When you can barely get out of bed, accomplishing essential financial tasks can fall by the wayside. Common illnesses such as the flu and broken bones can disrupt your life for weeks. The same is true for severe cases of COVID-19, according to John Hopkins Medicine, and post-COVID symptoms can persist for months.
If illness lasts too long, credit accounts may become delinquent and debts may accumulate. Then, after recovering, you have to deal with the negative consequences. Don’t let illness depress you financially. Here’s how to manage your credit and your money when you’re feeling down.
Prioritize urgent invoices
It can be hard to prioritize when you’re feverish or in pain. All or nothing may seem important. However, some tasks require attention, so try to harness your energy and focus on the following:
- Credit card. If you don’t pay your credit card bills by the due date, issuers will typically charge an initial late fee of between $25 and $37. It’s especially important to receive your payment on time if you have a 0% APR credit card, as this special rate can be revoked if you pay late. You will not be marked as overdue on your credit report unless a full billing cycle has passed.
- Lease. Although many landlords won’t charge late fees until you’re late, you’ll want to have a positive relationship with this person or business. This means having a history of complete and on-time payments. However, many give a grace period of a few days, so you may have a little wiggle room.
- Car loans. According to the Federal Trade Commission, your lender can repossess your car as soon as you fail to repay your loan. Therefore, it is essential that you receive these payments before the due date.
- Accounts close to collection. If you know that certain accounts are already so delinquent that they may end up in a collection agency, do all you can to pay them. This will protect your credit from serious damage.
- Mortgage. Of course, you’ll want to keep your mortgage in good standing. But if you have to wait a few days, you probably won’t experience any repercussions. You usually have a 15-day grace period before you are charged late fees. After that time, the lender will typically charge you a fee of between 4-5% of your monthly payment.
Your household expenses are also important, but utilities don’t report to the credit bureaus unless they’ve been collected, which can happen if you miss multiple payments. The electric company will not disconnect your service if you miss a bill. Mobile phone and cable companies may also charge fees for late payments, but being unpaid will not impact your credit unless the debt is in default and the account is in default. has been transferred to collections.
Contact creditors if you cannot pay
If you can’t make payments from your lender because your condition has prevented you from working and earning a normal living, make the effort to contact them. Staying on the phone and going through all the prompts can be too taxing when you’re really sick. So if you can, write an email or use the company’s online chat feature. Briefly describe your situation.
Howard Dvorkin, personal finance expert and president of Debt.com, says creditors don’t necessarily care that you feel bad, but they do want to know the basics of what happened and a general timeline for resolution.
“Never run away,” says Dvorkin. “You can say, ‘I’ve been very seriously ill and I can’t make my payments.’ ‘They may be willing to work with you. If you have a doctor’s note, even better.
Some creditors will let you skip a payment or two without notifying the credit reporting agencies that you are overdue, thus protecting your credit scores. Make sure you get a written statement as proof, just in case something goes wrong. Document everything, including who you contacted, on what date and at what time.
The bills you can safely set aside, at least for a while, are those you may have incurred for the very illness that put you out of commission: medical bills.
“Medical bills are easy,” says Dvorkin. “They can wait. If you can’t pay the first bill sent, call them and explain your situation. They should be understanding.
Ask a partner, relative or friend for help
Maybe you need to send a rent check but have run out of stamps, or you just got an alert from your credit card company that they just spotted potential fraud. When you’re so sick that you really can’t do those urgent tasks on your own, enlist trustworthy friends or family members to help you out.
As long as you know this trusted person well and are confident that they have your best interests in mind, they can help ease the issues. You can be present while they attend, ready to provide answers and information.
Delaying important financial decisions
There are certain financial decisions you should never make unless you are fit and ready. Now it’s not time to :
- Adjust your investment portfolio. You’ll want to have all of your brain functions available before you switch mutual funds or buy stocks and bonds.
- Make expensive purchases. Need a new fridge or other big ticket item? Wait until you have the ability to do all the research to find the best at the lowest price.
- Sell assets. The purge is excellent and you will definitely need money for certain expenses or to cover your debts. Unless you’re sure you won’t need the property in the future, wait until you’re in good health before putting it up for sale.
- Open new credit cards. Never pursue a credit card account until you are fully aware of what you are doing. Applying for the account will add further investigation to your credit report, and you’ll want to make sure this is the right card for you.
What you can do now is plan your budget and make non-binding changes. You may be stuck at home thinking about money and how best to use it. Feel free to edit numbers on paper or in a spreadsheet. Then, when you’re healthy, return to the spending plan you created. Some of your adjustments may stick, while others may not be as feasible as you thought.
When you’re lying in bed feeling crummy, you’ll likely have a laptop or mobile device to keep you entertained. Besides updating your social media accounts, shopping online can be a fun distraction. It can also lead to involuntary debts.
It is always important to weigh the pros and cons of purchases. Do you need it? Can you afford it? Will you have the money to pay the full bill when your credit card statement comes due – and those unexpected medical bills are paid?
If you find you are turning to retail therapy too often, stop it. Unless you absolutely must dispose of these items immediately, add them to the retailer’s “Save for Later” file. Come back to the list when you feel better and can really consider whether or not they fit your budget and needs.
Facing the Fallout
Keeping your finances healthy while you’re sick isn’t always easy, but with the right approach, you can do it. Just try not to do more than necessary and delegate if necessary. When you return to normal, you may face any negative repercussions that you were unable to avoid, such as late fees. If you had a good record with your credit account before you got sick, for example, many issuers will waive these fees. Just call and explain that you’ve been charged, then ask for a one-time reprieve. Chances are you’ll get the break.