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This Small Business Owner Got Creative to Support Her Family During the Coronavirus Pandemic — You Can, Too

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When Quinn Vise first opened her salon, Quinn Vise Hair Design & Co., in Holland, Mich., in 2014, she never imagined a global crisis would threaten the livelihood of her family and nearly two dozen employees. But six years later, her life and business were drastically impacted as the coronavirus pandemic swept across the United States.

Upon learning that she would have to close the salon temporarily due to her state’s stay-at-home orders, Vise felt numb. “I didn’t have any answers for my employees or guests or my landlord,” she explained.

Since the pandemic hit the United States in March, close to 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment, with industries like retail, food service and personal care being especially hard-hit. With most states implementing lockdowns or stay-at-home orders at some point, the country’s more than 30 million small businesses also faced a new level of uncertainty. According to an April survey of nearly 1,000 small business owners by the National Small Business Association, 80% experienced decreased customer demand and almost all were concerned about the economic impact of COVID-19.

When the pandemic threw Vise such an unexpected curveball, she had to quickly change course in order to protect her family and her business.

Learning how to stay flexible in times of crisis

A week before her salon’s closing was imminent, Vise wondered how she would pay for the business’s rent and utilities with no revenue and not enough of a buffer in her savings account. While she would apply for government relief programs, she knew she didn’t have time to wait around for the relief to come through. And rather than applying and waiting for unemployment insurance, which Vise worried wouldn’t bring in enough money, she began searching for other jobs.

She applied for positions with her local hospital, home health care agencies and even manufacturing factories, but the only offer she received was from grocery delivery company Shipt. She accepted the job and planned to work as much as possible delivering groceries until government relief arrived.

Vise threw herself into the role, working six or seven days a week to bring in as much income as possible. It was taxing on her body, she said, but it provided the flexibility she needed. Four of her five children still live at home, so she needed to balance taking care of her family with bringing in income to support them.

She had her two salon managers take over communicating with her team so she could focus on working for Shipt to cover the salon’s bills. “I just kept thinking, ‘I have to save my business and employees; I can’t wait on unemployment and possible loans,’” she said.

While she wasn’t able to pay her staff during this time, most of her team members were able to receive unemployment insurance, and the rest lived at home and got by with the help of family, Vise said.

The new job with Shipt was exhilarating at first given Vise’s love for challenges and entrepreneurship, but it began to take a toll on her. “The stress was breaking my mental state,” she said, “and averaging 15 to 20 grocery orders per day was breaking down my body.” Fortunately, Vise’s salon received a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the Small Business Administration in the second round of funding, which allowed her to let go of her hectic temporary job.

“At that point, I discontinued Shipt, got unemployment for myself, focused on schooling my children and brought the saving of the salon back into sharp focus,” Vise said. If Michigan’s phased reopening goes as planned, Vise’s salon should be able to resume business in mid-June, though she’s prepared to be flexible if the timeline changes.

If your accounts are dwindling, don’t panic

When the pandemic hit and her salon was forced to close, Vise didn’t have enough savings to keep her family and business afloat. If you don’t have enough money in your checking account or emergency fund to get you by during a period of unemployment, here are a few tactics you can try.

1. File for unemployment

Unemployment insurance is handled on a state level, though during this current crisis, the federal government has provided additional funding and new guidelines that make it more accessible and with a higher payout. If you’ve been holding out hope for finding a new job or being rehired by your old employer, consider filing for unemployment in the meantime to help you get by.

2. Deliver groceries

With fewer people leaving their homes, demand is up for grocery delivery service. While shopping for and delivering groceries eventually took a toll on Vise, it helped her get by financially during a time of uncertainty. “It was vitally important that through this awful situation, I could face myself and my employees and my community — that I have done everything possible to care for my responsibilities while following health guidelines,” she said. Delivering food might not be ideal, and you could be overqualified. But if you need money now, Vice found that it is a flexible and in-demand way to make some cash.

3. Look for online opportunities

The internet is rife with at-home money-making opportunities. Know a musical instrument? Offer online classes. Quick at the keyboard? Become a transcriptionist. Have a friend who’s trying to work at home while corralling kids? Tutor or entertain and “babysit” the kids via Zoom while the parents are in conference calls. From becoming a virtual assistant to teaching a new language to managing social media, with a little digging you may just be able to find an online outlet for your skills.

4. Take on temporary work

If you don’t want to make deliveries, numerous other businesses are hiring for jobs that don’t require driving. Many grocery stores, plus retailers like Amazon and Walmart, are hiring workers due to surges in demand. Or if you can’t risk the potential exposure, check out job postings on sites like FlexJobs to find remote work opportunities.

