This may seem like an odd topic for a blog targeting parents, but having been through four layoffs in 16 years, and facing a possible fifth, I have learned a few things through the years that I think might help someone facing their first layoff. These tips can be put into action both BEFORE and FOLLOWING a layoff. They are not in any particular order, just a list of things that have helped us.
First, PRAY. Jesus tells us to cast all our cares on him. That is often easier said than done, at least for me, but it helps. God promises to meet our needs. If you are willing to work hard, God will open doors for you. And, ask your friends, family and church to pray. The more, the better. It will give you encouragement and support that are critical at times like this.
Second, assess your financial situation and stop spending money wherever possible. What are your absolute necessities? Mortgage or rent, utilities, food, transportation and gasoline are at the top of the list. You have to eat. You have to have a place to live. You have to have heat, water, etc. Now, look at what can you cut. Do you have cable? Get rid of it unless you are in a contract…and even then it might be worth it. Do you eat out? Quit cold turkey (excuse the pun). You can eat at home, even with pre-prepared meals for WAY cheaper than you can eat out. Could you carpool, walk or ride your bike to many of the places you need to go instead of driving your car? Could you cancel your home phone and live with only a cell phone OR consolidate your cell phone with someone else to create a family plan? Do you have a weak spot for shoes, books or something else? Quit buying them. Most likely you have plenty of shoes or purses or whatever. Books can be found for free at the library, sometimes you just have to wait. The same is true for movies and music. Many libraries have an…um…library of movies and CDs that can be borrowed for free. If not, check out what is available for free on the internet or borrow from a friend’s library. Do your kids HAVE to play soccer (pay soccer fees) or take music lessons (again, fees)? Can you take a break for awhile just to save that money? Do you have to go to the gym (membership or usage fees) when there are sidewalks outside to run on or a friend with weights in his basement? Look at what you absolutely HAVE to have and start a financial “starvation” diet. You can do it. It might feel awkward, but later you will be grateful you did it.
Third, to save money on food, use what you have in your pantry, freezer, etc. Use it all up and don’t waste the leftovers. I heard a statistic once that said Americans waste 25-50% of the food they buy. Yikes. Sometimes when you are “eating down your pantry and freezer”, you have to get creative. You can make it fun by having meals that include foods that all begin with a certain letter of the alphabet. Or are all one color. Or whatever. And, cut down on prepared foods. It is cheaper (and healthier) to make things yourself. Instead of buying (and I can’t believe this even exists) pre-cooked meat, buy the real stuff and cook it yourself. Fresh fruits and veggies are always better, but frozen is often cheaper…especially if you are wanting out-of-season things. Look for things that are high in nutrients and low in price. Try crockpot cooking for healthy meals that take little time to prepare. For more tips in this area, check out www.heavenlyhomemakers.com . She has lots of ideas on how to feed your family healthy meals for not much money. Consider these additional ideas: Stop buying bottled water. If you don’t like the water that comes from your tap, invest in a filtering pitcher and fill your own containers. This will save you TONS of money. And, stop buying expensive coffee drinks or sodas. Make your own at home or work on weaning yourself off of them. If you spend $4 per day for them X 30 days, you will save $120 per month if you stop buying them. What could you do with an additional $120 per month? Lots.
Fourth, find free ways to do fun things with your family. Go to a park and have a picnic. Go for a nature walk or have a scavenger hunt. Play those board games or card games that have been gathering dust in your closet. Do a puzzle. Have a playdate with another family. There are so many things available to do for free, you just have go to the effort to think of them or find them. Try doing a search on the internet using your town’s name and/or your state’s name and the word FREE. Call the local chamber of commerce, traveler’s bureau, etc. You might be surprised what you find.
Fifth, depending on the season, turn down the heat and wear more layers OR turn up the AC and find other ways to keep cool. Placing a fan or heater to blow directly on you can be a major help for far less cost than heating or cooling the entire house. Put more blankets on the bed. Use rice bags to warm or cool the bed before you get in. There are lots of ways to control the temperature of the area you are occupying without using the thermostat.
Sixth, when looking for a new job, put networking requests in to your co-workers, friends, church and family. Use Facebook. Make phone calls. Send emails and snail mail. It is amazing what others can know and be willing to share if only they knew you were looking for it. Go to the library and read the local classifieds, and those in other nearby local, newspapers. Think outside the box. What ELSE could you do besides what you had been doing?
Seventh, get a job. Or two. Or three. Consider NOTHING as out of the question. Gas station attendant. Pizza delivery. WalMart. Grocery store checker. Rebate processor. Child care. Many of these places need good workers. When my husband got laid off the second or third time, he started working at a local fast food place just to help make ends meet. I WAS SO PROUD OF HIM. A man with his education and experience was a novelty in the drive-thru, but he worked hard and made enough for us to live on, IF we cut down to only the bare essentials. You can often find jobs that will allow you to work a set shift so you can find a second job as well. It is a hard life, but worth it. And, most of the time, if you are up front with your employer, they will let you be flexible enough to get time off for job interviews…with enough notice.
Eighth, look around your house. What can you sell? There are several tools available for you to make a little money without a lot of effort. Look into Craigslist. Have a garage sale. Put up a flyer at church or on Facebook. Do you have some nice books, a bicycle, an extra vehicle to sell or a skill or talent to share? Do your kids have outgrown clothes that are still in good condition? Shoes? Purses? Look around and start seeing dollar signs on the things you have lying around, in boxes or in storage. Consignment stores are nice, but they always get a hefty chunk of what you bring to them. Try doing it yourself. Consider dog sitting, emergency baby sitting (meaning… “Oh, no, my sitter is sick. Now what?” kind of baby sitting), house sitting, dog walking, house cleaning, snow removal, lawn care, etc. Be creative.
Ninth, need to say thank you, provide a birthday gift or wedding gift? Give the gift of your time. Offer a child an afternoon alone with you to play in the park, have a picnic or play board games. Offer an adult a free house-cleaning, lawn mowing or baby sitting service. There are many ideas available to give as gifts that will cost you nothing more than time. It also means you get to have fun, too!
Last, don’t fall into the temptation to continue living your former, more expensive life on debt or credit cards just because you lost your job. That will make your recovery take longer and hurt more. (That $20 pizza on a credit card, paid off over time in minimum payments (or missed payments plus late fees) can end up costing you more than $100. So NOT worth it.) I highly recommend taking a class from Financial Peace University. Dave Ramsey has been through bankruptcy and come back out. He knows what he is talking about and has SO MUCH good advice regarding the big things and the little things.
Being laid off is a hard thing to endure, but you can do it with some serious effort in cutting costs. It is amazing what you already have that can be put to use with little or no additional monetary output. A little bit of creativity, some sacrifices and self-control can go a long way towards saving or making money.
One final note, if you have already been laid off and you have some free time on your hands, consider voluteering for a charity, at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Being around others who are also down on their luck, sometimes in circumstances much worse than your present situation, can really help with adjusting your attitude and perspective. You can also spend time working on sorting and purging the things in your house and donating them to charity. It helps you have less stuff to manage, helps others and can be written off on your taxes if you itemize.
You CAN survive a layoff with some creative thinking, hard work and self-control. Be encouraged.