How to Survive a Layoff or Job Loss
In light of Bloody Monday and hearing on the news that another 50,000 people have been laid off from their jobs is very sad. I can't imagine what these people are feeling or going through. I can give you some tips though to help you get back on your feet. Being proactive is a must. I am sure that many people never saw this coming and are still reeling from the blow, but you have to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and come up with a plan.
The recession has been tough and it will continue to be tough. I honestly don't see us coming out of this within the next year. Most people were already struggling to make ends meet and keep up with payments, heating bills and rising grocery costs. Now it will get really tough. To start with you need to file for unemployment. You will need all the help you can get to stay on your feet and I am sure that you don't want to lose your house or car because of this. Unemployment won't solve all your problems and it won't pay all of your bills (probably), but it will help you stay afloat until you can find a job again. You have been paying into this system for your entire working life, having to use the system for a few months during tough times is fine.
Now a lot of what you do will depend on where you are at financially. If you have a lot of savings or are getting a severance, this will buy you some time before you have to get drastic. You need to figure out a budget that includes all the minimums on everything that has to be paid. You might realize that you aren't in as bad a shape as you thought. You might realize that something has to go. I think that every person should always have a plan as to what they would do if their income was suddenly cut or gone. You need to come up with a plan. Even if you have savings, you will want that to last as long as possible, so making some changes right away will help you stay afloat for longer.
So, immediately you will want to stop spending money on anything that isn't necessary. I consider these things to be eating out, shopping for clothing (for the most part, if your child has a growth spurt and suddenly has no pants that fit, you have to buy something), cable TV, vacations, and any other extras like going to the movies, etc. By immediately stopping any spending you will be able to get a handle on where you are at financially and then come up with a plan. If you decide you will be Ok for a year or more, then you might want to keep some small pleasures in the budget on a limited basis.
Keep in mind the job market is not good right now, and you need to realize that it could be months or even a year before you are able to find a job again. That being said, if you have no savings and/or know that you will not be able to pay all your bills right away, you will want to try to find employment as quickly as possible - doing anything, anytime. Don't be embarrassed about trying to make ends meet. Do whatever it takes to bring in some income. Work at the movie theatre, deliver newspapers, wait tables, go to a temp agency, etc - just do something to bring in some money.
While also working at anything you can, you should be updating your resume, looking into alternative career paths (now may be the time to try that dream job), and actively searching for a job. Have an open mind about what the job might be and where. You might have to relocate, but that isn't always a bad thing. Network as much as possible and stay active in the community. You might want to take a class or two to update your skills, but only if you have the money.
You might realize that during this time there is no way that you will ever be able to keep up on your car payments that could be as much as $500 a month. You can try to sell your car, get rid of the payment and either make do with one less vehicle for awhile or buy something old and used with cash. Would you rather lose your house or sell your car? Sometimes it comes down to that. In tough times you have to make tough decisions.
Make a list of the bills that have to be paid. You will want to arrange these in a priority order. Lights, heat, food (minimum needed, not eating out or buying steak), house, car, student loans, credit cards, etc. You might be able to get your student loans put into forbearance due to job loss. This is better than just not paying them. Credit cards should be last on your list. Hopefully you will be able to continue making minimum payments, but as unsecured debt, they can't come take anything away from you if you don't pay. If you have an outrageous house payment, look into refinancing or selling before you go into foreclosure. When you have money coming in, pay the bills in the order you have come up with. You can only do so much on a limited income.
It is time to get frugal! You might have thought you didn't have the time or the energy to handle some frugal tasks while you were working, but now is the time that you have to embrace them. Clip coupons for the things you use, hang your laundry (a lower electric bill will be easier to pay), turn down the thermostat, do things yourself (such as shoveling snow, changing your own oil, cleaning your own house or mowing the grass), cook from scratch, start a garden and shop the sales for the essentials. For more ideas check out Getting Ahead blog.
Losing a job is tough, especially in tough economic times. Being proactive and having a plan will help you get through the hard times. The economy will rebound; it always has in the past. No one knows how long it will take, so spend carefully and do whatever you can to bring in money and stay afloat. Good luck!