5. Get creative

These are weird times, and thinking out of the box could help you earn some extra cash. Maybe a housebound neighbor would be willing to pay you a little cash to walk their dog or do their shopping. Or someone in your neighborhood who’s trying to undertake an outdoor home or gardening project might be game to compensate you for help from a safe physical distance. Ask your friends and neighbors if they need any assistance, and consider posting on Facebook or Nextdoor and sharing what services you can offer.

6. Sell your stuff

If you’re really hurting for cash, why not offload some items you no longer need and sell them for some extra money? There are apps like letgo, or easy tools like Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor and eBay. You can even sell unused gift cards that have been accumulating in your desk drawer at websites like Cardpool. You can still sell items face-to-face as long as you follow social distancing guidelines (like have the person set down the cash, and you set down the object). However, make sure you take the appropriate steps to protect yourself and others, and consider leaving sanitizing wipes for the people buying your stuff.

7. Reduce your spending

Now is also an ideal time to take a close look at your budget and figure out how you can cut down costs to make your money go further until you have stable income again. This could mean canceling some streaming or subscription services (or switching to a cheaper plan), cooking from scratch instead of getting meal deliveries or putting a pause on discretionary online shopping. Retail therapy can feel comforting during tough times like this, but it can also add up fast.

8. Look for emergency grants and relief funds

If government funding and extra gigs aren’t enough to help you survive the pandemic, many organizations have started to offer financial assistance to people on a local level. Many of these are grants that don’t require repayment. For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area, several organizations have formed relief funds to help creatives and artists who have lost income in the pandemic. In another example, in San Antonio, Texas, The Center, which is the city’s LGBTQ+ community resource, created an emergency fund for locals in the LGBTQ+ community who have lost income and are struggling to pay for essentials.

9. Consider cashing in your points

If you’ve been accumulating credit card points, now may be the time to cash in. Instead of saving up for a vacation that may or may not need to be canceled due to pandemic-related travel concerns, you can redeem points for a cash buffer to help cover immediate needs.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced us all to adapt quickly, and it has put many of us in a tough financial spot. But Vise’s story shows that if you’re willing to pivot and learn new skills, even if it feels like you’re overqualified, there are ways to get by and earn money until things stabilize.

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5 Last-Minute Travel Ideas to Get the Most Out of Summer

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Summer is winding down to a close, but there’s still time to squeeze out every last drop of fun and relaxation before the weather starts to cool down. Plus, vacationing at the end of summer is often more affordable than during its peak.

“The last two weeks of August are no longer high season in many places,” said Pauline Frommer, editorial director of Frommer’s travel guide books and publisher of Frommers.com. “People get nervous about traveling in late August because they think it’s the height of summer, but it no longer is for family-friendly destinations since a lot of schools or sports teams have already started. You can actually find some really good deals that time of year.”

Whether you want to jet set internationally or travel to a hot destination in the United States, now is the perfect time. If your travel budget is dwindling, here are some affordable ways to explore.

Consider camping

Camping can be a fun and low-cost way to travel and connect with nature, especially if you have kids. It’s typically much cheaper than staying at a hotel or resort, especially if you already have the gear, and you can eat around the fire instead of going out. Frommer said a great place to look for a campsite is KOA.com, a company that has nearly 500 campgrounds across the country.

There are also some unique new websites that make camping more interesting, Frommer said. Two she suggested are HipCamp.com and CoolCamping.com, which help you find interesting camping locations around the world, including glamping options for those who are less outdoorsy. She said sites like this also allow people with large properties and farmers to host campers. “That means you might be camping in a place all by yourself instead of having people 10 feet away from you, or on a very beautiful, usually private property,” she said.

If you’re more interested in camping at a national park, Frommer said spots book up online quickly, though many parks hold up to a quarter of their space for those who roll up so they don’t have to turn as many people away. So if your park of choice’s campsite looks sold out online, you might still be able to snag a spot if you go early enough in the day, she said.

Take a road trip

Flights are costly, and if you have kids, airfare can cost thousands of dollars in total. Why not take an old-fashioned road trip instead, whether it’s for a day trip, a night at a nearby beach or a week-long drive across the country to close out the summer.

One easy way to save money on a road trip is by using FuelCostCalculator.com, a website from AAA, Frommer said. “You put in the make and model of your car and where you’re going, and it spits back how much they think you’re going to spend in gas,” she said. “That’s a great way for you to budget for your trip and how much you have leftover for other things.”

