What to Do in a Government Shutdown: Don't Panic! Be Proactive

There are steps you can take to survive a government shutdown and potential military pay delay.
There are steps you can take to survive a government shutdown and potential military pay delay.

Panic seems like the natural response to the prospect of missing a paycheck due to a government shutdown. But a better idea would be to have a rational plan.

What steps can you take to survive a government shutdown and potential military pay delay?

What Not To Do During a Government Shutdown

  • DO NOT take out a "payday" loan.
  • DO NOT cash out your Thrift Savings Plan.
  • DO NOT pawn all your valuables.
  • DO NOT make any major financial decisions while under stress.

What You Should Do During a Government Shutdown

  • DO make sure you have a thorough understanding of your current financial situation. Look at all available assets: checking, savings, CDs, etc. If you are unclear about what you owe and to whom, interest rates, minimum payments, and more now is the time to figure this out. Use this as a learning opportunity. If you have a partner with whom you share finances, talk with them.
  • DO prepare to talk with any creditors, including landlords, mortgage companies, orthodontists, child-care providers, car finance companies, loans and credit cards. Their levels of willingness to help may vary, but either way, communication is essential. Get an idea of who is likely to work with you, and who won't be flexible.
  • DO be prepared to suspend any scheduled automatic drafts. This process typically takes a few days.
  • DO look at the choices you are making right now. Postpone all purchases that you can, whether large or small, including vacations, home repairs and renovations, and even small luxuries like that daily energy drink or fancy coffee. Get creative. What can you buy at the commissary instead of the convenience store? Might the $10 laundry detergent clean your clothes as well as the $17 bottle?
  • DO control your food costs. For most families, food is the second or third largest expenditure after housing and vehicle expenses. Take an inventory of what you already have in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Think creatively about how to make this food last as long as possible. Search for recipes that call for the ingredients you already have. Learn to fill in with rice and in-season fresh vegetables. Can your family eat a few more meatless meals? Beans, which are extremely nutritious and filling, can be prepared dozens of ways and are also inexpensive, especially if purchased dried.
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