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Getting laid off from work can be one of the worst things ever, especially if you’re a one-income family.
Sometimes, you might see it coming. But other times, a curveball can hit you out of nowhere and poof–there goes your paycheck.
Having been through layoffs more than once in my married mom life, I know how scary it can be. When you don’t have a lot of emergency savings to fall back on (or none at all) figuring out how to pay the bills becomes priority number one.
So what do you do?
The first thing is to try to get over any initial panic you might be feeling about you or your spouse being laid off from work.
This might be the hardest part of this whole thing but you’ve got to get your mindset right first. From there, you can work out a strategy for managing your money if you’re stuck in the gap between jobs.
Since I’ve been there and done that before and experienced the suckiness of it, I want to help you out. I’ve got some tips that can help you get a handle on your finances when a job layoff or loss makes life feel more uncertain.
1. Check your employer’s benefits
Depending on your job and employee benefits package, you might still be able to collect money from your employer after getting laid off even if you’re not reporting to work every day.
For example, you might be able to cash in some of your sick leave or vacation days.
This isn’t ideal, especially if you know you’ll be going back to your job at some point. But those benefits could help bring in much-needed money if you don’t have any other income to fall back on.
So if you’ve been laid off from work, your first step is calling your HR department to find out if you have any benefits you can tap into.
2. Look into unemployment
Unemployment benefits exist for a reason–to help you keep up with your bills, or at least some of them when you’ve been laid off from work.
Generally, you’re eligible for unemployment benefits if you’ve lost or your job through no fault of your own. That can include being laid off.
My ex-husband used to work for a dredging company and layoffs were common. He might work for six months or a year, then be laid off for a month or two or three. But he always qualified for unemployment benefits as a result.
Whether you’re eligible for unemployment in your state depends on how long you worked at your company, the number of hours worked and whether you’re receiving any compensation from your employer. But it’s worth going online or to your local unemployment office and applying to see if you qualify for any benefits.
3. Pare down your budget
When you go from having a consistent income to nothing, it’s all hands on deck when it comes to your budget.
If you haven’t looked at your budget lately, pull it out and start going over the numbers. Make lists as you go:
- Bills that you have to pay every month.
- Necessary living expenses.
- Expenses you can do without.
Your “have to pay” list includes things like your rent or mortgage, car insurance and electric bill. You could also put debt payments on this list.
Necessarily living expenses means things like food, basic hygiene items and health care. Expenses you can do without pretty much means everything else.
For example, every time my ex-husband got laid off from work, that meant no spending money on:
- Movies or entertainment
- New clothes
- Toys for the kids
- Books (my one vice in life)
- Electronics or video games
- Trips and travel
Basically, if we couldn’t wear it, eat it or didn’t require it to stay alive in some way we didn’t spend money on it.
If you need some help cutting back on your budget after a layoff, you could try using Trim to pinpoint what you’re wasting money on. Trim reviews your spending and helps you find unnecessary expenses you can cut out.
And if you need some more money-saving tips, bookmark these posts:
4. Get a handle on your debt situation
Household debt is on the rise in the U.S., which is not a great situation to be in when you get laid off from work.
If you have debt, whether it’s student loans, car loans, credit cards or something else, you need to take control of it before it gets away from you when your income dries up.
Say you have credit card debt, for example. There are a few ways you can handle it.
First, you could try transferring your balances to a card with a 0% APR. This can lower your monthly payment and a 0% rate can save you money. Check out Credit Sesame to see what balance transfer offers you might qualify for.
Next, you could reach out to the credit card company and ask for help.
I know from experience that many credit card companies offer hardship programs to cardmembers. These programs can lower your interest or monthly payment temporarily.
That can help you stay current on your account until you get back on your feet. Because believe me, the last thing you want is to fall behind–that’s a guaranteed way to wreck your credit.
If you have student loans, call your loan servicer to ask about deferment or forbearance. And if you have a car loan, check with your lender to see if they offer a skip-a-payment option so you can get a month’s worth of breathing room.
The key is to do something instead of ignoring your debt. Because even though your paychecks might have gone away temporarily, the debt won’t. And you don’t want creditors breathing down your neck.
