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How to Live Without a Job

Updated on December 8, 2018

Have you found yourself without a job and no income? If so, you're not alone. The problem of how to pay your bills without a job is a tough one, but there are several things you can do to be proactive. Consider some of these ideas to survive without a job until your next one comes along.

"Will Work for Job" men's t-shirt by Erin Shelby
"Will Work for Job" men's t-shirt by Erin Shelby | Source

Living Without a Job Takes Creativity

Living without an income is a significant challenge. But even those who have willingly retired may find that they need to be frugal due to a reduced income.

To live without a job and have your basic needs met, you'll need to "think outside the box" now more than ever. Your typical ways of acquiring things may need to be changed. Because you do not have a steady income, and your job search may take much longer than expected, you must do everything you can to keep your expenses low and conserve any funds that you do have.

Consider a Need vs. a Want

When there's no job to pay for your bills, it's more important than ever to know the difference between a need and a want. Consider how you feel about the following:

  • Is cable TV a need or a want?
  • Are designer-label clothes a need or a want?
  • Is coffee from Starbucks instead of homemade a need or a want?

It's easier to separate needs from wants when we consider the basics for survival: healthcare (such as medical visits or medicine), food, shelter, clothing, and clean water.

While it's important to enjoy life and have fun, sacrifices must be made when you're unemployed. Think about any ways you might change your habits to reduce your spending. Once you receive a new job, you can re-evaluate your situation.

Are credit cards the only way for you to survive? Consider other options.
Are credit cards the only way for you to survive? Consider other options. | Source

Living Without a Job: How to Cut Your Spending

Taking multiple trips for errands
Increased spending on gasoline
Combine errands
Driving as a means of transportation
Spending money on gasoline
Use public transportation, walk, or bike
Using a credit card to pay for groceries
Paying interest on items you can't afford
Learn how to coupon for food, baby needs, and personal care items
Going to the theatre to see a movie
Paying for 2 - 3 hours of fun
Check out free movies from your local library
Subscribing to cable TV
Receiving an extra bill every month
Keep the internet instead. It offers TV, news, and you can apply for jobs.
Purchasing produce from a market
Healthy food, but at what price?
Grow your own organic garden cheaply
Paying for a gym membership
Ask yourself: do I use it?
Exercise at home or run/walk in your neighborhood
No money to pay your bills? Try these tips.
No money to pay your bills? Try these tips. | Source

Other Ways to Live Without a Job

There are more ways you can reduce your stress while you're living without an income. Try these tips for the bills you receive:

  • Auto insurance: Read the fine print of your agreement, if you haven't already. Check to see if there's a discount you or your spouse qualifies for. Consider becoming a one-car family.
  • Bank statements: Examine all transactions. Look for ways you can cut your spending next month or for charges that have been wrongly assessed to your account. Consider using cash instead of plastic for items like gasoline, food, and personal care.
  • College Tuition: Going into further debt when you're already out of a job is a set-up for financial problems. A college education is by no means a guarantee for future employment. On the other hand, being unemployed means that you might qualify for financial aid that you wouldn't have before. Being unemployed also means that you'll have more time to give to your studies. Your unique situation means that no one else can decide what's right for you. If you're absolutely convinced that you cannot put school on hold, look into attending a community college.
  • Clothing: Want new items at a used price? If you conclude that it's a need and not a want, don't resort to retail first. Try shopping on eBay first to see if you can get a discount deal.
  • Credit cards: Make the minimum payment only during your time of unemployment. If you have multiple cards, contact a consumer debt counseling service to find out if consolidating these debts would benefit you.
  • Miscellaneous items: Check your closets and drawers for things you haven't used that still have the tags on them. If you have the receipt, return these items.
  • Mortgage: Tell the lender you've lost your job and ask what your options are.
  • Rent: Cut your payment in half by finding a roommate.
  • Student loans: Contact your creditors by phone or visit their websites. Find out if you qualify for deferment, forbearance, or income-based repayment (IBR).

It's discouraging to be unemployed when you want to work.
It's discouraging to be unemployed when you want to work. | Source

Friends Provide Support During Unemployment

If you've just recently become unemployed, you may want to talk with friends, family, or other trusted contacts to get a feel for what the job market is like in your area. While the media may say the economy is improving, your job-seeking friends may have another take on the situation. You might also get clues on things you need to know before sending out resumes, especially if it's been a long time since you've looked for work.

