From our Oklahoma Attorney General, Mike Hunter.

If you are getting fraudulent unemployment fraud claims (like I have been) please don’t just throw them away, you have to take
action to keep them from stealing benefits and raising your unemployment taxes.

Attention business owners. If you learn unemployment benefits have been fraudulently filed in your name or in association with
your business, you first need to stop the claim by contacting OESC’s fraud team at fraud@oesc.state.ok.us.

Next, please submit the Unemployment Fraud Form on the OAG website to allow law enforcement investigation into the bogus claim.

Follow our Attorney General on FB and other media to keep up on info like this or simply like the OIG page and follow us
for info.

April 26, 2020

As previously announced, Mercury will be giving back 15% of monthly private passenger automobile (PPA) premiums for two months in light of the COVID-19 environment and we wanted to provide additional details about how these premiums will be given back to customers.

In addition, Mercury will be giving back 10% of monthly premiums to Business Auto customers for the months of April and May. Those premium give backs will follow the same process as described below.

The premium giveback period will begin on April 1, 2020. Customers with an outstanding balance on the current policy term will receive a credit in early May for the month of April, and a second credit in June for the month of May. Refunds will be provided to customers for the same periods whose policies have been paid in full. Customers who paid with a check or through EFT will receive a check in the mail and those who paid via credit card will receive a refund back to the card used to pay their premiums.

See below for a document you can send directly to customers to clarify the Premium Giveback program and other steps Mercury has taken to help customers. We ask that you email this document to all of your Mercury auto customers. This document is also available on Mercury’s corporate website at www.mercuryinsurance.com.

Due to the ever-changing nature of this situation, Mercury’s response may continue to evolve, and we appreciate your patience and support. If you have any questions, please contact your Mercury Marketing Representative.

 

To view from the original PDF, go here

View source version here

We’re here to help customers with their changing business needs

The current pandemic is uncharted territory for all of us, but as questions arise, we’ll do our best to get the answers to help you and your customers.

With that in mind, we created a COVID-19 response page with the latest updates on coverage and payment options. You’ll also find helpful resources and information being developed by SCORE (a non-profit organization dedicated to helping small businesses with education and support) and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Please feel free to share the link progressivecommercial.com/covid19help, and if you—or any of your Commercial customers—need assistance, call us anytime at 800-444-4487 and let us know how we can help.

Thank you for partnering with Progressive.

 

View source version here

To our valued agents and brokers:

All of us at Liberty Mutual Insurance are thinking of the people of Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas following severe storms and multiple tornados. We’d like you to know that we’re ready to respond immediately and deliver on our promise to provide you and your clients peace of mind during what could be a very difficult time.

For clients in the impacted area(s), please share the following steps to help them start to recover:

We’re here for you
We’re ready to lend support and are committed to doing what’s right by being there for you and your clients when we’re needed most. In the meantime, we’ll continue to monitor conditions and provide additional updates as necessary.


Chris Lucas
VP, Business Insurance Property Claims
Liberty Mutual Insurance

 

View source version here.

Taking care of our customers, employees and agents is a top priority for Liberty Mutual Insurance. We recognize the uncertainty and financial challenges many of our mutual customers are facing due to COVID-19. To help Liberty Mutual small commercial customers, we have taken the following actions:

Liberty Mutual Businessowners Policy (BOP) Refund
Today, we’re announcing a 15% refund on two months of premium for all Businessowners policies, including those that are written as part of a specialty program.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Small commercial customers will receive a 15% refund of two months of their annual BOP premium for policies in-force as April 1, 2020, pending regulatory approval.
  • The refunds will begin in the upcoming weeks and will be issued by check.
  • The payments will happen automatically. Customers do not need to call Liberty Mutual to receive the refund.

 Payment flexibility options

  • Late fee charges have been automatically stopped and cancellations due to non-payment have been temporarily paused for small commercial customers from March 23 through at least June 1, 2020.
  • We continue to work with individual customers to extend payment dates if needed and provide personalized support.

Other small business customer support

  • We are temporarily offering Hired and Non-Owned Auto coverage to our existing restaurant and other main street business policyholders to fill insurance gaps if they decide to add delivery to their service.
  • We are suspending non-renewals with policy effective dates of April 1 through July 31.

Coronavirus—aka COVID-19. It has flooded our social media, nightly news, and has even made its way into some of our communities. It goes without saying that this thing has created mass hysteria and panic across the globe. But if you’re looking for that here—you won’t find it.

We haven’t lost our hope, and you shouldn’t either. We’re going to get through this, folks. Emotions are running high surrounding the coronavirus, and it feels like there’s so much uncertainty. But you don’t need to live in fear.

Yes, this virus has impacted all of us, whether it’s by coming down with the sickness itself, becoming filled with anxiety from the news, or being out of work (and out of a paycheck). We’re all feeling it in some way. And with 78% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck,1 it’s easy to see why the loss of even just one paycheck could be devastating. 

Will You Miss a Paycheck Due to the Coronavirus?

It’s no secret that things are shutting down all across the world. And if your workplace has closed its doors and isn’t offering pay, then it’s time for you to (calmly) regroup and get some things in order. The thought of being without a paycheck can be overwhelming. But we don’t want to scare you. We want to give you sensible, level-headed actions to take. But first, step back and take a big, deep breath.

Did you do it?

Okay, good.

Now let’s look at some things you can do to keep you on your feet—even without a paycheck.

7 Things to Do When You Miss a Paycheck

1. Get on a budget.

If you aren’t already living on a budget, the time is now! Making a monthly budget will show you exactly where your money is going—no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Without a budget, you really can’t make every dollar stretch because you might not even know how much money you have to work with. Plus, your budget will show you places where you can cut back and save money (more on that later). And you don’t have to rely on a yellow lined notebook to crunch the numbers. Give our free budgeting app, EveryDollar, a try and see how simple budgeting can be.

If you don’t have any income right now, then make a budget based on the amount of money you do have. If you have $600 left to your name, budget out exactly where each of those dollars will go. It’s time to squeeze every last penny out of what you’ve got.

If you still have cash coming in from your spouse’s job or some other source, then adjust your budget to reflect that. Maybe the two of you usually bring in a combined $5,000 a month. But with the loss of one income, you’re down to $2,500 a month.

Adjust your budget to live off of that one income for the time being. It might be tough to switch up your lifestyle, but you’ve got to make temporary sacrifices to get through this.

2. Take care of the Four Walls.

When the going gets rough—like it is right now—you need to focus on the things you really need to survive. We call these the Four Walls. Forget the student loan payment, the vet bill and the cell phone bill (for now). The Four Walls are your priority, so pay for these things in this order before anything else:

  1. Food
  2. Utilities
  3. Shelter
  4. Transportation

These are the basics you need to keep going so you can live to fight another day. And it’s really hard to fight when your family doesn’t have food, isn’t it? So if there’s no food in the fridge, don’t pay the cable bill.

If there’s any money left over after you take care of the Four Walls, make a list of what else you need to pay and tackle that in order of importance. When you run out of money—that’s it. Someone on the list isn’t getting paid, and that’s just how it goes. But it sure as heck isn’t going to be the checkout lady at the grocery store. Remember, that’s priority number one!

If you’re renting and having trouble coming up with cash right now, don’t stress out. Reach out to your landlord and be honest with them about what’s going on. They might be able to work something out with you for the time being, but they can’t help if they don’t know. Be up front with them and pray for the best.

3. Pause your debt snowball.

When you’re just trying to make it to another day, you don’t need to pay extra on your debt. Instead, focus on piling up cash as high as you can. This will help with peace of mind until you have income again. Once life gets back to normal and everything is okay, you can pick up where you left off with your debt snowball.

If you’ve been chipping away at your debt, you probably don’t want to see all your progress come to a screeching halt. But the reality is, if you’re not getting paid, then you’re in the middle of a crisis. So pause your debt snowball. If it’s within your budget to keep paying the minimum payments on your debt, go for it. But remember, the Four Walls come first. Don’t let your family go hungry for the sake of your FICO score.

4. Sell stuff.

Get radical. No, we don’t want you to go selling hand sanitizer on eBay for $50 a bottle. But this is the time to sell what you can to bring in extra cash. Maybe that’s your jewelry, clothes, baby items or even the extra car sitting in your garage. If you know you can part with something and get extra cash in your hands—do it! Well, within reason.

