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What Should You Do When You Lose Your Job?

job loss

Guest post from Ai of Less to More

When my husband’s job ended almost two years ago, the outlook on our future seemed bleak. I didn’t work outside the home, and we had four young children. One thing we kept asking ourselves was, “Will we make it through this season of unemployment?”

Perhaps you are facing this season right now. And even if you are happily employed, it doesn’t hurt to be ready. There are things you can do now to prepare for the unexpected event of losing your job.

Start Budgeting

If you have not been keeping a budget, it’s time to start now. With the absence of a stream of income coming in, the remaining money in your bank account, your emergency fund, and your severance pay will eventually disappear.

Be a wise steward of what you currently have. In other words, this may not be the best time to go on a tropical vacation just because you now have the time off from work.

Having a budget written down will help you stay on track and keep yourself accountable concerning your goals.

Simplify Your Life

As you are working on your budget, you may have some hard decisions. What are my needs? What are my wants?

It is obvious that during these lean times, you need to focus on needs over wants. But it may be necessary to ask yourself more than once if a need is truly a need. Discuss with your spouse, or ask a trusted friend to give you objective advice.

It’s quite freeing when you realize that many of your so-called needs are actually wants that you can live without.

Save With Coupons

One obvious way to stretch your dollar is with couponing. And if you are a regular reader of this site, I don’t think I have to convince you that couponing will allow you to get those basic necessities for less money. If you’ve been out of practice with couponing, get out your scissors, warm up your printer, and start studying those store ads.

Search for Other Sources of Income

Our period of unemployment occurred in the beginning of the holiday shopping season. This was tough for us, as parents, because we knew we wouldn’t be able to get gifts for our children. We prayed for God to provide, and we realized that He already did. There were unused gift cards in my wallet and unspent reward dollars from various stores.

In the end, not only were we able to purchase gifts for our children, but we were also able to give to friends and other family members.

Have you considered other potential sources of income? Perhaps you can collect items and bring them to the recycling center for a small profit. Or a baking hobby can turn into a small business. Or maybe it’s time to break open the piggy bank. Get creative, and think outside the box.

Have you ever been in a season of unemployment? What have you done to make ends meet?

Ai is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a homeschooling mother of 4. She loves to spend time with her family, savoring every moment that she has with them. One great lesson in life is that everything is a gift, whether money or time or food or shelter or relationships. She blogs about making the most of the gifts that we have at Less to More.

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43 Comments

  • Jennifer says:

    Great post Ai. I cringe at the thought of a job loss, I think death or illness would be the only worst occurrences.

  • Mindy says:

    I think you just really have to be creative when this happens. My husband was out of work all last month with no pay. He hit shut down mode and I prayed and thought hard. So I went through our whole entire house and starting selling stuff we didn’t need or use. Between Ebay, Facebook Shopper and Craigslist I made about 500 dollars which helped out greatly. Grant it that wasn’t quite enough but this month we are just trying to scrape by and re-coup. We did also cash in all of the change around our house and that totaled $78.00 which was a big help as well!

  • Mindy says:

    I think you just have to be very creative! My husband did not work at all last month and that was unexpected for us and the savings was drained. He hit shut down mode and I prayed and somehow we made it through the best we could. I went through our house and sold everything we didn’t need or use on Ebay, Craigslist, Facebook shopper and made about $500. Then everyone combined our empty change jars and that was $78.00. I truly thought I had nothing to get rid of but I was wrong so I encourage you to look around your house. We also had a garage sale with other stuff we found while cleaning out and made $100.00 in just a 4 hour sale on a Saturday.

