Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on finances, roughly 145 million Americans say they cannot afford another year like 2020, according to WalletHub’s new Coronavirus Money Survey.
In Oklahoma, the pandemic may have packed somewhat less of a blow, according to the survey. In some cases it even presented people with a unique opportunity to save more than normal.
Though the situation in the U.S. has begun to improve and the government has provided multiple stimulus packages, many people are still reeling from the damage done by the pandemic. The nationally representative survey conducted by WalletHub gauged how the coronavirus has affected Americans’ lives and spending habits.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is now the second-biggest stressor in America, with money problems taking first place,” said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez. “The U.S. is rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine and people have gotten used to social distancing measures, which explains why people are worrying a bit less about the pandemic itself. The long-lasting financial consequences caused by COVID-19 are now taking a more prominent position in people’s minds.”
On the flip side, the survey found that 61% of Americans have saved more and spent less during the coronavirus pandemic.
Afton Fisher of Oklahoma City is among the 61% who saved more than she bought during the pandemic.
“Coming from a background of instability financially – my mother was always robbing Peter to pay Paul and I was homeless for almost a year as a teenager – having money in the bank is a foreign concept to me,” said Fisher.
“When the last stimulus hit, for the first time ever I was within $2,000 of having $10,000 in my hands.”
Fisher used the money she would normally have spent on gas, car maintenance and child care on items like games, school supplies and desks to make at home learning easier for her children.
“With that extra little bit, I was able to really focus on saving. I also started cooking my lunches at home and changed my breakfast habits,” she said. “COVID let me develop better habits overall that resulted in my being more financially secure.”
Adena Alvis Hudson of Moore said she and her husband have saved more than $7,000 since March of last year when the coronovirus reared up. Due to restrictions and worries, the Hudsons stopped eating out or having food delivered, and their weekend trips were put on hold.
“We will be putting in a storm shelter, as well as getting a hot tub in the next year,” Hudson said about the extra money.
Although her husband was unemployed for eight months of the year, he was eligible for unemployment, which is what was able to keep their financial situation afloat.
“We did dip into savings some initially, but when the extra unemployment income came through, we were able to build that back up,” she said. “Without the extra unemployment, we would have been making roughly $20,000 less this year than the previous year. My income also went down in 2020, but it was not COVID-related.”
According to the survey, the number of Americans who list financial concerns as their top worry has increased by 15% over last year. Those worries also have led to more credit card usage, as 29 million more Americans say they will apply for a new credit card this year compared to last year.
“One of the biggest ways that consumers have reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic is by opening more credit card accounts,” said Gonzalez.
The average credit card debt of U.S. families is $6,270, according to the most recent data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. The average debt for individual consumers dropped from $6,194 in 2019 to $5,315 in 2020.
Those balance decreases have generally been attributed to drop-offs in spending during quarantine periods and the ability to pay down balances with economic impact payments and supplemental unemployment money.