5. Get a temporary job or start a side hustle.

If you’re out of a paycheck because of the coronavirus (or your business is taking a serious hit from it), that’s a real thing. But you don’t need to freak about it—just go get some part-time work.

With so much being shut down right now, there might not be as many traditional ways to make extra money out there. Your local hotels, movie theaters and restaurants probably aren’t looking for help. So think about who might be hiring more right now. Look into driving for Amazon (hello, doorstep toilet paper deliveries), picking up takeout food for Postmates, or dropping off grocery orders with Shipt.

And even if one of those doesn’t work out, you can still take up odd jobs around your neighborhood (think cutting the grass, picking up leaves, babysitting, or dog walking). Be on the lookout for opportunities that will add a few extra bucks to your pocket. In this situation, every little bit helps.

6. Look for things to cut.

This is the time to cut back on any unnecessary expenses that you can. Tighten it up. Stop or pause your subscriptions (think Netflix, Hulu, meal delivery kits, specialty makeup boxes). They aren’t going anywhere, and you can easily pick them back up once everything blows over and you have extra cash to spend again.

Don’t forget to call your cable, internet and cellular providers to see if there’s anything they’ll do to work with you during this time. Be open and honest, and let them know your situation. You’ll never know if you don’t ask! And since you already have them on the line, go ahead and downgrade or pause your service for now. None of these things fall into the Four Walls, remember?

And have you heard of this thing called “social distancing?” It means people are encouraged (and want) to stay away from each other right now. Which can make it easier to not spend money. Sports venues are closed, Disneyland is closed—heck, even bars are closed. And even if places are open, this is a time when most people are staying home anyway. Your friends probably won’t pressure you to go hit the town this weekend. That’s good news for your budget.

We know making sacrifices like this can feel like adding insult to injury when you’re already hurting. But keep reminding yourself: This is not forever. We’re going to make it through this! You’re making temporary sacrifices to tread water until this storm passes and you’re back on your feet again.

7. Connect with your church or local community groups.

Let’s be clear here: Try to do everything in your power first before you seek help like this. Make sure you cut back where you can and take any temporary jobs to work hard and get back up on your own two feet.

But, in times of real need, don’t be too prideful to ask for a helping hand. Many churches and community groups in your area exist for situations like this. They want to help you! If going to a food bank means your family is fed, then do it.

School is canceled, which means you’re now not only a parent, secretary and CEO of your household, but you’re also the teacher, principal, lunch lady and coach!

Oh, and you might be trying to do your office job at home now too. No big deal.

I’m right there with you, and if your kids are anything like mine, they need to be entertained 24/7. With everything else you’re tasked with right now, I want to help make this part a little easier! And I don’t want you to have to spend money to do it.

If you’re looking for ways to keep your kids entertained while quarantined, here are some of my favorite free ideas:

Kids Under 5

1. Make this simple DIY ball ramp game.

2. Play free games featuring Elmo, Daniel Tiger and more at pbskids.org.

3. ABCmouse.com offers a 30-day free trial of their interactive lessons and games.

4. Try out Post-It Match—a DIY name recognition activity.

5. Watch astronauts read children’s books from space.

6. Through the quarantine, Other Goose is offering their charter school-approved curriculum for free.

7. Disney+ is a favorite in our house, and they offer a seven-day free trial. (Be sure to set a reminder on your calendar to cancel on day seven!)

Kindergarten to Middle School

8. Create new animals, build a habitat for them and so much more with Switch Zoo Animal Games.

9. A whole website of Dr. Seuss games? Adorable.

10. Find DIY experiments, craft projects, stories and more here. They even have videos that explain the coronavirus pandemic to your kids.

11. Create your own spelling tests or choose from dozens at Spelling Training.

12. Help your kids plant their first garden! This site has everything you need.

Middle School, High School and Beyond

13. Learn a new language!

14. Use code-breaking and geography skills in these awesome Carmen Sandiego worksheets.

15. Check out free cooking and science experiments every day.

16. Try a free trial of online courses for teens and adults.

17. AP students can prep for their courses using live trivia and study guides.

18. Brush up on your writing skills with this writing course free trial.

19. Don’t forget, you can watch every episode of The Rachel Cruze Show for free!

All Ages

20. Watch live video feeds of giraffes, baboons, polar bears and more from the San Diego Zoo.

21. This app adds music, sound effects and character voices to children’s books to create a totally new story time experience!