Living Without a Job is Stressful

Living without a job is stressful not just for the strain on finances that it causes. The experiences you're encountering during this time will probably include:

  • A job search that usually takes six months in a good economy, longer in a weak economy
  • Using multiple search engines to find job postings, only to find that the same jobs are posted in multiple places
  • Spending an hour or two just to apply for one position
  • Filling out job applications that will receive either no response from the company or an automated, computer-generated response not sent by a person
  • Becoming frustrated at putting in a lot of time and effort into the process, only to see no results

These feelings are normal when you're unemployed. It is crucial to channel some energy into something fun that you enjoy doing. Be sure to devote some time to a hobby that brings you pleasure.

What's the longest period of time you've searched for a job?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 erinshelby


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    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley Marks 

      18 months ago from Sacramento, California

      It's amazing what people can do without! I know, because for awhile during the great recession I lived on $100 per week plus food stamps. Speaking of which, you don't mention how easy it is to get free food, savings hundreds a month. What?!...Put that on this list!

    • Electro-Denizen profile image


      5 years ago from UK

      I used to pick up vegetables from our local shop at the end of the day, when all the prices were slashed. Sometimes, because people seem to be averse to buying ripe bananas, it's worth asking staff whether there are any bananas with defects out back, that can be bought for next to nothing.... That kind of activity saves a huge amount of money....

    • PaigSr profile image


      5 years ago from State of Confusion

      Currently unemployed and any advice is always helpful.

    • Buildreps profile image


      5 years ago from Europe

      You've provided a great inside in this Hub, how to live without much money. This issue becomes increasingly important since our society has become more materialistic as it has never been before. Voted up!

    • erinshelby profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from United States

      Thanks MsDora. Taking steps when times are good can help when those bad times come around.

      Peachpurple, thanks for stopping by. Separating the needs when the wants can be hard, but worth it!

    • peachpurple profile image


      6 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      great tips, buy only what you need urgently, not want you want to

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      You make very practical suggestions. Like some have mentioned, this kind of creativity is helpful no matter the financial situation. Voted Up!

    • erinshelby profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from United States

      Thanks for stopping by, Ann. Differentiating between needs and wants is a huge help and can go a long way for anyone's efforts to "find" extra money!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Great suggestions and ones which I think many more should apply to general living, whether or not they have a job. 'Needs or wants' is a good way to make decisions, every day, especially if you want to save for something extra.

      Your encouragement for the jobless is good too with sensible suggestions as to how to cope. Brill!


    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      Good tips, Erin. I hope things turn around soon. Sometimes looking into temp work while you pursue full-time employment can at least help bridge the gap with funds for a short time.

    • erinshelby profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from United States

      Hi Alan, Thanks for giving your perspective on how times have changed and what things are like in the UK. It's nice to compare notes among countries and see what's similar and what's different. Cheers!

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Interesting Erin. Ditching the old habits doesn't seem to hit some people and they carry on with the old spending habits 'to keep face' until something turns up.

      I've been made redundant three times in my working life, once abroad (Europe). Over here over 18's only are able to 'sign on' for Jobseeker's Allowance. Changes are afoot there as well. We have people getting benefits here without ever having worked, and we have people who sponge off the state from coming in (from Eastern Europe in the EU), such as one Romanian who openly bragged about his benefits. I've never got more than the basic Jobseeker's, and you have to prove you're looking for a job with a 'booklet' to write in your contacts and interviews. I wrote off to dozens of employers without even being answered. In the end I took a job few wanted, at Royal Mail. It was nice while it lasted but exhausting most days, although some got away with a lot less effort.

      I still get my coffee at MacDonald's, use the little stickers and get my freebie after the sixth. I also rarely buy brands in the supermarket, except when on offer (like about 25-33% off), and I drive my daughter's 2003 VW Polo (under my own name). These days I have a Freedom Pass for use on the Underground and buses, and I get £100 Winter Fuel Allowance from the Department for Work and Pensions.

      (Even when I was at work I didn't have to get up early, as I was on late shift and nights, so I haven't had to put up with the rush-hour since about 1995). I just have to think about how to get the cash together for my Indie Publishing (paperbacks) these days.

    • erinshelby profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from United States

      Thanks, DrPennyPincher! $500 per year is a significant savings... enough to qualify as an emergency fund!

    • drpennypincher profile image

      Dr Penny Pincher 

      6 years ago from Iowa, USA

      You have some good tips here, whether you have a job or not... In addition to eBay, you can find really cheap used clothes at local consignment shops or Goodwill stores. I liked your tip about making your own coffee vs. buying it at Starbucks- if you do this every day you can save around $500 per year!


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