The March 1 Sequester: How it Will Affect You

If you were feeling relieved by our coverage of the debt ceiling in January, it may be time to re-position your focus. There’s more trouble in Washington D.C. this week. Mandatory spending cuts—scheduled to take effect March 1— represent a $1.2 trillion reduction in federal spending over the next 10 years. Although some are quick to praise the cost-cutting efforts, the general opinion is one of opposition. If allowed, the sequester’s indiscriminate cuts will produce losses in public education, jobs, healthcare, and more.

As we’ve learned time and again, the nature of politics is fickle. Whether or not the sequester comes to fruition, it is important to prepare yourself for every situation. Keep the following tips in mind along the way. While no one wishes for the worst-case-scenario, bracing for it could mean the difference between safety and vulnerability.

• Buy in bulk.

Agriculture subsidies and food inspection jobs are among the budget cuts. Translation? Food prices are about to rise. With little government support and a lengthened USDA and/or FDA process, food suppliers will be forced to raise their prices to cover impending losses. This is bad news for all Americans, particularly the ones who are struggling with credit repair issues like debt and savings. If you’re looking for a tried-and-true solution, shop at your local superstore to buy food in bulk. This strategy will reduce your per-unit cost and help you temper the sting of inflated prices.

• Get your housing in order.

The budget cuts will hit the housing market hard, eliminating thousands of FHA loans, new loan availability, refinancing options, and foreclosure delays. If you’re in the process of buying a home or improving the interest rate on an existing mortgage, the time to act is now. If your home is entering foreclosure, don’t count on a lengthy or lenient process. Analysts predict that government under-staffing will lead to fewer relief options, including foreclosure counseling, prevention grants, and leniency periods. If the roof over your head is in question, make an effort to secure a better situation before the sequester takes effect.

• Look for affordable childcare.

If your children attend a government-subsidized daycare system or head-start program, it’s time to consider other options in your area. While some in Washington argue that daycare centers won’t see a huge cut, others claim that facility closures are inevitable. Consider looking for another daycare center in your area or placing an ad for an in-home babysitter. If credit repair is on your to-do list, ask your in-home babysitter to provide a discount in exchange for new clientele (i.e., referrals for other families looking for daycare services).

• Get healthy.

If your family relies on government-subsidized healthcare, make an appointment now. The White House reports that 4,180 kids in Georgia could be denied coverage, including vaccines that are crucial to their health. Cuts like these are expected to affect Americans across the country. Be sure to prioritize your family’s well-being.

• Update your resume.

Government employees can expect harsh job prospects in the forms of furloughs and layoffs. Due to public education cuts, nearly 400 teachers are expected to lose their jobs in the D.C., Virginia, and Maryland areas alone. When it comes to defense, the DOD is expected to instate mandatory furloughs for roughly 150,000 employees—resulting in one day off per week and a 20 percent pay cut across the board. The same risks apply to other government employees, including park rangers, airport staff, and security personnel.