Tips for handling loss of income during coronavirus: How 4 ordinary people are getting by

Hairdressers Angela Kristina (L) and Nina Job (R).
Photo by Katelyn Landis

With jobless claims surging to 30 million over the past six weeks, many Americans are in tight financial straits. Half of all Americans say they've already been hit financially by the effects of the coronavirus. And given that only 41% of Americans had $1,000 saved for an emergency, being laid off, furloughed, or losing a stream of income can set a lot of people back significantly. 

Luckily there are practical steps you can take right now to help make ends meet. Here's how four people are getting by despite a disruption in income or a change of plans.  

Ask for a break on your rent

Workers in the beauty industry have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus. Nina Job, who co-owns a boutique hair care business in Queens, New York, is one of them. 

On March 20, her business, Gypsy Hair Co., shut its doors indefinitely, and Job lost her income. She asked her landlady for flexibility on the upcoming month's rent. Job has lived in her current apartment for 10 years, which she shares with two roommates, and pays $1,000 per month.

"I know my landlady would absolutely work with me," Job told Grow earlier this year. "She's probably gonna cut [rent] in half." 

There are other options for rent breaks, too. Many local and state governments are stepping in to pass temporary measures that protect renters, so see if you're eligible for relief. 

Trim your expenses

When the coronavirus outbreak caused Brian Gersh, 37, Kansas City, Kansas, to temporarily close his family-run furniture store, he wasn't worried about putting food on the table. He had another stream of income and enough savings for the time being.

Then, when his wife lost her job, which had brought in $2,400 a month, Gersh started looking at his budget and seeing where to trim. He'd already seen expenses drop, such as child-care costs and food. He decided he will likely cut out discretionary expenses, like annual trips overseas and to San Diego to visit family.

Missing out on those trips "are huge bummers," Gersh told Grow, but ultimately, forgoing travel is a smart move that will help them get through a challenging time.  

What to do if you can't pay rent because of coronavirus

Video by David Fang 

Negotiate your bills

Even workers deemed "essential" have had to take pay cuts because of a reduction in hours. When Suzanne, a flight attendant based in New Jersey, had her hours slashed, she prepared for a smaller paycheck by calling her credit card company and asking for assistance. Susan was able to reduce her interest rate, which helped her cope with a $1,000 monthly loss in earnings. 

"Our union came out a month ago and said, 'Call your mortgage company, call your banks, call your loans,'" she told Grow. "'Check to see if you can pause payment for a few months because you will be looking at a reduction in pay.'"

Calling your cellphone provider or your cable company to negotiate your bills is also a smart way to cut costs. With rates creeping up over the years and expired introductory offers, you may be paying more than you should.

Pick up a side hustle

When Genevieve Sutherns, 17, was forced to cut her travels short as the coronavirus swept the globe, she came back home to Canada, unsure of what to do.

Sutherns ended up joining her boyfriend in his efforts to create a delivery service for small businesses called Guelph Box that helps local stores have been hard hit by the pandemic. Guelph Box "encourages people to stay home," Sutherns recently told Grow, and still "support local." For now, Sutherns and her boyfriend are earning enough to cover their costs.

If you're hoping to make some extra cash, there are a number of side hustles you can do from home. You might also consider turning a hobby into a side hustle. If you can play an instrument well, for example, you could try to teach music lessons on sites like Lessonface. Students pay $50 for a 30-minute, one-on-one lesson, though Lessonface takes a cut. 

When the going gets tough, recognize that times of crisis often create opportunities, Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, recently told Grow. During dark times, he said, people tend to figure out how to be "innovative" and "solve problems."  

More from Grow: