Making the most of your money as pandemic shutdowns continue

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Some 90-percent of Americans are receiving a stimulus check from the government, but for many it won't be enough to get them through this crisis.

So what should you do with your money right now? We talked to the experts about the best ways to do that.

Like millions of other Americans, Manuela Martinez has lost her job due to the pandemic.

"What went through my mind when I got laid off was like, 'how am I supposed to pay my electricity bill? How am I supposed to pay my rent?' while also thinking about, 'how am I gonna set food on the table?'" Martinez said.

Martinez is taking steps that can help.

"So I reached out to some of my credit card companies and requested them to stop interest rates. They actually took ownership to say, listen you don't have to pay anything for the next three months, some of them two months," she said.

Many banks are deferring credit card payments, mortgages, and more plus waiving fees for a period of time. But be proactive: reach out to any creditor before you stop paying a bill. And if you do get to defer, make sure you're not reported as delinquent.

"If you get a 'hardship accommodation,' make sure that your payments are reported as 'current' on your credit report, rather than delinquent, so it won't impact your FICO score," said Scott Medintz, Consumer Reports Editor.

It's also important to get a handle on how much cash you have coming in and how much needs to go out.

"Normally, you might focus on paying down your highest interest rate debts first, but these aren't normal times. You may have to focus instead on essentials, such as rent, utilities, and pharmacy bills," said Medintz.

"That's why I'm telling people unless you've got a bunch of money, put things on credit. This is not the time to spend your cash, keep your cash," said money expert Steve Seibold.

Seibold wrote the book, "How Money Works, Stop Being A Sucker."

His other advice right now is to negotiate with everyone.

"Definitely negotiate your debt, including up to and including the IRS," said Seibold.

Another new option for consumers: all three major credit reporting agencies have now agreed to provide one free credit report a week instead of just once a year.

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