With our uncertain economy, many people worry about losing their jobs. While unemployment can be a difficult and stressful experience, there are steps that one can take to see that their families stay financially afloat until a new job can be found.
Assess the situation. While losing a job is certain to be an emotional blow, it’s important to act quickly in order to minimize the damage. Sitting down to write out a list of current expenditures and assets can help you to get a picture of where you stand, financially. Also, taking action can help to alleviate some of the anxiety associated with unexpected unemployment.
Apply for benefits. In many cases, those who lose their jobs are eligible for unemployment benefits, and it’s important to apply for them as soon as possible in order to bring some money into the household without too much delay. In addition to unemployment benefits, some households may qualify for other programs, such as food stamps and WIC, which can help with grocery expenses. Case workers at the unemployment office can often offer good advice to applicants about other services available in your area – they deal with a lot of parents who are worried about their family’s finances.
Trim the extras. Most families can trim their budgets if they really need to, and while it can be a bit painful to give them up, the little extras can really make a difference. Cable television, take-out meals, magazine subscriptions, and coffee shop lattes are enjoyable, but when money is tight, they can all be put on hold. Even things like turning off lights when leaving a room and planning errands to minimize gas usage can help—and they are ecologically sound choices, as well.
Contact creditors. If you know that you’ll have trouble meeting your bills, it’s wise to contact your creditors before you are late in making a payment. Many are willing to adjust your payment schedule, which can make it possible to meet your obligations and avoid damaging your credit rating.
Consider taking classes. When times are tough, competition for good jobs becomes fierce, so it’s important to keep your skills up to date. It may be necessary to enroll in classes to put yourself in the best possible position when looking for a new job. Educational benefits may be available to some people, so check with your social services agency to see if you qualify.
Ask for help. If a friend or family member were going through a rough patch, you’d help them out, right? In all likelihood, there are people in your life who feel that way, too. While it can be hard to ask for help, tough times often bring out the best in people if they are given the chance to lend a hand.
Make do. Most of us pay people to do some things that we can do for ourselves or buy replacements for things that we may be able to fix, and while that’s okay when we can afford to, it doesn’t make sense when we are watching our pennies. Growing a garden to cut grocery expenses, patching jeans to get more use from them, and eating leftovers can all help to stretch a family’s dollars.
Exchange favors. Even the most talented amongst us don’t know how to do everything ourselves. Sometimes, though, we don’t have the money for the goods and services that we need, but by trading talents with friends and loved ones, everyone can have what they need without busting the budget. For example, you might offer to watch a friend’s children so that she can have an evening out in exchange for her watching yours while you go on job interviews, or you might be able to arrange for a mechanically inclined friend to work on your car and accept your plumbing skills in lieu of monetary payment.
Network, network, network. Of course you hope to replace your job as quickly as possible, but that’s not always easy to do in tough economic times. Networking can help. Tell everyone—friends, family members, and colleagues—that you are looking for work. Your next opportunity may be right around the corner!