5 Steps to Take if You Think Another Government Shutdown Is Imminent

a young man sorts cash on his balcony.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

If there was a time to hoard your pennies, it is now.

A government shutdown may not affect you directly, but for many, it could mean going without a paycheck for an undetermined amount of time

We don’t want you to shoulder that financial stress alone, so we’ve compiled a list of five ways to pinch your pennies and maybe earn a few until we’re on the other side of this crisis.

1. Revisit Your Budget and Cut Where You Can

If you don’t have a budget, it’s OK, but you need to make one soon.

If you do have a budget, but you spend outside of it and never get around to adjusting it, you need to be honest with yourself and your wallet. Start tracking as many expenses as possible so you know where you stand.

Once you get that in order, get out the scissors and start trimming the fat.

You might start by downgrading your monthly cell phone plan or cutting the cable bill.

Then you can move on to more aggressive tactics — like paying only the minimum on bills, pausing investments, changing your W-4 withholdings, skipping the monthly subscription boxes or magazines, bringing your lunch or experimenting with DIY gifts and personal care — to help save for some of those expenses you can’t avoid.

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be a budget ninja, and you might just find a new way of life. And depending on how long you remain unsubscribed from a service, you may qualify for a sign-up bonus or a new customer deal if you decide to subscribe again and save more in the long run.

2. Stash Your Cash

All your budgeting and cutting will help keep your cash flow heading the right direction.

Since you may not know when your next payday will be, the best decision is to have as much cash on hand as possible.

Think of it like an emergency fund: That cash will be there to help cover your most essential expenses, like food and shelter.

If you’re a federal employee or service member, consider a no-interest loan from a federal credit union or the no-interest payroll advance loan USAA offers members during a shutdown to keep the income stream flowing.

With a few tricks, you can get cash positive and work toward building up bucks to guarantee your physical and financial survival during the shutdown.

3. Talk to Your Creditors

Scared to let the payment slip or worried about making just the minimum payment?

Call your creditors, no matter how embarrassing, annoying or inconvenient it may seem.  

Many credit card companies offer hardship programs that include reduced fees, lowered interest rates, structured payment schedules and lower minimum payments. But use these cautiously, and make sure to ask your credit card company plenty of questions because these programs may result in negative marks on your credit score.

If you’re unable to get hardship assistance, you may want to consider applying for a new credit card with a zero-interest promotion. You can roll some or all of your credit card debt onto this card to help lower your payments and accrued interest.

Mortgage companies offer a variety of loan modification programs that assist qualified borrowers with reduced interest rates or extended loan terms.

Reaching out directly to the creditor shows you care and intend to pay. Most will work with you and your budget, and some may even allow you to defer payments. Wouldn’t that be a relief and totally worth the call? Yeah, we think so too.

4. Find Alternative Income Sources

We have your back. We write a lot about the many ways to keep a stream of income flowing and opportunities to make extra cash.

You can consider quick cash grabs, like selling some of your collectibles online or having a yard sale. You may also find a side hustle that’s right for you, like a temporary gig serving at a restaurant or bar, doing odd jobs or even selling your plasma.

You can also make money from home doing something as simple as babysitting or renting out an extra room to ease the shutdown blues.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your family and friends about your shutdown situation. They may have the perfect odd job for you or know someone who does. Get all the feelers out there to help you stay afloat during uncertain times.

5. Have Sense With Your Cents

Ultimately, be smart with your money. You know yourself and what you can afford. If you need to trick yourself into spending less or saving more, do that.

There are apps that save money for you automatically and others that help you find the best deals on the things you have to buy.

As much we’d love to see you go slash-happy on your debt, now’s not the time to go gangbusters. Stick to the minimums to keep your creditors at bay and stack as many Washingtons, Lincolns and Benjamins as possible.

Having sense is using your better judgement and willpower to resist those impulse buys and hold off any treat yo’ self splurges.

Limit your temptations, and remember that if a shutdown happens, it will only be temporary. You’ve got this!

Stephanie Bolling is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She prefers to stay cash positive.