  • Olivia Mullins says:

    I lost my full time job 2 years ago and a few weeks later I found out I was pregnant with my first child. People were hesitant to hire a pregnant woman and although we had a well funded savings account it wasn’t enough to provide over 9 months of supplement income. Thankfully I was offered a part time job, where I still work even though I have always dreamed of being full-time a stay-at-home mom. 🙁 And still yet our income is about half of what we used to make. We have looked into selling our home, but realtors tell us we wouldn’t even get what we paid for it. We were trying to be smart by driving old cars, but now, with both cars over 200,000 miles we are dealing with breakdown after breakdown with no money to buy a newer vehicle for either of us. I’ve waded through discouragement and depression… needless to say the last two years have been very difficult, but if we can glean some life lessons from this time I know it will just make us better people.
    I’m still trying to figure out how to bring in extra money for our household. Your blog has been a good help. I’ve started really having a few successes with couponing etc. I am currently racking my brain for more ideas… if I come upon any good ones I will let you know! And I am eager for others to share.

    • Hang in there! It sounds like you’re already doing a lot to be able to stay afloat during a challenging financial season in your life. I think one of the toughest part is the emotional roller coaster that we go through. I, too, have had my share of “discouragement and depression”, but you bring up a good point. There are life lessons to be learned from tough times that we will continue hold on to, even when we are clear from the financial hole. I looked at some of the other comments on this post, and there are a lot of great ideas that others have shared.

    • Debra C says:

      My husband was unemployed for 13 months, and when he got a job, it only paid a fraction of what he’d been making. It was a very long 13 months, during which we lost our house and ended up homeless but for the kindness of church family. We only made it as long as we did with a LOT of prayer and the strictest budget we’ve ever had. By the time he got a job, we had to spend money on socks and underwear for the whole family basically. And several months before he got a job, I found out I was pregnant with number three. It’s been a very stressful couple years. But as our finances improve, it also provides a little bit of comfort. There’s nowhere to go but up and we’ve learned to count our blessings, no matter how small. Like the fact that we homeschool so at least during our time of housing chaos, my daughter hasn’t had to suffer school chaos as well (she just finished first grade and would be on her 3rd school by now if she’d been in public school). When dealing with a job loss, the most important thing is attitude. Times of discouragement and depression will come, but if you can keep lifting yourself back up, you’ll be stronger on the other side.

  • Julie says:

    My husband has a 3 year old lawn care business that is growing steadily. He has also been the pastor of a small church for 8 years. Our church has recently run into some financial problems and is unable to pay my husband’s salary any longer. Through much prayer and conversation between us, we have seen that this is God’s confirmation that it is time to leave the church. The church provided about half of our income, and the business the other half. June is our last month at the church. This has been a time of peace, knowing that it is God’s plan for us at this time, but it has also been a time of concern because we have to replace that income.

    We have 7 children and homeschool so I have a full schedule with that, but I am looking into transcription work from home. My husband has been seeking 2nd shift employment that would allow him to work our business and supplement our income. We’ve pretty much lived on a bare bones budget since we started our lawn care business, but we’ve analyzed our budget a bit more to see if there is anything else we can cut out.

    Using cash envelopes for certain budget areas has helped tremendously. We’re thinking about using the envelopes for more areas of our budget. We just refinanced our home which cut our mortgage payment back by $200/month. Huge blessing! I also coupon for our toiletry items and whatever food items I can, but those are few and far between. I make a lot of food from scratch. Most of our shopping is done at Aldi.

    All that said, we are about to enter a very tough time for our family. We’ll be sacrificing much family time, but know that it is only for a season. We are praying for God’s provision. We are also praying for God’s continued blessing on our business. It could be that our growing business is the answer!

    • What a tough decision to make! God is sovereign and in control. A few years ago, we tried to help out with a church plant for a year, but the doors continued to close, and God made it clear for us to move on. But He provided other ways for us to serve. Through your situation, God is teaching you to be a better steward of the resources He has given you, and perhaps the decision to leave the local church where your husband was serving will lead to a different work that God will direct you to in the future.

    • Robyn says:

      My heart goes out to you, Julie. I pray your husband is able to find work quickly!

  • Robyn says:

    This is great advice!

    We survived a two-year season of unemployment/underemployment, and it was incredibly difficult, but we came out the other side with zero debt. (Though we did burn through a lot of our savings.)

    It is not easy. When I went through our budget, it was crazy how much we were able to cut–granted, we had a cleaning lady, yard service, cable, pest control, etc.

    Once we went bare bones, it was very freeing, in some ways.

    The only thing I would add to this list is to be honest about where you’re at financially. We live in an affluent area, and it was humbling to admit that we simply couldn’t afford to do things we had always done (activities for the kids, eating out, even charitable giving).

    Being honest allowed God to use the people in our lives to provide for us. Neighbors asked me if I’d be interested in doing before and after school care for their kids (rather than pay a fortune through the school), and that paid our monthly grocery bill during this hard season.

    I think accepting the Thanksgiving “charity” basket from the church youth group was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Again, God used this time to humble me. I was always the one GIVING not receiving, but God made it clear that it was my turn to receive, and so I tried to do it graciously.

    That gift basket was full of not only food for a holiday meal, but gift cards to Target and Walmart to buy Christmas gifts for our children. I am crying as I write this, remembering God’s faithfulness to us!

    We’re back on our feet now, but I will never forget this season of our lives. It has changed the way I give to others–I used to hesitate, thinking someone might be embarrassed to accept something small like an extra box of cereal I got for fifty cents with coupons, but now I don’t think twice about giving. I just do it.

    So many of the people in need around us will not ask for help. I never would have knocked on my neighbor’s door and asked for a thing…but I’m so thankful they knocked on mine and offered help!

    • Thanks for sharing this. I am sure it is hard to be honest about your financial situation, and yet I know that when we hear of a need, we want to meet it. If no one says they are having trouble, we don’t know how to help.

    • I can also testify that it is both humbling and a blessing to be the recipient of the kindness and generosity from others. Your comment is a good reminder for us, who are trying to be frugal shoppers. Not only do we do it for our family, but it gives us the opportunity to help someone else who may be in need.

  • Missus says:

    I’d like to add a couple of ideas for other sources of income that have worked for us.

    If you have any extra space where you live, perhaps you could rent it out to store someone’s motorcycle/boat/RV.

    If you decide to do this, check with your insurer to make sure you cover your liability, and that the rent exceeds any extra insurance premium.

    Small mom-and-pop businesses often don’t advertise when they need help. (They may figure they will get around to it themselves – sometime).

    We have found work this way by asking around, and have also hired occasional farm help from people who inquired.

  • Lana says:

    The first thing to do is put it into perspective. We have been unemployed many times because my husband is in IT and his job has been sent overseas multiple times. The first thing I remind myself is that God knows and He has ALWAYS proven Himself faithful to supply every need. Then I remind myself that no one has died or has a terminal illness and that we will be fine as long as we have God taking care of us and we have each other. Two years ago my husband was out of work for 9 months and I paid all of the bills every month and took money out of savings to augment our unemployment. When it was over and we had gotten that years’ tax return we had more money in savings then before my husband lost his job. I have no explanation for it other than God’s provision. And by the way, he was hired back into his old job because the people overseas could not do his job and we had a pay raise and better benefits and he had gotten a nice long rest from a very stressful job! During that time he studied for and passed the exam to become a certified project manager so use the time wisely.

    • What an awesome testimony! Thanks for sharing!

    • Lana says:

      One more thing—multiple times during that 9 months we heard of someone in need and gave away food. One of those times it was 9 big bags full and still we had more than we could possibly eat. We do not stop giving during unemployment. Try it and be blessed!

  • Emily says:

    These are really great tips. I read through everyones comments too and it is something a lot of people can relate to. It’s rough- I have also been through it. Actually, I am currently going through it AGAIN! I love that you mentioned to simplify your life though. I think many of us do it without thinking. Then, once you think about it, you can simplify even more. It’s amazing what you really need and what you don’t.

    • When we started cutting things out of our budget because we had to, we really didn’t miss them any more. And when the new job came, those little luxuries and conveniences weren’t so necessary to us after all. Hope your spirits are up even though you’re going through it again!