22. Print out these at-home activity packs for math and reading at every grade level, and check out hundreds of thousands MORE worksheets here.

23. Watch these livestreams of real wildlife from Alaska.

24. Play educational games personalized to your child’s learning level at DreamBox.

25. Teach your kids responsibility and the value of money with our fun activities in our SmartKids Launchpad.

Hey, fam. I know this is a super weird, hard time for many, and you might be feeling scared right now—especially if you’ve been laid off or you’re on unpaid leave because of the coronavirus (COVID-19). First of all, if that’s your situation, I just want to say I’m so sorry. Take a deep breath and know that you’re not alone.

If you were still working on paying off debt at the time of your unpaid leave, here’s what I want you to do: Press pause on your debt snowball and just make sure you can cover the Four Walls—food, utilities, shelter and transportation—until you can get back on your feet.

In overwhelming situations like this, focus on what you can control (your own actions) and start applying for some jobs. Don’t let the news fill you with fear—even though it might look like the world is ending, there are actually a lot of companies that are hiring right now. I’ve made a list of some of the best jobs and side hustles you can look for to get you through these crazy economic times. I promise, we will get through this.

4 Temporary Jobs in High Demand During the Coronavirus Pandemic

While tons of companies have closed their doors, the need for other businesses like grocery stores and restaurants that deliver has skyrocketed. Here are four of the most in-demand career fields where companies are currently hiring.

And y’all probably know this already, but check local places too. All of the companies listed here are national chains, but there might be local grocery stores, hospitals or restaurants in your area that are hiring too. Since these are the places that are considered “essential,” pretty much any workers in the food, delivery, tech or medical field are going to be super needed right now!

1. Grocery/Retail

Someone has to restock all of that hand sanitizer, right? Grocery stores and retail/food combination stores are some of the only places people are actually allowed to go to right now, so it makes sense that these businesses would be overwhelmed and looking for some extra hands.

Many of these places have come out with press releases saying that they’re planning on hiring thousands of temporary workers during this crisis to help those who are missing paychecks. Even if it’s temporary, it’s better than nothing—and some may turn into full-time opportunities later. Here are some places that are actively hiring:

  • Aldi
  • Costco
  • CVS
  • Dollar General
  • Dollar Tree
  • Kroger
  • Publix
  • Sprouts
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Whole Foods

2. Delivery

Bless all of the delivery drivers who are making sure people get what they need—even during a global pandemic. The good thing about these jobs is that most of your time will be spent in your car, so you can listen to music or podcasts and make minimal human contact. Here are the delivery services that are hiring right now:

  • Chipotle
  • PepsiCo
  • Domino’s
  • FedEx
  • Instacart
  • Jet’s Pizza
  • Papa John’s
  • Pizza Hut
  • Postmates
  • Shipt
  • UPS
  • Uber Eats

3. Medicine/Health Care

Sure, not everyone has the training or education for a job in the medical field, but if you do, now’s the time to use it! And don’t write off these places because you don’t think you qualify—some health care companies and hospitals will need receptionists, admins or other workers who might not fit the roles you’d typically think of. Here are some of the places in the medical field that are hiring:

  • Ascension
  • CVS
  • GE Healthcare
  • Mercy Health
  • Rite Aid
  • Walgreens

4. Technology

With so many people working and chilling at home these days, companies like the ones on this list need people with tech skills (and other skills) who can help them meet the demand for all those video meetings and binge-watching sessions. Jobs in this category range from customer support to IT to design. Here are just a few of those companies that are hiring currently:

  • Apple
  • Google
  • Hulu
  • Microsoft
  • Netflix
  • Slack
  • Zoom

Side Hustles You Can Start While Social Distancing

There are plenty of things you can do to make extra cash during this crazy situation that don’t necessarily involve a specific company and will allow you to build your own schedule—which is dope if you have kids and need something more flexible. Grab your entrepreneurial spirit and see if you can get something going with one of these side hustles.