She also recommended using GasBuddy.com or GasPriceWatch.com, which can help you find the cheapest gas prices wherever you’re traveling.

Look up last-minute deals online

It’s become increasingly harder to find last-minute deals on airfare. “The problem is today, the airlines have filling their planes down to a science,” Frommer said. “Because of that, we aren’t seeing the types of last-minute deals that we did a decade ago.” Since plane seats really are getting filled, she said, airlines jack up prices as it gets closer to the date.

However, there are sites you can use to find the lowest airfare, especially for traveling internationally. Frommer said her team studied airfare and found the sites with the best rates are Momondo.com and Skyscanner.net. That’s because they do little tricks, she said, such as buying airfare in the country you’re going to, where prices are cheaper than buying in the U.S., or buying in a different currency.

“The bad thing about dealing with those companies is they tend to have very draconian cancellation policies, so you might have a fee on top of what the airline would charge,” she said. “But if you know you’re definitely going, especially for international travel, these two websites often beat the competition.”

While flights fill up these days, hotels typically don’t, making deals easier to find. “Hotels are doing well when they have 80% occupancy; they almost always have rooms to move, so they’ll usually give you last-minute deals,” Frommer said. Her company also studied and tested various travel deal websites, and it found that for Asia, Agoda.com tended to have the best hotel rates. For the rest of the world, Frommer’s team found that Booking.com nearly always had the best rate, often beating HotelsTonight.

While there are also rental accommodation options like Airbnb, VRBO and FlipKey, fees for these sites have been climbing, so they aren’t always cheaper than hotels. “If you’re with a group, that’s often a great way to save, but for couples, it’s not as reliable,” Frommer said. “The great thing about doing a last-minute trip is the hoteliers are more likely to discount at the last minute because they’re desperate, so you might actually spend less than if you booked months in advance for the last two weeks in August.”

Also, keep in mind that if you’re looking to book more than one thing — say, a hotel room and a rental car — some travel websites will offer discounted packages.

Consider nearby attractions

If you want to stay close to home, consider a quick day trip, overnight trip or even a staycation to some of the nearby attractions that make your area special. Perhaps there are some major tourist attractions in your city you’ve never taken the time to visit. Your state tourism department or city’s convention and visitor’s bureau websites are often chock-full of information on local sights and attractions. For example, TravelTexas.com is run by the state’s economic development and tourism department and has free guides for traveling around the state, plus some deals.

If there are any smaller amusement parks near you like Six Flags (not the giant ones like Walt Disney World or Universal Studios), most have season passes that can save you a lot of money, Frommer said. “At smaller amusement parks, usually if you get a season pass, it pays off in two visits,” she said. “It pays off quickly because it often includes perks like free parking, and maybe a discount on food or souvenirs.”

Don’t forget about picnics

One of the biggest costs of travel can be dining at restaurants. Rather than blowing your budget on food, consider picnicking instead, Frommer said. “A lot of people get on vacation and think they have to spend a lot of money on food, eating in restaurants every meal,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a real adventure to just go to a local deli or grocery store or charcuterie in the area and take it to a beautiful spot and eat outdoors.”

The bottom line

Just because you might be on a budget doesn’t mean you have to have your family stay home all summer. Even though the season is almost over, this might be the perfect time to find a great deal, visit somewhere not so crowded and do a little last-minute exploring.

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How to Pay for Transition-Related Expenses Without Going Broke

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Once a trans person has accepted their gender identity and decided to begin transitioning, it’s an exciting and liberating time. Everyone’s transition looks different, and each person may choose varying interventions. But as soon as someone starts looking at the costs, which could include doctor appointments, bloodwork, hormones, legal name and gender marker changes, a whole new wardrobe and potentially, surgeries, the costs can skyrocket quickly.

This is an especially tough pill to swallow for the trans community, which already faces significant financial disadvantages compared to the general population, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality. As revealed in their 2015 report, this is because many trans people face unsupportive families and suffer from discrimination with employment and housing, which results in financial distress and homelessness at higher rates than cisgender people.

“In the trans community, we see the highest amount of unemployment and housing insecurity,” said Emmett Schelling, executive director of Transgender Education Network of Texas. “Most trans people can’t save money because they’re worried about their day-to-day survival.” This makes it difficult to find money for binders, electrolysis or other transition-related needs when just getting by can be a struggle.

While there are some transition-related expenses that are difficult to avoid, many can be reduced or wiped out with the help of certain resources and strategies. Here’s how to save on several of the most common expenses.

How much does it cost to medically transition?