5. Take stock of your assets
Nearly 40% of Americans would need to borrow money to cover a financial emergency. But hopefully, you’ve got some savings or investments you can fall back on if you get laid off work.
If you do, take a good look at what you have. Start with your emergency savings fund.
Most financial experts recommend having at least three to six months’ worth of expenses saved. But if you have less, then don’t fret over that.
Take the numbers from your newly revamped budget and compare that to your emergency savings. How many months could you make living off just your savings work if you had to?
Don’t forget to add in anything you’re getting from your employer or unemployment. That can help you stretch your savings a little further.
Next, look at your investments. And trust me, this can be enough to make you cringe if your layoff happens because the economy is in turmoil.
But look at them anyway. What do you have in your 401(k)? An IRA?
Taking money from a retirement account is never a great idea because you can get stuck with a serious tax bill. But it’s still helpful to know what money you have in case a layoff puts your back against the wall financially.
Your home is another asset if you own instead of renting. When times are tight, you might be able to borrow against your equity if necessary.
Again, this is not a perfect solution. Borrowing against your equity could put you at risk of losing the home altogether if you can’t keep up with the payments on the loan and your regular mortgage.
But when you’re in a tough financial situation because you’ve gotten laid off from work, you have to weigh every option and its pros and cons.
6. Look for ways to make money
Before you go digging into your emergency savings or pulling money from your retirement accounts, ask yourself what you can do right now to make money.
Maybe that’s getting a part-time or full-time job somewhere else. For example, my ex-husband painted houses during his layoff stints from the dredge.
If your family needs something more flexible or jobs seem to be scarce, think about starting a side hustle instead.
And if it’s not obvious, I’m a big believer in the power of the side hustle. I turned my hustle into a six-figure business.
I’m not saying you need to aim for that but I am saying side hustles can keep you from drowning financially when a layoff happens.
If you need some ideas for starting a side hustle, here are some of my favorite picks for moms and families:
- Become a teacher on Outschool (no experience needed!)
- Start freelance writing and earn money writing blog posts and articles
- Become a petsitter with Rover or a babysitter with Sittercity
- Try side hustling as a virtual assistant
- Deliver groceries for InstaCart
- Deliver food for DoorDash
- Declutter your house and sell your stuff
Any extra money you can make is to the good. Just remember you may have to pay taxes on that side hustle income when you file.
7. Check into government assistance
Government assistance programs can offer help in several ways, depending on what your family needs and qualifies for.
- Medicaid, for example, can provide health insurance at low or no cost to children and families.
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides help with buying food.
- New moms can apply for help with WIC, which is short for Women, Infants and Children. This program offers vouchers moms can use to buy milk, formula and basic food items.
- If you have school-aged children, you can apply for free or reduced lunch if it’s not already free where you live. (In our county, all kids get breakfast and lunch free.)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is another government program you might look into. This one offers financial help with housing, utility bills, child care and job training.
Here are some other resources you can try for help:
- Making Home Affordable
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Lifeline Support
Whether you’re eligible for any of these programs depends largely on your income, household size and assets. And if you’ve just been laid off from work, you might not qualify.
But there are other places you can go for help.
For example, there are several churches in our area that sponsor community gardens and food pantries for needy families. There are also local non-profits that offer food banks and one that runs a backpack program for kids.
The kids in the program receive a backpack of food on Fridays at school to help keep them from going hungry over the weekends. During the summer months, there are programs that feed kids breakfast and lunch for free through the local schools.
Finally, don’t count out asking family and friends for help.
You may not want to burden them with your financial problems but if getting laid off from work is causing serious issues, going it alone can only add to your stress. Even if you don’t want to ask for money, you can ask for help in other ways.
For example, you could ask your parents or in-laws to babysit while you or your spouse look for jobs or work on your side hustle. Or you could ask your brother to lend a hand with a DIY home repair so you don’t have to spend money hiring someone else to fix it.
Those are small things but they can be a big help when a layoff is making life challenging.
Have you ever had to manage being laid off from work?
A layoff isn’t exactly pleasant but it helps to know what to do when one happens.
Have you ever been through a layoff or job loss and had to juggle financially to make it through? Tell me about it in the comments.
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