  • Tutoring online: With so many kids missing school right now, you could offer virtual tutoring services in math, science, English, ACT/SAT prep, music, art or whatever your area of expertise is. You could also go through an online tutoring platform like Tutor.com or VIPKid to teach kids all across the country—and the world! (Dude, technology is the best.)
  • Freelance writing/editing: People are reading online content more than ever right now, so look for online platforms that need writers and copy editors. (If you have the skills and know how to use the right your, then trust me—people need you.)
  • Cleaning services: Businesses (or moms) may need some extra help cleaning their space up to CDC standards. You can reach out to people or business individually, or you can look into joining a franchise like Molly Maid that sends people out on an as-needed basis. Be choosy about which jobs you take, though—your health and safety come first.
  • Babysitting/nannying: Now this is a tricky one, because you definitely don’t want to put your health (or anyone else’s) on the line. But there are plenty of parents working in those “essential” jobs who still need someone to watch their kids. Use your best judgment here, and obviously, if you or someone in your family is sick, turn the job down. And if the family has elderly or other at-risk people living with them, don’t put them in harm’s way by coming into their home.
  • Web or graphic design: Anything you can do from home on your computer is obviously a great option right now. People still need websites built and products designed, so offer your services via Craigslist or social media, or go through a site like Fivver.
  • Security: If you have the right training and qualifications, check with local businesses or even hospitals to see if they’re looking to hire extra security people during this crazy season.
  • Taking surveys: Sites like Survey Junkie or Vindale Research will pay you to take surveys online (how easy is that?). They don’t pay super great, so you might have to take a bunch of them before they add up, but every little bit helps.
  • Transcribing audio files: Y’all, check out Rev— with some basic training and certification, you can get paid to transcribe recorded or live audio files for the medical industry, legal industry, etc.

You guys, I hope these lists will at least get you started with some ideas for making extra money during your unpaid leave or job layoff. I know things are tough right now, but don’t panic. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and I got your back if you need some help and encouragement along the way. To get some daily motivation (or even just some human interaction), connect with me and the fam over on Instagram or YouTube.

We’ll get through this together.

It’s crazy out there. Weeks ago, everyone was joking about people loading up on toilet paper, and now it’s hard to find a roll when you need one. It kind of makes you want to stock up. On everything. It might even make you want to buy stuff you’ve never even used before because, well, what if you suddenly need it?

Don’t do it. Don’t fall into the coronavirus shopping frenzy. It’s a very real issue, and it’s causing very real problems—like product shortages and busted budgets. Now more than ever, it’s important to be wise with your spending. Here are some practical ways you can avoid the frenzy:

Determine Your Needs

One way to stay calm in the craze is to look around your home and figure out what you actually need. For example, you may need hand sanitizer. But you don’t need 56 bottles.

Create a Shopping List

As you plan, think about the next two weeks. What would help you stay stocked up and fed for a week or two? Why that long? Well, any time you can limit shopping trips, you’ll save money—even when there’s no pandemic.

Constant trips the store happen when we don’t take the time to really plan ahead. Plus, they waste gas. That’s any day. And today we’re all limiting our trips into the world, so go ahead and get into the practice of making better grocery and household shopping lists now.

It’s okay to get a little bit extra, like two boxes of your kids’ favorite cereal instead of just one. But don’t let fear fill your shopping cart. You’re a wise, calm budgeter—not a doomsday prepper.

Meal Plan

If you don’t already meal plan, start now. Meal planning keeps you from wasting money because you buy only what you really need.

So, get out a calendar. Then look in your pantry, fridge and freezer. Based on what you already have, what meals can you put together for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next week or two? Jot those down. What meals could you make if you bought just a couple more things? Jot those down too.

Once you’ve got that ready, then you can plan out other meals to make. And don’t forget snacks—especially while you’ve got even more people in the house.

Add everything you need to that shopping list. Then pull a Santa Claus and check it twice. That’s how you avoid making a million extra trips to the store.

Adjust Your Budget

Some people freak out when they have to adjust a budget line. Don’t freak out! A budget is about you—your income, your goals and your situation. When any of those things change, your budget should change too.