Not every trans person desires hormone therapy or surgeries. But for those who do, the costs can be high and vary greatly depending on the provider and whether you have health insurance that covers it.

For some ballpark figures, below are the costs of some of the most common transition-related surgeries at The Philadelphia Center for Transgender Surgery, including hospital and anesthesia costs. Note that this clinic and others provide a discount when multiple surgeries are done at once.

For trans women seeking hair removal, electrolysis and laser hair removal are used because they’re the most permanent methods. However, costs may vary drastically, since the number of sessions required to achieve results is unique to each individual and the amount providers charge can differ significantly.

Male-to-female confirmation surgeries and procedures

Breast augmentation

$9,000

Vaginoplasty

$25,600

Rhinoplasty

$9,000

Thyroid cartilage reduction (trachea shave)

$5,400

Female-to-male confirmation surgeries and procedures

Basic chest masculinization

$7,800

Phalloplasty

$24,900

How to finance your transition

Apply for grants

If you want a surgery or procedure that’s still beyond what you can afford, consider applying for a grant. There are several specifically for people who need assistance while transitioning.

“There are a few different nonprofit organizations out there that provide financial assistance for people seeking gender affirming surgery or electrolysis or binders,” said Ryan Sallans, a transgender author, public speaker and diversity trainer. He is also a volunteer vice president of The Jim Collins Foundation, which has an annual grant cycle that awards financial grants for gender-affirming surgery to a limited number of applicants. They offer one type of grant that pays for 100% of surgical fees.

“It makes us a unique organization,” Sallans added. “Being able to tell people that 100% of surgical fees are covered is completely life changing, because a lot of people aren’t able to even put down $1,000 or $2,000 for a surgery.”

Through a legacy donation by a trans woman, they also have a grant available that provides 50% of funding and requires the individual to put down the other 50%. “I actually really love that grant — sadly it’ll be gone in two years — because there are many people who may have most of the money,” he said. “They just don’t have that last piece.”

According to Sallans said each year, they typically receive 400 to 500 applications, and in the past, they were only able to award one to three grants annually. For the last two years in a row, they’ve been able to provide three grants that covered surgeries at 100% and two that covered 50%. The amount they can give out each year depends on how much they’re able to fundraise.

The nonprofit Point of Pride also started offering surgical grants for the trans community a few years ago, and they’ve given out more than $103,000 total in grants. They also have a program to help with the costs of electrolysis for permanent hair removal.

Get creative with fundraising

If you’re struggling to piece together enough money for transition-related expenses, you may turn to credit cards or a loan. But rather than getting into debt, consider fundraising first. Many trans people turn to GoFundMe, Schelling said, which allows them to raise money from their friends and family.

Some people also organize fundraisers; for example, working with local LGBTQ bars to have a percent of one night’s proceeds go toward their surgery. Schelling said he’s seen people in Texas do “plate sales,” where they hold an event and make food, like homemade enchiladas, and sell plates of it to raise money for their surgery. If you get creative with fundraising, he said, and combine it with any savings you do have, you can meet your goals a lot faster.

Explore your insurance

If you have health insurance, read your policy carefully to determine what types of transition-related care is and isn’t covered. If you’re not able to figure it out, call your insurer or ask your job’s human resources team to help you understand your coverage.

Be aware that under the Affordable Care Act, health insurers and medical providers are not allowed to discriminate against you because you’re trans. While this doesn’t mean they have to cover every procedure, an insurer cannot categorically exclude transition-related care, and providers aren’t allowed to deny you care simply because you’re trans — though unfortunately it sometimes still happens.

If you have faced discrimination from an insurer or medical professional, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If you need assistance, contact The Transgender Law Center Legal Helpline or call (415) 865-0176 x306.

If you’re on Medicare, know that transition-related care that’s deemed “medically necessary” is supposed to be covered. However, attempts to get surgeries covered by Medicare are not always successful, so ask your doctor about their history with the program and whether or not previous claims have been accepted.

Consider borrowing to help cover the costs

If you’re not able to pay for transition-related costs with savings, you might be able to finance them with one of these options.

Credit cards. Credit cards offer an easy way to borrow funds. Your credit limit might not be enough to pay for an entire major surgery, but it could cover smaller procedures or miscellaneous costs. If your credit card’s interest rate is high, many credit cards offer 0% interest rates for a year or longer, giving you time to make a dent in your debt. If you go that route, just make sure that if you carry a balance, you can handle the payments once the regular APR kicks in. Also keep a lookout for annual fees, and be aware that carrying a high balance can hurt your credit score since it increases your credit utilization ratio.

