Managing Finances During a Job Loss
No matter the season, facing a job loss is never a great thing. Even if you are ready for it, or you work a seasonal job where you face time out of work every year, your financial situation may be entirely different this year versus last.
If it’s your first time dealing with seasonal job loss, don’t worry. This kind of situation is well-suited for the current gig economy and you’re in a much better situation to find creative ways to make money than you would have been 20 years ago. Still, you need a game plan so you don’t end up drowning in debt.
Save money now
If you’re reading this because you were just fired, feel free to skip to the next section; however, if you came across this while you still have a job, but have concerns you might be facing a layoff soon, the time to start preparing for that possibility is now.
If you haven’t been let go from your job yet, but know it’s coming, it’s important to rev up your planning before the job loss hits. You should already be socking away some money into your savings account each pay period, but if you aren’t, make sure to start as soon as possible. Even if you save as little as $10 per pay period, having that extra money in your savings account, or even accessible in your bank account, can be a huge help later on.
In the meantime, your best course of action is to evaluate your budget. See if there are ways you can reduce spending when you aren’t bringing home a paycheck. For example:
- Reduce your cable bill or subscription services.
- Stop spending an unbudgeted amount of money on-demand services like rideshare or shopping apps.
- Pack your lunch and cook at home instead of eating out.
If there are ways for you to make cuts, plan those reductions now before it's too late. And if the job loss has already hit home, start making those cuts immediately.
Career coach Jeff Altman put it this way:
Look at your bills, particularly your credit card. Your expenses are not frivolous, but some are more important than others. Take action now to eliminate the less important ones because every dollar saved buys you additional time...
If you wait until the money is starting to run out, your fear and desperation will leak out on interviews. You are far better to be proactive than reactive.
Make a budget
Donna Freedman, author of “Your Playbook for Tough Times: Living Large on Small Change, for the Short Term Or the Long Haul,” suggests figuring out the bare minimum your family needs to get by during an unemployment crisis. Write out what you need for all of your basic living expenses like rent or mortgage, utilities, minimum payments on credit cards and student loans, health insurance, and food.
“If you find out just trimming the budget will help you with lost income, start doing it now and put that money in an emergency fund,” Freedman told Money.com. “Don’t let that money disappear.”
Apply for unemployment
If you aren’t unemployed yet, but are anticipating a layoff, end of contract, or some other form of employment termination, start researching your unemployment benefits now. You may be eligible to sign up for benefits the day you lose your job, so it’s important to know your options as soon as possible. Especially if it’s your first time filing, it can take a while to get into the system.
If your job is seasonal, and depending on your state laws, unemployment benefits may or may not be an option for you. Seek out resources as soon as possible to figure out any entitlements or assistance you can receive.
Look for other forms of aid
Don’t simply rely on unemployment benefits to cover your expenses. It can take a few weeks to receive any compensation, and it will only be a fraction of what you usually take home. Looking to other resources may be a good course of action.
Accredited financial counselor Roslyn Lash, recommends applying for applicable subsidies or aid. “Many organizations offer services on a sliding scale,” she says. Some child care organizations also have scholarship funds that provide financial assistance to help cover tuition.
Everyone needs help sometimes, and one of those times is definitely after losing your job. And you should be willing to seek whatever assistance you need, whether you are looking to the government, a friend, or your network. As career coach Jessica Sweet advised:
“Let people know you’re looking for work. Don’t hide in shame. Your best chance of getting a job quickly is to get out there and network. Don’t sit behind your computer sending out resumes. Actually go into the world and meet people.”
Start a side hustle
Technically, if you aren’t working, a side hustle may be more like a main hustle. Regardless, fill your open time during your job search with some lucrative side work to help make ends meet. This can affect your unemployment benefits if you end up earning too much, but if you’re making up the lost income on your own, you won’t need the unemployment!
Nick at Side Hustle Nation has a handy list of 99 different side hustle options for the budding solopreneur. Some take a bit more gusto than others, but the list is a great jumping off point if you’re looking for a way to make some extra cash. From food delivery to driving for ride share services, there are a ton of ways to make money while you search for a full-time job. Some gigs are even doable from the comfort of your own home.
Found money apps
If you’re going to be spending money anyway, utilizing the service of a found money app is a great way to make your dollar stretch even further. During a financial hardship like job loss it’s crucial to make every penny count.
Here are a few great money apps to utilize:
1. Earny is a great way to make money back that you’ve already spent if the price of an item goes down after you purchase it. It does this by monitoring price protection features on your credit cards.
2. Drop connects with your debit or credit card. When you make purchases at a few of your favorite places (that work with Drop) you rack up points that you can use to redeem gift cards.
3. Ibotta is the modern way to earn rebates. If the item is listed as having a rebate on Ibotta, after you make your purchase, you scan your receipt and start collecting dollars back.
4. Achievement rewards you in small increments for staying active and logging your food/exercise in certain connected apps.
Avoid getting down
Losing your job is one of the most stressful things the average American can go through, and it’s all the worse if it comes as a surprise. While you get your finances in line, you need to make sure you’ve got your day-to-day life in order.
“It is very easy to sink into a depression after you have been fired or lost your job,” explains marriage counselor Caroline Madden, PhD. “This is due to not having a schedule and not seeing other people during the day.”
Madden went on to explain how you can protect yourself from depression:
Wake up, shower, have coffee by 8 a.m. Make sure every day you have to get out of the house and see someone. … Meet up with another human being. This is a great time to meet that friend for lunch across town now that you have the time. Network.
By having to see someone, you structure your day. When you are just home alone, Mondays mesh into Tuesdays that mesh into Wednesday. You can’t tell one day from another.
But of course, while you’re getting your home and financial life in order, you also need to actually start looking for a new job.
This blog was updated in November 2019 with contributions from OppLoans author Amanda Finn. It was originally written by Andrew Tavin and published in July 2017.
Jeff Altman is a career coach who has helped organizations achieve their objectives by hunting down leaders and staff as employees or consultants since 1971.
Roslyn Lash is an accredited financial counselor, working with adults to help them navigate through their personal finances. She is also the founder of Youth Smart Financial Education Services. Her advice has been featured in national publications such as USA Today, TIME, Huffington Post, NASDAQ, Los Angeles Times, and a host of other media outlets.
Caroline Madden, PhD is a marriage therapist and author of several books on relationships including, “How to Go From Soul Mates to Roommates in 10 Easy Steps.” For more information, please visit www.carolinemadden.com or follow her on Twitter @cmaddenmft.
Jessica Sweet is a career coach and a licensed therapist. She helps creative, ambitious, midlife professionals and executives figure out what work they truly care about and want to be doing, and then helps them land or create those positions. She is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council and a contributor at Forbes.com and The Huffington Post. Her work has been featured in places like CNBC, Business Insider and HayHouse Radio.