  • Jessica says:

    Use the time wisely to better yourself while looking for a new position. Have a garage sale or consign things, drop to a bare bones budget, cancel memberships and subscriptions. Don’t forget to take care of yourself… during a 6 month period of unemployment, my husband gained about 25# 🙁

  • Alex says:

    My husband is currently unemployed. He chose to quit his job in January so he could take a part time internship that ended in April. He will start work again in September. We are expecting our second child in early July so I have to go on maternity leave during that time. Our whole marriage I have wanted to be primarily a stay-at-home mom, but every year new circumstances arise that prevent that dream from happening. We don’t have any family in town so we trade baby sitting with friends for my work shifts (my husband is still in school; he is taking just one class). We grow a garden. I would recommend asking friends or church members for labor/good exchanges. For example, we are sharing our garden with another couple who can’t grow their own food right now (maybe a couple in your church who live in an apartment), but in exchange they are helping to pay for supplies. Since the garden is on our property, we do most of the weeding/watering. See if someone you know needs pet watching or walking since vacations are soon starting up. We trade pet watching when we need it with a friend from our church who lives a couple blocks away. It never hurts to ask around for trading things you need.

  • Flo says:

    Toiletries and cleaning products can eat up a lot of money. I haven’t bought haircare or laundry soap in several years. I use baking soda in water for hair cleaning (and have been told I have such soft hair!) and make the Dugger family (“19 kids and counting”) laundry soap recipe. I also have it to share with others if they supply a container to be filled. Original investment about $12 for bucket, lid, and ingredients; additional dollar for bar of soap each time I make the bucket full (which provides 10gal of soap) and having used the original box of borax and washing soda to make at least 60 gal, it works out to about .33 a gallon. There are dozens of cleaning recipes on the Internet. Mother Earth News has a great one for cleaning your oven (no fumes, which makes it heaven-sent.) Vinegar, baking soda, and hot water cleans drains once you remove the hair, etc. 2-3 drops of dish soap in a bucket of water is the best floor and window cleaner. (if it gets bad enough to use food stamps, baking soda & vinegar are food items.)
    We set the thermostat on 67 last winter and survived quite well. When the AC goes on it will be at 76 and will go off as soon as the weather changes, even if only for a day or so at a time. I have a clothesline on the swingset for large or dense items to dry.
    Ask for the last garden plants and baby them along with water and regular weeding and mulch. Offer to work for leftover produce at market gardens and then learn to use what they have. Learn about wild edibles, but be careful to gather away from pollutants and lead painted buildings and roads, and be sure you do know what you are gathering! (Mushrooms are dangerous if you do not know EXACTLY what to pick, and can kill you if you are wrong. Don’t pick without someone who has been doing it long enough to be safe.)
    Pare your electronics to the bare minimum–we bit the bullet and dropped the cable tv when the tv set went out and don’t plan to replace either of them very soon. We need to trim down the cell phone, but since that is part of our FD communication equipment, it is a problem. I am still looking for the internet connection solution. We are finding a lot of our gym workout and entertainment needs being met at as we catch up on things in the yard, the garden, and the house and outbuildings!
    Is there a medical school or dentistry school within a reasonable distance? Check out what they have their students do if you are willing to serve as part of their learning experience. Look for a clinic that charges on a sliding scale.
    Drop the meat and dairy, or at least pare it back to once a week on the meat. (As you learn to use almond, coconut, soy milks, you will find that family members don’t crave milk as they used to so that consumption goes down, plus you will have a lot fewer antibiotics and hormones in your bodies.) Learn to make and eat hot cereals rather than cold; fix stir fries, stews, bean and rice-based dishes. Lots of vegetables. Some fruits. Learn to use leftovers. Look at recipes for basic ethnic foods and you will learn to make your own versions of some really good food. (That one chunk of meat can be used to flavor several meals or you may find that you feel better without any. ) The processed foods cost too much and do too much damage to our bodies to be worth the “convenience.”
    Eventually you may find a co-op for bulk-buying, but only buy in bulk what you have already found you like to eat. Wasted food is wasted money and energy!
    If there is any way to drop one car from your roster, you can save via lower insurance, maintenance, license, etc., costs. Do we really need to go places as often and conveniently as we do?
    Sorry! I didn’t mean to write a book!

