funds towards a larger payment on your credit card with the highest interest rate. Paying down high-interest balances first will save you more in the long run," says Justin. "Making at least your minimum payment each cycle is key to ensuring you remain current on your account, but putting any extra payments towards your highest-interest balances will help you save money as you pay down your debts," he adds.
Currently, Navy Federal is refunding late payment fees and offering extensions for credit card payments to help members having a hard time.
- Take a deep breath. During a time when it may feel like things change every day, remember that it's going to be ok. Talking to these leaders gave me a great perspective; even though times are challenging right now, there are options to lessen the burden. Reach out and re-think your finances.
Be sure to visit the Navy Federal COVID-19 relief page to see all options for member support. And as Dani Hoffmann said, "When in doubt, contact us, and we'll help you figure out the next step in your financial journey."
Lara is a Marketing Communications Strategist and Writer at Navy Federal. A team member since 2014, Lara strives to make our member’s financial journey a little easier through helpful content and guidance. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two children.