Recently, my husband and I have been putting our nose to the grindstone in terms of budgeting and expenses so that we can finally get our debt paid off.
Unfortunately, he got laid off three weeks ago.
The positive side is that since we had already been budgeting and working on pay off our debts, we have a bit of a headstart. Sure, I slightly panicked (just a bit – healthcare is expensive!) but we decided to try and stay as positive as possible during the job loss and reemployment process.
It’s Easy to Panic when Faced with Losing your Job
We realized can choose to let it be a bump in the road to becoming debt-free, or we can let it become a pitfall into even more debt.
It’d be easy to feel sorry for ourselves and comfort the pain of failure away with lots of Starbucks and tacos, but as much as I love both, I don’t love paying interest from a credit card to purchase those items.
While we’re not in the best place to handle a layoff (really, who is ever fully mentally/emotionally prepared for that anyway?), we’re working to do the best we can with what we have. Below are 7 steps to help keep your momentum and not lose your progress on your debt repayment even when you’ve experienced a job loss:
Don’t panic, and don’t beat yourself up.
It’s easy to use losing a job as an excuse to beat yourself up. Things happen. People go through this every day. It’s not a reason to curl back into a ball of oblivion and not face things such as your debt. Sure, it sucks. And sure, it can be upsetting. But attitude is everything. You have to come to terms with the fact that something out of your control happened, and chose to move on. You can sit and wallow, or you can use it as a good reason to find something even better. In my husband’s case, it was almost a relief as he’d been pretty unhappy for a while, and working a lot of unpaid overtime.
File for unemployment immediately.
In Ohio, you must file weekly to get unemployment and you must apply to at least two jobs each week. Each state varies, so do a Google search to find out what the requirements are. The sooner you file, the better; this way if you do experience issues, you can get them dealt with immediately. Here we are, three weeks out and there’s still a discrepancy that’s keeping my husband from getting unemployment, but we’re working on it and he’s filing weekly so that once it’s ironed out, he’ll receive those past weeks’ employment benefits.
Get your healthcare in order.
If your employer was your main source of healthcare, you need to find something quick. This one is overwhelming to me and I’ll admit, I’m struggling with it. However, I have at least researched what our options are. COBRA is an extension of the healthcare offered by your employer, though you will pay a lot for it. We’re looking at $1400 a month, including dental and vision. There’s also individual insurance that you can get through the government marketplace, but you can’t actually apply for it until your existing insurance runs out. Also note that you could possibly be eligible for credits to help pay for it, depending upon your household income. Another option to consider, especially with kids, is Medicaid. I still make too much to consider this option, but it’s definitely worth a shot. You can find links to apply through your state’s department of job and family services website, or through the government marketplace.
Budget, budget, budget!
A job loss is the time to figure out what’s really important in your budget. It’s the perfect opportunity to take an honest look at your expenses and decide what you really need. Cable is not a need if you can’t afford healthcare for your kids. Luckily we’ve already cut our budget multiple times, and while it doesn’t balance perfectly without my husband’s income, the financial bleeding is minimal to avoid slipping further into debt as much as possible.
Consider alternative income sources.
Here’s where you’re going to have to do the hard stuff to make sure you can keep floating financially. It’s the perfect time to declutter and sell everything you can on eBay or Craigslist. If you’re comfortable with it, try renting out a room. Pick up side hustles like mowing lawns or handyman jobs in your neighborhood until you can find a new full-time job.
Take advantage of any “perks” offered by your ex-employer.
In our case, my husband’s ex-company is offering job services, which means someone who can help him dust off his resume and do some mock interview sessions with him. It’s been 9 years since he’s done any interviewing or busted out his resume, so he was glad for the opportunity. If your ex-employer doesn’t offer something like this, consider paying for these services on your own. Any job related expenses can be a tax write-off, and really, anything that gets you back in the saddle and in a job quickly is worth its weight in gold!
Lastly, maintain a positive attitude and practice self-care.
It’s important to not only maintain a positive attitude, but to continue to take care of yourself as well. I’m not saying run out and spend $200 on a haircut and highlights, but find little everyday ways to value and reward yourself. Remind yourself that this is temporary, and it too shall pass. Whether that means treating yourself once a week to donut and a coffee, or having a girls’ night in painting your toenails, do it. Find ways to treat yourself that fit into your budget so that you don’t feel guilty, and you can remind yourself that you’re worthwhile and valuable.
Job loss can be scary, frustrating and even overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a head’s up on the situation. Just remember to take a step back and take a deep breath. Even if you don’t have family to help out, there are tons of opportunities to check out to make sure that you can keep going financially. Don’t forget to take a deep breath, find ways to stay positive, and get your hustle on!
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