Right now, you’ve got more people in the house all day. You might need to up that grocery budget line. But since you aren’t driving around much, your gasoline budget line will probably be way lower. And that entertainment budget line may have changed from concert tickets and movies out to puzzles and a TV streaming service. Make the changes you need for the life you’re living now.

If your income has dropped, you may have to drop some extras. Focus your budget on covering the Four Walls first: food, utilities, shelter and transportation. In other words, you feed your family, keep the lights on, pay the rent or mortgage, and get yourself to work (if you aren’t working from home). Those are your budgeting priorities now. You also want to put money in savings. (We’ll cover that more in a minute.) Then see what extras you can still cover.

Remember—this isn’t forever. Say it again, because we all need to hear it right now. This. Isn’t. Forever. Change up the budget to help you get through this. And you will get through this!

Sticking to Your Budget

Your biggest temptation right now may be comfort spending. That could mean you’re wanting to buy things that bring you comfort or you’re emotionally spending on things you don’t need. Be careful with the first one and avoid the second one altogether.

Don’t sacrifice those Four Walls or other more important expenses. Don’t go overboard. But if you’ve got space in the budget to buy that book you’ve wanted to read for years—do it. Just don’t let spending money be what soothes you right now. Emotional spending is a dangerous habit that could stick around long after the pandemic.

If you haven’t already, download EveryDollar. It’s our free budgeting tool, and it can help you stick to your budget through all these changes.

Your Financial Future

Uncertainties in life happen all the time. Let’s be honest, this one is huge. But no matter the size of the uncertainty, you’ll be able to stand up to it when you’ve got an emergency fund.

If you’ve still got money after you cover your Four Walls, put it to good use! If you’ve got debt and you’re confident your job will be around in the next three to six months, keep working your debt snowball. If you’re unsure, pay only the minimum payments for now and put more money in savings. You’ll get back to crushing debt in time, but right now, you need a bigger savings account.

And if you’ve got money in retirement investments—do not cash out. That’s like jumping out of a roller coaster mid-loop. And that’s how you get hurt.

Listen, we know it’s hard to look to the financial future when you’re in the middle of a crisis or a tough situation. But you can still make good decisions for your money. You can still make and keep to your budget. The stress of right now really is temporary. This will not last forever. And future you will say thanks for not going off the rails with your spending now.

So take a breath. Plan your spending. Adjust your budget. And don’t let fear bully you into a shopping frenzy. Be good to your budget. Be good to yourself.

Less than one in three Americans are considered “financially healthy.”1 That’s according to the Financial Health Network, who conducted a study late last year—when the economy was booming and well before COVID-19 put many Americans’ incomes at risk.

If the recent state of the world has caused you to reevaluate your financial health, or if you realize it’s finally time to put on your grown-up pants and take your money seriously, I want to help you get into a solid financial position. The good news is, it doesn’t matter where you’re starting from! The principles I’m going to walk you through apply to everyone, no matter how much or how little money you have.

Let’s go over my five foundations for improving your financial health. They are:

  1. Determine where you’re starting from.
  2. Tell your money where to go.
  3. Start spending less than you earn.
  4. Plan for your future.
  5. Become a generous person.

Not too complicated, right? Let’s break these down.

5 Foundations for Improving Your Financial Health:

1. Determine where you’re starting from.

If you want to reach the goal of becoming financially healthy, you’ve got to know where you’re starting from. And I don’t just mean how much money you have to your name. To really figure it out, you’ll need to do some self-discovery around your beliefs about money.

There are several factors that influence your financial health, what you believe about money, and how you handle it. One of those factors is how you grew up. The environment you were raised in shaped your beliefs about money, and your habits with money, in very specific ways. I call this your money classroom.

Your money classroom is largely influenced by your parents. They may have taught you some great money lessons! But others may have to be unlearned.

Then, when you finally had your own money to spend on your own terms, things may have been quite different. Some people spend or save like crazy out of fear of ending up just like their parents. Others fall into the same habits because that was their “normal.”

Whatever your case may be, self-awareness is key. Take some time to think about the way you grew up and how that has shaped how you relate with money. Think about some mistakes you’ve made. (We all have!) How can you shift your mindset to make better decisions from this point forward? Once you’ve at least thought about that, let’s move on to . . .

