Losing your job isn’t something that anyone wants to wake up and find has happened to them, but unfortunately, it happens more often than not these days. It can be devastating to realize that everything in your world has just exploded and that your family is now relying on the money you have in the bank, the food you have in the cupboard or worse…the lack thereof. It doesn’t have to be though because while you can’t prevent your company downsizing, going out of business or an accident on the job that results in you becoming unemployed, you can prepare for it without too much extra work.
Our little family of five was once faced with this. We were lucky to have a two weeks notice before my husband was laid off from his job however, we were a single income family and the option of a relying on a second income wasn’t there.
We went from living on $1,000 a week to only $450 a week (the unemployment maximum at the time) for 3 months. Thankfully, we prepared (kind of) for a situation like this. I guess you could say that I’m a little paranoid about major life events. I like to have things available just.in.case something happens.
Here are 3 steps we took to help us prepare for my husbands lay off– which helped us live on $450 a week with a family of five:
Build an Emergency Fund – Having money set aside for you when unexpected things happen in life is the single most important budget tip that I could ever give you. Ideally you want to have 3-6 months expenses saved, but $1,000 is a great starting point for most families. To build your fund without too much pain, trim back any unnecessary expenses in your budget and put any excess cash into a savings account. Selling items that your family no longer needs or wants is also a great way to find extra cash that you didn’t know that you even had. Sites like Ebay, Craigslist and Facebook buy/sell/trade groups are fantastic for selling those things for free or a low cost.
Build a Stockpile – Food is one of the single most expensive costs that a family can have and if you’ve lost your job, you’ll find added stress and worry if you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. Building a stockpile before you face unemployment is a great way to cut those worries off at the pass. For most families, a 6 month supply of things that you use on a regular basis is sufficient but if you’re more comfortable with a year supply, go for it! You and only you know what your families comfort levels will be so work within that. Each week when you shop, add a few extra items and before too long you’ll have a buffer to fall back on.
When building your stockpile, be sure to include things like toilet paper, shampoo, diapers, and all of the household items and personal care items your family uses. This just takes that buffer one step further and ensures that your family will have everything that they need during a rough time.
Pay extra on your monthly bills – Did you know that you can actually pay more than you owe on your regular utilities? You sure can. Some people don’t actually realize that little fact so I wanted to be certain that you did before I continued on. Building up a credit on your bills is a fantastic way to prepare for a job loss. If you have that credit built up and something happens, you’ll likely have the option of skipping a month or two’s payments if you need because the funds for that payment are already sitting in your account. A very simple way to build that up is to just pay a set amount each month no matter what your bill is. If your bill is $75.00, but you pay $100.00 each month, you will be banking a $25.00 credit each and every month and eventually you’ll have enough built up to cover the entire bill for whatever time period you’ve paid for.
A bit of caution with this step though: Once you’ve got a credit built up, don’t make the mistake of laying off of that payment unless you have to. This isn’t a reason to just decide you don’t want to pay your electric one month because you have a month of credit. Keep that credit there solely for when you truly cannot afford to pay that bill.
Losing your job doesn’t have to be the thread that broke the camel’s back for your family. Use the steps above to prepare in case it happens to you and you’ll buy yourself and your family a few months of stress free comfort just in case.
Are there are steps that helped you through a unemployment situation like ours?