STRETCHING YOUR DOLLARS | Actors Fund

STRETCHING YOUR DOLLARS

The Actors Fund helps a wide range of entertainment professionals to manage financial and emotional challenges during times of unemployment. Many have asked for tips on how to cut back and plan financially, so we are offering the information and resources below. As always, call The Actors Fund for questions or help.

Immediate Steps You Can Take

  1. Examine your expenses
    • Becoming familiar with how you are spending will help you understand how your money is allocated and allow you to identify any possible changes or adjustments.
    • Create a list of all your expenses for the last 3 months, sorted into categories. View a sample worksheet.
    • Once you understand what you have been spending, create a budget or spending plan that helps you determine what to spend going forward.
  2. Identify any fixed expenses you can reduce
    • Fixed expenses are costs that occur monthly: rent, utilities, phone, subscriptions, etc.
    • Reducing these expenses usually requires a one-time adjustment that will take effect and continue every month without any additional action from you.
    • For example:
      • Change or eliminate subscriptions, including TV services, housekeeping, laundry; change phone plan or switch to a cheaper vendor.
      • Contact your utility company, bank, or landlord and explain that your work is affected by unforeseen circumstances. Ask if you can make minimum payments or other arrangements and still be considered current/keep service.
      • If applicable, contact the judge or court that issued decrees of support/alimony to inform them of your situation.
      • See if you are eligible for lower-cost health insurance. You can register for an Every Artist Insured webinar (weekly in New York, biweekly in California) at actorsfund.org/workshops.
  3. Identify which non-fixed expenses you can reduce.
    • Non-fixed expenses are costs that occur monthly but for which the amount varies from month to month or throughout the year. Reducing these expenses is an ongoing process that may require you to make regular adjustments.
    • For example:
      • Reduce household energy and water use.
      • Assess when public transit can be substituted for driving/parking to reduce gas and parking fees.
      • Review your food plan, including where you grocery shop/dine out and what you eat.
      • If taking medications or supplements, talk to your doctor about using samples or generics, and call the drug manufacturer about their assistance programs.
      • Prioritize entertainment and “fun” spending on the events and items that are both affordable and most meaningful to you; delay other purchases for now.
  4. Minimize use of credit cards where possible
    • Be mindful of creating or increasing your credit card debt while holding on to cash. The fees and interest associated with credit card debt may cause more significant issues down the line.
  5. Know what you need and how long what you have will last
    • If you have savings, divide the total amount saved by the minimum you need to meet your living expenses each month. This is your “liquidity ratio,” which is the number of months you can meet your living expenses using your current reserves.
  6. File for Unemployment benefits
    • Check to see if you are eligible.
    • A work stoppage may or may not be a disqualifying event depending upon the state. Please check your local Unemployment website for details.
  7. Make a plan for temporary employment
    • Contact friends, acquaintances and state employment centers.
    • Update your resume and LinkedIn profile. 
    • Prepare and practice your professional narrative: who you are, what you do and the value you bring.
    • For more personalized support, contact The Career Center at The Actors Fund. Attend the online Career Center Orientation to learn how to leverage your industry skills into new employment opportunities. Register at actorsfund.org/workshops.
  8. Know what emergency financial assistance is available to you from within the entertainment industry and beyond
    • Contact The Actors Fund for information on financial assistance, health insurance, career counseling, mental health support, food banks, loan sources and other resources.

Managing Your Debt

  1. Stay in contact with your creditors! This is critical.
    • When it comes to debt, it doesn’t hurt to ask. It always hurts to avoid. Try not to be afraid to communicate, communicate, communicate!
    • For most debt, you can temporarily lower your monthly payments. This includes credit cards, dentist, doctors, student loans, etc.
  2. Contact each creditor and explain your situation
    • Try to contact your creditors before you fall behind.
    • Based on the monthly financial strategy you created above, know what you want to ask for before you call. What percentage or dollar figure are you seeking, and for how long? The more specific your request, the better the chance it will be granted.
    • For example:
      • Lower interest rate (APR) to a particular percentage.
      • Eliminate late payment fees.
      • Defer or reduce minimum payments to a particular amount for a specific period of time.
    • Practice the conversation—ideally with someone else—before you call. If you are seeking a reduction in your monthly minimum payment, be honest about the payment amount you realistically can afford and manage.
    • Not getting relief from the person you are talking to? Ask to speak to a supervisor. Or call back in two hours or the next day. A different representative may make a difference.

Tips on Specific Kinds of Debt

  1. Credit Cards
    • Ask for postponement until you are back to work
    • Try to negotiate lower APRs or try to lower minimums or defer payments if you have to.
    • Transfer balances to lower APR cards; read the fine print first so you know exactly what you are agreeing to (including balance transfer fees and the expiration date of any promotional interest rates).
  2. Car Loan
    • Most auto loan lenders will consider allowing you to skip several payments by adding that number of payments to the back end of your loan agreement. While this simply defers your payments and may result in additional interest, it will allow you to reduce your monthly expenses immediately.
  3. Home Mortgage Loan
    • Contact your mortgage lender before you fall behind. If you do fall behind on your mortgage, it is imperative that you communicate with the bank so you can avoid foreclosure.
    • Get connected to a local nonprofit that can advocate for your legal rights.
    • If you have been paying extra toward your principal, consider paying the minimum until you get back to work.
    • You might consider taking equity out of your home, if possible, to avoid foreclosure.
  4. Federal Student Loans
    • Contact your student loan servicer before you fall behind. Borrowers with federal student loans who cannot afford their monthly payments often have a number of options available, including enrolling in an income-based repayment plan.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask questions so you have a complete understanding of what any adjustment to your repayment schedule means long-term for the loan.
    • If you do fall behind, it is imperative that you communicate with your servicer so you can avoid going into default. If you are already in default, there are still steps you can take to address the default and bring the loan back into good standing.
  5. Private Student Loans
    • ​​​​​​​Contact your student loan servicer before you fall behind. Borrowers with private student loans unfortunately do not have the repayment options available to federal student loans borrowers, but you may still be able to temporarily pause or reduce your payments.

The Actors Fund has a complete Financial Wellness Program and Resources available to you.