How to Survive a Job Loss

by Lana Westcott

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You are a stay-at-home mom. Your husband gets laid off from his job. You know that he will find a job shortly, but what are you supposed to do in the meantime? You have some money saved, but you do not want to use it all up. You certainly do not want to charge up your credit cards. I was able to reduce my family's budget by about $1000 a month. Here are some tips to help you survive a job loss.

First, look closely at your grocery bill. This was the place where we were wasting the most money. I was able to cut our grocery bill in half, from about $450-$500 to $200 per month. I am now trying to get it even lower than that. Shop at the store with the lowest overall prices. Plan weekly meals using the store's sale ads, especially loss-leader sales. Cook from scratch. Do not rely on convenience foods, but if they are one of the store's loss leader sales, stock up. These items will come in handy on days that you have very little time to cook. It won t hurt to eat cheaper cuts of meat for a few months. Sure, we all prefer deli ham to bologna, but when bologna is on sale for fifty cents per pound and deli ham is $4.99 per pound, the choice is obvious. Circle the entire meat department before putting any meat into your basket. My grocery store marks meat that needs to be sold in one to two days down to half price or even less. If you are not going to cook the meat that day, put it in the freezer. Shop alone, as it is easier to stick to your list this way. Do not shop more than once a week. Those last minute trips to the supermarket put a dent in your budget. You will almost always pick up a few items that are not on your list. I shop at a no frills, warehouse type grocery store. I have to bag my own groceries, but I figure the prices are at least 15% cheaper than the other local stores.

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Cut down or, if possible, cut out all trips to those huge discount stores. Of course, we all love to go to Target, Wal-Mart or K-Mart, but shopping there can put a dent in your budget. Shortly after my husband was laid off, I balanced the checkbook and cringed when I realized how much money I spent at these stores. Everyone, regardless of income, has to purchase certain household items. So, what are you to do? There are a few tricks.

  • Shop at your discount store no more than once a month. Make a list of all household items (cleaning products, toiletries, baby items, etc) that you will need to get by for a month.
  • Try cheaper brands. It won't hurt.
  • Do not bring children along. They will want something.
  • My supermarket carries some household products for about the same price as Wal-Mart. Maybe your supermarket does too. Your local Dollar General store is a great budget-friendly resource. It carries most necessities without the frills and temptations of larger stores. No huge endcap displays to get you off track.

If you have children, they will be one of the biggest obstacles in sticking to your budget. You have to get them to understand that, for now, Mommy and Daddy don't have the money for extras. Come up with ideas to have cheap fun. Borrow movies from your library, instead of renting them. While you are at the library, see if they have any upcoming activities for kids. They are usually free. Invite a child over to play instead of meeting at McDonalds. Serve fried bologna sandwiches.

How to stick to your budget

There are certain items that you really should not purchase while your husband is out of a job. Any new clothing, unless for a very special occasion, can be purchased after he goes back to work. The kids do not need any new toys. Unless you are picking up $1 burgers or Taco Bell, eating out can wait too.

Avoid temptation. Separate the sale ads from the Sunday paper and throw them away. Sure, you will know where you can save $1 on detergent, but maybe you will notice that the shoes you have been wanting are half price this week. My sister knew that times were tough around here, so she would invite me to go to the mall with her. She thought it would cheer me up. I preferred to not see what I could not afford to buy, so I declined the invitation, but asked her to stop by and visit after she finished shopping.

Staying positive during trying times is key. Avoid people who bring you down. Well-meaning relatives would call weekly to see if my husband had found another job. This became very annoying to me. I quickly discovered that my answering machine was multi-functional. Not only could it be used to answer calls, but it could be used to screen calls also. I could tell by the messages left which calls needed to be returned and which were harassment in disguise. For example, "I was just calling to see what you all are up to" translates to "Has your husband found a job yet?" There is no need to return this call. On the other hand, "Your uncle is in the hospital" most probably translates to "Your uncle is in the hospital." I would return this call as soon as possible. You also need to realize that everyone comes upon hard times and that you can always find something to be thankful for. During my husband's lay-off, I was reading the newspaper one morning and noticed that a man whose son attends school with my children had died. I immediately thought of his wife. My husband was temporarily out of a job, but her husband would never go to work again. My mountain (temporary loss of income) seemed much more like the molehill that it was.

Are you heading for debt trouble? This simple checklist can help you find out and provide options for doing something about it.

My husband was out of work for about two months. He has found another job and is back at work. One good thing that has come out of our tough time is that I have finally gotten my grocery bill under control. I spend about 10 minutes looking at the sale flyer and writing up a list. Then I go shopping and can buy a week's worth of groceries for $100 or less. I used to spend at least double that. Now, on the way home from the grocery store, I stop at the bank and deposit $50 in my savings account. That is my prize.

Take the Next Step:

  • Don't be in Denial. If you feel that your job maybe at risk, have a contingency plan.
  • Take action today, so you will be better off tomorrow. For instance: find a new job, get additional training, and get out of debt.
  • Learn how to take control of your circumstances when you're facing a layoff.
  • Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!

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