    • Lots of great suggestions, Flo! Way to think outside the box! We’ve been trying to find a better internet solution as well. It’s crazy expensive!

    • Julie says:

      I appreciated reading all of you suggestions. We do a lot of these.

      One interesting thing is the one car suggestion. We are actually considering doing the opposite. My husband has a business truck that is a business expense and our family vehicle is a 12 passenger van. In this season of having to supplement our income we are looking to get a small, economical car (Honda Civic) to use on trips when the big van isn’t needed. We live 20 minutes from our nearest stores and I try to go with one or two kids or by myself after they are in bed, so using the small car instead of the van would be cheaper. My husband is also considering delivering pizzas to supplement our income, so a small car would be needed for that. We just have to determine if the expense of the car is worth it.

      I agree with you about paring down. I just found it ironic that we may be adding a vehicle. 🙂

  • LeahB says:

    I lost my job a few years ago when I was 5 months pregnant. Not cool. I ended up starting my own freelance business, which has finally taken off in a big way.

    In addition to starting a business at light-speed, the other things I did were to use up all of our pantry supplies and extra toiletries that were stockpiled. Plus we started cleaning out lots of unused items to sell on eBay and Craigslist.

    Shopping: we switched almost exclusively to ALDI for groceries. Mainly, I had to STOP going to stores so often. An extra $5 here and there at Target starts to add up.

  • Melanie says:

    We have experienced it, too. It was a very stressful time. It was the most humbling experience. I do not want to relive it, but I realize it could happen again at any time. Our family is still recovering from long-term unemployment.

    One foot in front of the other, and chin up! I take it one day at a time. Hard work and sacrifice will eventually pull us through. My prayers are with all who are suffering from unemployment or underemployment. Hang in there, everyone! You are not alone!

    • Bethany says:

      Thanks for your encouragement. My husband lost his job in November and this is a hard time for our family but I’m praying good things to come from it.

  • Dee says:

    Two ways I have saved money for many years, without feeling it, is to always pay with bills only at the stores. The change I get back I sock away. I always use coupons (and only buy what I know for sure we like and will use) and with what I saved with the coupons I sock it away too. The savings I have from using those two methods alone averages $200 per month. I cut cable a few years ago and wouldn’t go back if ‘they’ paid ‘me’! You can get a lot of FREE channels with “The Leaf” type antenna, or a antenna on top the roof. I also bought a ROKU and love it. That little device adds hundreds more FREE programming and gives the option of Netflix and all the other rental outlets too. I can also stream from the computer. I pay CenturyLink $40 a month for internet and Verizon $45 a month for cell. With the cell phone I get web with that and do not usually send or receive more than a few text or pics so I pay as I go for those which is 20 cents each. You can get a bit cheaper with a pay as you go phone from WalMart that gives you all the minutes, texts and web you can use. By the way – if you are going to keep your internet then put it to use by – applying for jobs, setting appts., buying and selling, start mystery shopping (I have done this for years and is nice extra $$ and some jobs are just for a free dinner out etc.). The public library is where you can get free wifi or use the computers and internet there for free. Also rent movies from the library for free. Donating plasma in our area pays $260 a month and it is NOT bums who go there! Here it is mostly college students but also many working people and those who have been laid off. Also many housewives go there as it pays decent extra income and FREE child care! Farmer’s Market is a great way to make extra too, if not a good income. Sell baked goods and handmade items. If your city permits it, raise a few chickens and sell organic free range eggs ($$$!!). Raise types of rabbits with fur that people are looking for, such as Angora to make sweaters. Learn to spin the fur and you are in business (this is shown on You Tube). Look on You Tube at how people do container gardening and grow some of your own food. Whatever you need always check The Dollar Tree store first! Everything is a dollar or less and I have bought almost everything I need there – dishes, dog food, kitchen items, mail items, books, school and office supplies, toys, helium balloons, car care products, toiletries, food, occasion cards, step stools, batteries, reading glasses, you name it. And – Learn how to make popcorn a hundred different flavors!!!