Personal loans. Another option to pay for transition-related costs or surgery is taking out a personal loan, which gives a lump sum that’s then repaid with interest in fixed payments. You can take out a personal loan from a traditional financial institution, like a bank or a credit union, or from an online lender. Personal loans are typically available anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000, and interest rates vary significantly depending on credit history.

Medical financing. There are also certain financing options specifically for medical expenses. One is CareCredit, a medical credit card accepted by some healthcare providers. CareCredit often offers 0% interest for certain time periods, but if you don’t pay off your balance by the end of that predetermined “promotional period,” you will owe interest retroactively, and at a very high rate. CareCredit should only be used if you know you can pay off your balance in full before interest kicks in. Another option is Prosper — the company known for peer-to-peer lending also offers a special type of healthcare loan in partnership with some doctors. If your doctor uses their system and you’re approved, you can get a loan for up to $35,000 with no retroactive interest.

Find extra work

Another way to help pay for transition-related expenses is to supplement your income. Consider turning to the gig economy, where you can give rides, deliver groceries, charge scooters and a number of other flexible jobs.

Schelling said he’s even encountered many trans people who work at Starbucks for several years. This offers a unique opportunity, he said, since it not only brings supplemental income, but Starbucks also offers extremely trans-inclusive health insurance, even to part-time employees.

3 ways to save on transition-related expenses

Find free clothing

Some trans people slowly start building their new wardrobe over time, but others don’t start purchasing attire that matches their gender identity until they begin socially transitioning. This can get expensive quickly — not to mention, many transitioning people are uncomfortable shopping in public, Schelling said.

One way to get around this is to participate in or start a clothing swap with other members of the trans community. Some organizations put these together, but if there’s nothing in your area, try to organize one yourself. Have everyone bring some clothes they no longer wear, and swap them with those who are now looking for those types of clothes. People can also bring shoes, jewelry, bags, makeup and other items they no longer need.

“In the city next to me, there was a group of trans people who were doing that,” Sallans noted. “They were collecting binders and clothes and giving it out to people when they had a social group meeting or peer support meeting.” Beyond the immediate need, he added that it also helps build a sense of community.

If a clothing swap isn’t an option for you, consider visiting local thrift stores or online marketplaces like Thredup or Poshmark to find gently used clothes at a huge discount.

Schelling added that some organizations and businesses offer free chest binders for trans people who can’t afford one. For example, Point of Pride offers a free binder program.

Look for LGBTQ-friendly healthcare

Many trans people seek out hormone replacement therapy, but if you don’t have health insurance, accessing HRT and any other basic healthcare needs can be extremely expensive. Fortunately, more and more LGBT-focused clinics are currently opening up around the nation, according to Sallans.

“There are different non-profit organizations that can subsidize costs, whether you need access to hormone therapy or general prevention care, like reproductive and sexuality care,” he said. Planned Parenthood is one such organization, he also noted; while not every location offers hormone replacement therapy, many do.

There are also individual clinics, like Kind Clinic in Austin, Texas, that focus specifically on healthcare for the LGBTQ+ community and offer discounted services.

Schelling’s organization has also observed the increase in clinics that offer trans healthcare.

“A lot of times, the upside is there’s access to competent medical care, and some of those clinics assist you with the costs of your medications,” he said. “The downside is that usually there’s a limited amount of days or evenings these clinics are open, so once people find out, the wait list can be two to three months out.” However, he noted that if you’re looking for hormone therapy, once you have your initial blood work completed, you typically only have to go in every few months.

Access free or discounted legal assistance

If you want to legally change your name and/or gender marker, you’ll have to go through your legal system to get new IDs. “Having people who are knowledgeable in this process is extremely important since it can be extremely overwhelming and expensive,” Sallans said. While using a lawyer for this is optimal, especially since laws vary by state, it can be expensive. Sallans said he did his all himself, which was much cheaper, but it was also very daunting.

Across the country, there are law clinics that offer free legal services for name and gender marker changes. For example, in San Antonio, Texas, the local LGBTQ center, The Pride Center, provides free legal gender and name changes through a legal clinic with a local law school. If there’s a law school near where you live, find out if there are any law clinics or programs available to help.

Some individual lawyers also offer free or discounted services for transr members of their community who have these legal needs. If you’re not sure where to start, and your city has an LGBTQ chamber of commerce, see if any lawyers are members. If there are any LGBTQ publications in your city, see if any lawyers advertise in them. Sallans says some nonprofits also offer these legal services for free in various areas.

Transitioning can be an expensive endeavor, but there is an ever-increasing number of resources and organizations available to help make the process more within reach.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.