Steady employment is essential to afford basic necessities such as housing and groceries, and losing your job may call your ability to sustain these needs into question.
Thankfully, there are some ways to stay afloat while seeking your next employment opportunity. Follow these steps to help preserve your funds and stay on a steady financial course.
Review your current cash
First, you should conduct an inventory of what funds you have at your disposal. Look through all your checking and savings bank accounts as well as any emergency funds you may have secured elsewhere. If you hold investments, consider how much you may be able to or can access. You can submit requests to withdraw currency from stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investment accounts to be deposited in the bank account of your choosing. (Note, though, that this cash may take several days to become available.)
But, if at all possible, you should avoid transferring funds from accounts that penalize you for doing so. For instance, banks may tender fees for withdrawing money from a certificate of deposit early, while anyone under the age of fifty-nine-and-a-half will likely be charged for cashing out a Roth IRA retirement account.
Write down the total amount of cash available to you, and then start budgeting it as follows.
Total your living expenses
Add up the costs of housing, utilities, food, transportation, insurance, and any other necessities. The simplest way to do so is to review the deductions column in the previous month’s bank statement and identify which expenses are the most essential. Break down how much you spend per month and per week.
Compare these totals to your current funds for a rough understanding of how long you can live off them. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 35 percent of unemployed Americans stay unemployed for at least fifteen weeks, and that could be even longer depending on your industry and location. So even if you have more than enough money to cover necessary expenses and extra spending at your usual rate, it may still be best to find ways to preserve your funds for as long as possible.
Determine how to cut back
If you find that your essential expenses will likely consume most of your funds or that your reserves may deplete quickly, the next step is to sharply reduce your spending. Start by capping your discretionary spending—nonessential expenses that include entertainment, monthly memberships like TV streaming and music apps, and dining out. Until you have more money coming in, try instead to fill your time with free activities such as taking walks around your neighborhood, renting media from a public library, and holding game nights with loved ones.
Unfortunately, you may find that limiting your discretionary spending doesn’t conserve enough cash. In that case, start capping the amount you pay for variable living expenses such as transportation, groceries, and utilities. Set exact parameters, like paying only $50 per week for fuel, and then do your best to stick to them. If absolutely necessary, consider cutting back on debt repayments and credit card bills, but note that you will likely be hit with fines, additional interest, or other consequences. Fortunately, some lenders offer debt deferment and forbearance programs for those who are struggling with their finances.
Finally, if all of the above isn’t enough, pursue routes to cut back on your greatest expenses. Refinancing your mortgage can reduce your housing costs, and your phone carrier, insurance company, and internet provider may be willing to negotiate lower rates.
Consider new income strategies
When cutting back isn’t enough to sustain you as you pursue new lines of work, explore temporary routes to bring in extra money.
If you need to borrow cash, you could request a loan from a loved one you trust. This may be preferable to taking out one from a bank or other lending institution, which may charge you a very high interest rate due to your lack of a steady income.
Other options for earning a supplemental income include applying for a temporary job. For example, you may be able to perform ride-sharing services or deliver goods. Also determine which skills you can offer to others, and then think of creative ways to leverage these talents to make more money. Apps like TaskRabbit can connect you with individuals who will pay for services such as conducting minor repairs, assembling home goods, tending to landscaping, and even helping with schoolwork. If you don’t feel you qualify for temporary jobs or they do not help cover your living expenses sufficiently, you may want to apply for government assistance in the form of unemployment benefits.
It’s important to remember in this difficult time that you aren’t alone. Unemployment is, unfortunately, a common ordeal, but it’s a temporary one. Be persistent about taking the next step in your career, and be prudent with your finances as you persevere.