  • Great post! I couldn’t agree more!! Two years ago, we went through a four-month season of unemployment. For this very reason we have saved quite a bit in an emergency savings (enough to survive several months). This helped in keeping us somewhat relaxed as we waited for him to find a new job! 🙂

    • Great point! When my husband and I first got married, a friend of ours advised us to start setting aside a little each month to build an emergency savings. So glad we listened! This is what we lived on after the paychecks stopped. When my husband was able to get a new job, that emergency stash was $0, but slowly, we have been trying to fund it again.

      • Robyn says:

        Us too! We have our monthly budget number that we use now (which allows for eating out and some luxuries), but our “bare bones” budget number, which is less, is what we use in our emergency fund. Our goal is to save a full year of “bare bones” expenses, and we’re almost there! I think unemployment really changes your perspective on the emergency fund. 3 months isn’t much, and goes really fast!

  • Tara says:

    My family went through 19 months of unemployment/underemployment a few years ago. I did everything I could imagine to make money or keep us afloat. We sold lots of things: kids clothes, toys, electronics. I did babysitting, dog sitting, and house sitting. I even rented out my garage to someone that needed storage space while they staged their home for sale. We cut every expense not required for living, that included cable, lawn service, gym membership, pest control and trash pickup (you can take your own trash to the dump for no charge). We also became very strict on utility usage. The thermostat was carefully monitored. We used fans in the summer and blankets in the winter. I handwashed dishes, line dried our laundry. We cooked all of our own meals and became nearly full time vegetarians (we only bought meat when I found a great deal on it).

    It was not the most fun memories, but we got through it and eventually we both found full time employment and got back on our feet. We never have turned the cable back on, and only very recently signed up for trash service. After a while, you just don’t miss some things that previously you thought you could never do without!

    Good luck!

  • Michelle says:

    My husband was unemployed for a period of time and it was very trying on us financially as well as emotionally. We had to cut down everything. It was one of the main reasons why we started to look very closely at our debt.

  • Kathy H says:

    I am at this time going through a season of job loss, and being under employed. Though my children are not young, both of my sons are still living with us at this time. Due to being underemployed and high cost of living anywhere.
    We are now cutting back on things we don’t feel we need or desire at this time. Including things like even the TV set, and cable services. Also reducing the data plan and amount of cell phones you have.
    We also found out a hidden budget buster, which is automatic payments. As they can hit when least expected. And also they can get forgotten if you only pay for them once a year.
    With God’s grace we will see this through. The main thing to remember is that it isn’t about the stuff but it is about our relationship to Christ Jesus which matters most.

  • Jennifer H says:

    A few years ago, our head pastor did a financial sermon series and kicked off a Mission 8:18 campaign. It starts with Deuteronomy, but also included paying off all debt by August 2018 (8/18 – get it?). A month after that, my husband got the news that they would be downsizing over the next 1 1/2 to 2 years. So we got started in earnest on paying off our debts (including cars, and are now working on extra toward our mortgage principal), and saving for that “rainy day” or possibly unemployment. So my advice to people who feel secure in their job, go ahead and pretend you are going to lose you job in one year. Even if you don’t lose your job (thankfully my husband did not), you are prepared for most emergencies.

  • Sandy says:

    Thank you for all the advise given. It has given me renewed hope! My husband and I have been going through a very tough time due to medical issues for over 2 years. He is unable to work, and despite his doctors contacting them directly, Social Security has denied him Disability twice. We are now in an appeals process, but this and his feelings of helplessness and depression it has been even harder to stay positive for us both. I know (even if my hubby won’t admit) that God is in control and with prayers we will continue to get by even as the money keeps going out. He doesn’t like for others to know of our struggle, so I have learned to be creative in getting help along the way. Thank again for all your ideas. I will definitely put some to use!!

  • Jenny says:

    I’d just like to remind folks if you can’t make ends meet after a job loss to check your local churches and see if they have an unadvertised food pantry. Many of the churches I know of keep one- my own will give 2 bags of groceries to anyone who comes in and says they’re in need. If they don’t have one, they can direct you to one. Use the money you save on groceries for utilities, gas and internet…things you need to find your next job.

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