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6 Expert Money Moves to Make in Financial Hard Times

Business Finance Personal Finance Saving

Whether you’ve suffered a lay-off or have unexpected medical bills, money dilemmas can cause major stress and even trigger physical symptoms of anxiety.

A girl with specs looking at her finance papers.

While these situations may feel overwhelming in the moment, most of these issues can improve with a commitment to getting things back on track.

Read on for advice on navigating choppy financial waters from money experts.

1. Separate facts from feelings.

“There will be a time later to address emotional issues. Now is not that time. For now, pack up your feelings and put them on a ‘shelf.’ Develop a mindset that you’ve been called in to perform a financial rescue for a complete stranger. Exactly what are the facts as you know them? … Follow this rule to figure out which bills should get paid first: Do not make payments on nonessential debts or expenses when you have not paid essential ones—even if your nonessential creditors are breathing down your neck.” — Mary Hunt, founder of DebtProofLIving.com

2. Create a budget.

“If you’re not already on one, you probably don’t even know where your money is going each month. Create a budget using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or just write one out with pen and paper. Once all of your monthly expenses are identified, go through each one and look for ways to cut your bills. You might be able to eliminate cable TV (or switch to a service like Netflix which costs less than $10 per month) and you might find that you no longer need your home telephone line.” — David Bakke, a financial columnist for MoneyCrashers.com

3. Rethink your priorities.

“Think of this as an opportunity to press the reset button on life. The past is gone, there is no need to remain physically or emotionally attached to past decisions. Use this freedom as a source of strength and opportunity, to move, to change, to go forward into a better future.” — Jeremy Jacobson, the personal finance blogger behind GoCurryCracker.com

4. Contact your creditors.

“One of the first things I would recommend is to contact creditors: Mortgage lenders, car lenders, I would contact even credit card companies and literally just spill the beans. Let your creditors know that you have a financial hardship. In a lot of cases, they are willing to work with you by suspending payments or doing some kind of forbearance. Debt payments are usually what stress us out the most, so that’s where you should start.” — Laura Adams, author of “Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Grow Rich” and host of the Money Girl podcast

5. Cut your insurance costs.

“Do an insurance audit and see if you can cut your premiums. It’s easy to just pay your insurance bills without giving it a thought. But in some cases, you’ll find you have coverage you no longer need. Or you might discover that you qualify for a discount that you haven’t taken. If you have a teenage driver in the household, there are a variety of ways to save money. For instance, there are discounts for good grades. Talk to your insurance agent and ask for help to reduce your premiums. This can increase your monthly cash flow.” — Beverly Harzog, credit expert and author of “The Debt Escape Plan”

And, because a growing number of Americans now freelance on the side or full time, here’s a tip specifically for freelancers suffering from cycles of feast or famine.

6. Network like you mean it.

“Instead of wasting time researching and cold pitching, focus your time on real conversations (via platforms like Twitter), setting up a portfolio or “hire me” page that’s optimized for a specific SEO term, or following up with past or current clients for referrals. It’s easier to get a ‘yes’ from someone who’s already said ‘yes’ in the past! Once you establish a weekly ‘relationship building’ routine as a freelancer you won’t have to worry about the dry spells. The process you’ve created will continue to bring in new work on a regular basis. And you’ll be able to build solid relationships with influential clients and other freelancers in the industry.” — Carrie Smith, founder of CarefulCents.com, a blog, and community for solopreneurs and freelancers

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