2. Tell your money where to go.

People who become successful at anything reach a point where they wake up to the reality of their decisions, and then they commit to make a change. It’s no different when we’re talking about our money. If you want to improve your financial health, you need to make money work for you—and a budget is the plan that will make that happen.

Money doesn’t just drift into your savings account, and debt doesn’t get paid off on its own. You have to be purposeful and have a plan. You have to tell your money where to go.

So, step one is to make a budget. If you’re serious about wanting to take control of your money instead of having money take control of you, then you have to learn to live within a budget. And despite what you may have been told, a budget doesn’t limit your freedom—it gives you freedom!

3. Start spending less than you earn.

I realize it’s normal to “live it up” and spend your whole paycheck. But that’s why 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck!2 Normal is broke, so be different.

Borrowing from your future to keep up a lifestyle you can’t afford doesn’t have to be your story—especially if you want to be financially healthy. You can make a choice today to live differently. You can choose a life of freedom and stability while you live life on your terms—not Visa’s.

The way you do it is by living on less than you make. There will always be temptations coming at you from every direction along the way. Everybody wants a piece of your paycheck, am I right? But you get to dig in your heels and say, “Nope. I choose to live wisely and within my means.”

This is the time when you really need to think through and identify your basic needs. That way, you’ll have enough money to make real progress toward more important goals, like getting out of debt!

For me and my husband, Winston, it’s required some sacrifice. And sacrifice is hard. It’s hard to see all your friends go on vacation. It’s hard not to get the furniture you really want before the party you’re hosting. It’s hard turning down a dinner invitation because it’s not in the budget. Those choices aren’t fun in the moment, but they lead to an abundant life.

One thing that’s helped us is the hard realization that, when it comes to spending money, there’s a difference between needs and wants. Food, utilities, shelter and transportation are needs.

You need food to survive, lights and hot water, a safe place to live, and the means to get to and from work. Those are considered your basic needs. If you have these things, even when times are tough, you’ll live on to fight another day.

Online streaming services, cable, fantasy football leagues and a Halloween costume for your dog are all wants.

These days, we’re able to say yes to all that stuff more often because of what a live-on-less-than-you-make lifestyle has enabled us to do: keep more of our paychecks and save.

4. Plan for your future.

Nothing will make you feel more financially healthy than a stockpile of cash sitting in the bank, waiting for a rainy day. It’s called your emergency fund, and it’s your safety net when emergencies happen.

Too many people reach for their credit card when their car breaks down, but all that does is turn a car problem into a money problem. Then, compound interest turns the money problem into more and more debt, stress and worry. That’s not good for your actual health, let alone your financial health.

But when you have money in the bank just for emergencies, you can simply get the car fixed. No stress. No drama. And your financial health won’t take the hit—your emergency fund is there to protect it.

It can be difficult at times to build this up, but if you make it a priority, it will happen—and then you’ll have so much peace of mind!

Begin with a starter emergency fund of $1,000. This will cover smaller emergencies while you’re getting out of debt. Once you’re out of debt, take your emergency fund up to a full three to six months of your expenses. And once you’ve got that, invest 15% of your income into retirement. Each of these steps are part of my nine-week plan to never worry about money again: Financial Peace University. You can learn more about that here.

5. Become a generous person.

You may wonder how giving of your resources will improve your financial health, but this foundation will change you in more ways than one.

The act of giving changes your relationship with money and with the people around you. Living generously with an open hand keeps money in the proper perspective for you, and it blesses everyone involved. It will move you on the spectrum from selfish to selfless.

Plus, people who give are generally happier and less stressed because giving actually releases oxytocin in your brain.

So, let me challenge you: This month, give away 10% of your income. Yup, I’m serious. You can give it to your local church (this is called a tithe), a family member affected by a recent job loss, or however you feel led.

Generosity is a sign of someone who is truly financially healthy. If you take me up on the challenge, I want to hear what your generosity did for someone else and what it did for your heart.

You Can Change Your Financial Health

If you want to change your financial health, you’ve got to change your mindset. You can’t live life on your terms without paying attention to how you use your money. If you want to create good money habits, you’ve got to be willing to do whatever it takes . . . even if it’s uncomfortable and awkward in the beginning. As you do, you’ll find you can do more with your money than you ever thought possible.