Make a Plan- Once you know that your income is changing, make a plan. Think about things you can do right now to help you in the weeks or months to come. Talk as a family. Discuss some of the changes that will happen and what you can all do to make the transition to unemployed a little smoother. We all pray it will be a short period of time, but in reality it could be longer. Having a plan will help you along your way.
Go Back to the Basics- When Hubby no longer had a job, we had to go back to the basics. We keep to a "need to pay bills" budget. We kept it simple, because that is what our current income allowed. We ate out of the food storage we had built while money was good. Doing this allowed us to go a lot longer before needing to ask for state assistance on food.
Be creative. Try to see what things you can do to stretch your budget further. Can you mend old clothes, so you don't need to purchase new ones? Can you shop at a thrift store when the kids need new pants? These are things that will help you reduce costs and stick to the basics.
Cut the Fat- When Hubby decided to leave his job in law enforcement, we knew that we would have quite a road ahead of him. He was leaving his current field of work and was moving to a completely different one...one that he hadn't done in a long time. He had done computers in the military, but it had been a long time since that had happened. When we received that pay cut, we cut as much fat as we could from our budget. We would only be living on a small income I make from this blog and writing, so a lot had to be cut. The first thing we did was cut the extra curricular activities we had the kids in. We knew we wouldn't be able to afford them. Instead we were able to join a great co-op for homeschool and the kids are happier than ever. We also used some of our savings to pay off my sons braces. Paying off those braces cut $120 from our monthly budget.
When you experience any loss of income, try to cut those extras as soon as possible. By doing that you will allow yourself to save the money you do have and not push yourself further towards debt. Look at your cell phone planes and insurance plans. Find out if there are ways to reduce those bills. By cutting that fat, you will be able to survive on much less.
Also when you are experiencing a loss of income all those extra things we love to do (that costs money), need to stop. If you don't have enough for eating out (meaning it doesn't fit into the budget) don't do it. Just because it is something you always did as a family, doesn't mean you should continue it when you can't afford it. Find alternatives to that night out as a family. Have a game night at home and make pizza instead of ordering in:) Don't like cooking? Try snagging some Red Barron pizzas from Wal-Mart. They sell them for under $3. Perfect for feeding a family on a tight budget.
Be Smart- If you have a nest egg saved up, use it wisely. Because my family in general lives frugally, we had quite a savings build up when hubby was no longer employed. We budgeted that savings to cover any expenses not covered in my monthly income from writing. It is always important to look ahead. Think about bills that are coming up, the car registration that is due, or those taxes you have to pay (if you own your home). Bills can sneak up, so pay attention and use the money you do have wisely.
Ask For Help if You Need It- This is one tip I always stress with the people I help.We will all have times in our lives when we are tight on money. It happens. Some may find their lean season is a short one, while others may find that it feels like it will never end. If you are having trouble making ends meet, seek out help. A lot of churches have programs set up to help others learn how to make their budget work for their family. There are also food banks, SNAP (welfare), etc that are there to help you get back on your feet. There is no shame in asking for help. I have meet far too many families who needed help, but were too embarrassed to apply for food stamps or ask church members/friends for help. Don't be. We have all had times where we are down on our luck. Reach out to the programs in your neighborhood. Also if you are having a hard time providing food for your family, go to a food bank. That is what they are there for.
If you've been laid off, quit, or have been fired, you might be eligible for unemployment. You can file for it if you meet certain state-specific requirements. Go onto your states website and see if you are eligible.
Also reach out to friends and family. Network and see if anyone knows of any job openings. Putting the word out there that you in search of a job will hopefully bring more opportunities your way.
Rework Your Resume- When you are actively looking for work, update your resume. Check the words that you use. A few months into the job search, and no calls for interviews happening, Hubby realized that he was not using the key words he needed to for his resume to stand out among the thousands that were out there. Many companies are looking for resumes with certain phrases or words, so do you research. Check out what is required for the job you are searching for. Keep your resume to one page and include those key phrases!
Stay Active and Productive- I know it is hard to not feel stagnant when you are not working and have little money to get things done. When money is tight and there is very little to spend, I try to find ways to be creative. Learning to sew was actually a skill picked up about 8 years ago when Hubby got out of the military. Money was tight and I was feeling like I was losing my sanity. Picking up a new skill allowed me to feel productive and active in my family.
Hubby had to do the same thing. Being out of work for almost a year can drive anyone bananas. To keep him sane he looked into free programs to help sharpen his skills on computers. He found free webinars and videos on youtube. He was able to signup for free classes put on by our state and church. Do a bit of research and see what is available to you. Also if you are a vet, there are many programs set up to help vets get back to work. My husband took advantage of these and was able to get some additional training and certification that helped him in moving forward in his desired field of study.
Know that no matter what, you are not alone. I know how hard it is. I know how much it stinks when you feel like there is no end to the trouble you are going through. Know that there is. You will get through this and you will see brighter days.
Now I know you all have a ton more ideas for getting through these hard financial times that befall us. Leave your tips and tricks in the comments below.
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