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calculator with three stacks of coins, budgeting

Family resource management specialist Elizabeth Kiss urges families to make a budget, especially if their income drops suddenly.

Make a plan to budget family’s finances, says K-State expert

Tough times may mean changing your lifestyle temporarily

April 27, 2020

MANHATTAN, Kan. – In addition to creating a heightened awareness to personal health and safety, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease has put a pinch – at the least – on many families’ home budget.

Elizabeth Kiss, a family resource management specialist and associate professor in Kansas State University’s College of Health and Human Sciences, said that developing a plan for the family’s income is key to making ends meet during tough financial times.

“You can direct your financial affairs by taking a close look at your obligations and making informed decisions about what to do,” she said.

Kiss and colleagues have developed a series of publications, titled When Your Income Drops, that is now available online providing guidance to families and individuals who suddenly face a drop in income due to unemployment, reduction in wages, a termination of support payments and other emergencies – some of which have been witnessed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The publication, When Your Income Drops: Making Ends Meet, is available through the K-State Research and Extension bookstore.

For families, Kiss says there are “Five C’s” to help make ends meet:

Control. “Control as much of the situation as you can,” Kiss said. “Don’t panic or waste energy blaming yourself or others. Remember that you and your family can take control of your actions.”

She notes that it’s natural for individuals to take some time to get over the initial shock, but then start making plans to work around the shortfall. “One way to cut down anxiety is to assure yourself you are doing the best you can with your family resources,” Kiss said. “Recognize that your life will be different for a time, but you and your family can still manage financial affairs rather than have them manage you.”

Claim. Check with local agencies to determine what benefits or assistance programs for which you may be eligible. “If the decrease in your income is from unemployment, you can start by applying for unemployment benefits,” Kiss said. Other programs that can help include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicare and others.

Communicate. Let family members know what your limitations may be. Perhaps other family members who are still earning an income can contribute more, or maybe the family member no longer earning an income can use a hobby or skill for temporary income.

“Once you know how much income will be coming in, make a list of your expected expenses,” Kiss said. “Be sure all family members participate in discussions about expenditures. Decide what the family needs next week, next month and over two or three months.”

Confer. Call your creditors and explain your situation; don’t simply default on payments. “Find out what happens if you miss payments,” and if there is a grace period for making payments, Kiss said. “With this knowledge, contact creditors before they contact you. Creditors will be more likely to believe you and help you if you make contact early.”

She notes that it’s wise to make a plan to first pay creditors who are likely to garnish your wages, impose a high finance charge, repossess items, cut off basic services, or who are owed a large amount.

Change. Be prepared to make changes to your lifestyle temporarily so that you can maintain basic essentials. “Look for ways that you and family members can use time, energy, talents and knowledge to reduce expenses,” Kiss said. “Take better care of things you already have. Recycle clothing. Swap items and services with a friend or neighbor.

“To make it through hard times, your family will need to make informed decisions and work together to carry out these decisions.”


More information on managing family finances is available online from K-State Research and Extension.

At a glance

Getting through tough financial times requires making informed decisions and working together as a family to carry out those decisions, says family resource management specialist Elizabeth Kiss.


Family Finances

Notable quote

“Control as much of the situation as you can. Don’t panic or waste energy blaming yourself or others. Remember that you and your family can take control of your actions.”

-- Elizabeth Kiss, family resource management specialist, K-State Research and Extension


Elizabeth Kiss

Written by

Pat Melgares

For more information: 

When Your Income Drops: Making Ends Meet


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K‑State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the wellbeing of Kansans.
Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county extension offices, experiment fields, area extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K‑State campus in Manhattan.