Get Creative: 11 Ways Families Can Survive Long Term Unemployment
My husband and I were unemployed so long, we used all our unemployment insurance benefits and we stopped looking for work all together.
DID YOU KNOW: in the U.S., if you are unemployed and stop looking for work or if you take a job where you are underemployed just to make ends meet, the government doesn’t count you in the official “Unemployment rate”. At the time of this writing, these people account for nearly 600,00 people. That’s a lot. According to Wikipedia.com, these people are called “discouraged workers”.
Whatever your situation, however you came to be unemployed, you’re probably stressing out and financially boot strapped trying to figure out how to maintain your life on one income or worse, a no income family. Maybe you’re also digging deep into your savings or retirement.
Both my husband and I lost our jobs on the same day. After long-term unemployment, we had to make some hard decisions to survive. It all boiled down to reducing our expenses down, our savings, investments and so on. Then we had to figure out what we wanted to do with out life going forward and then finding the time and a way to make it all happen.
The first thing I want you to do is ask yourself “ what do you want out of life”. You need to re-evaluate your life’s goals for you and your family and match that against your financials to figure out what is possible and what isn’t.
Here are 11 things you can do to survive this very scary time in your life. Many are actual tactics we used, while others are just common sense.
1- Pump Yourself Up. Official Pep Talk
Before, I get into that there’s one thing you must do. Keep Calm And Carry On: Try to keep it together for the sake of your family. Exercise, eat healthy and stay productive.
It’s normal to feel anxious and stressed out. Don’t wait until you have no choices. Anticipate worst case scenarios and take action now. The earlier you take action, the more choices you will have. And the lest stressed you will be because you won’t be backed into a corner to make a decision. My family opted to leave our expensive home in an expensive area. We anticipated not being able to find jobs in our area. Had we waited, we might have burnt through all our cash.
2-RE-EVALUATE: Conventional Wisdom? American Dream? or Antiquated Nightmare?
If you’re going to survive, you need to change the way you think. Now might be a good time for you to re-evaluate whether you want to stay where you are in life and try to get it all back. Or maybe, just maybe, the conventional wisdom and the American Dream are not the end all to achieve happiness and security. Don’t get me wrong, It has it’s perks. But at what price?
Conventional wisdom tells us to endure it so that we can have the good life and retire well. Endure, the long days of work and commuting. Endure the busy, hectic, stressful rat race doing a job that you might like, but don’t LVOE. The kids spend most of their days with strangers in day care. After work there’s just enough time to make diner and help the kids with homework before it’s time to go to bed so you can wake up to do it all over again. Don’t get me started about the weekends.
Is that the life you want to go back to? We decided NO, it’s not. Once you’ve let go of the idea that you MUST live THAT life that is so engrained in our society, the one with the two cars, the good schools, the hectic days and day care than you can move on to the next step.
So you’ve decided you might not want to go back to the 9 to 5 rat race. It’s time to give your life a hard re-boot. What have you got to lose? I have to admit, when we had jobs, it was hard to give up. But, when we lost our jobs, the decision to seek other jobs that was more in mesh with our goal to spend more time with family vs. seeking another six figure job was easier because you have nothing to lose.
Now you need to rebuild a new life that lets you live a more meaningful life. The best life you can live. One that lets you do what you love, spend more time with family and have more fun while still supporting your family. I know, your asking, But how? I ‘m unemployed. I can’t find a job.
That’s exactly what I thought too. So pull out a can of courage and roll up your sleeves. It’s not going to be easy. But it will be satisfying. Trust me.I’m not just talking the talk. I’ve walked the walk.
3-Decide What You Want To Do. Start Working Toward Those Goals
Once you decide you want to re-boot, you need time and money to sustain you for a while to make your plan come to life. You need to make your money go further, you need time to make the plan for you new life. But how do you do that, when you have bills, kids and you can’t find a job?
You need to do whatever it takes. If you are living in an expensive home, than move to a cheaper home. If you can’t afford to move, sell some things to make it happen. If you have car payments, get rid of one. Go live with relatives if you can. Do whatever it takes to get out of that lifestyle that used to require you to work like a dog at a job that you despise with no time for yourself or your family.
My point is this. If you want to get out of that rut and move onto a better life that’s actually sustainable than you have to cut back your expenses, tighten that belt and make the decisions to get out from under that crushing weight of all the physical things that are keeping you stuck in that soul crushing lifestyle.
Only you can decide what it is you need to do. Let go of the notion that you need to stay where you are, or you need to keep doing what your doing. You don’t. You can do what you want, you just need to know what it is and make it happen.
4- Get The Family On Board
Whatever you decide, your family has to be on board for this to work. It’s going to effect everyone and everyone has to do their part.
I decided I wanted to work from home and start a small business making specialty sleeping masks. My husband decided he wanted to do Software QA consulting.
We knew it would take months, maybe even a year or so before we saw anything concrete. We couldn’t afford to live where we were in California and also pursue our goal, our dream to have businesses that we’re passionate about. So we moved in with my family, 6,000 miles away on the East Coast of Montreal Canada. We moved there because it cut our costs by thousands of dollars each month.
You’re not going to be able to do something like that unless, both you and your spouse agree to it. Our two older boys had to leave their school and friends. We had to tell them why. They had to now be homeschooled. If you get everyone involved, you’ll get less back lash from everyone. Plus, you’re going to need the help of everyone both morally and physically.
5-Become a minimalist at heart
Now is the time to start getting rid of the things you don’t need. All the clothes in your closet. The unused sport equipment, the old stuffed toys. Slowly you will get used to living with less. It’s not so bad. I felt depressed at first but then something amazing happened. I felt liberated. I didn’t even miss all those “THINGS” I had. I replaced things with experiences with my family, which is WAY more gratifying.
6- STOP Buying Stuff: Shop at thrift stores if you have to.
This is a hard one. I used to buy things whether I needed it or not. If I had a hard day, a little retail therapy always fixed it for me. Don’t ask me why, it just did. So don’t buy anything unless you absolutely have to.
Be smart about your purchases. Figure out ways to get what you need without spending too much. Shop at thrift stores. I buy all my daughters clothes from there. Kids clothes are always in great shape. She has gap jackets and other name brand clothing. It literally costs me 30 dollars for a years worth of clothes for her. For myself or my boys, I shop at marshals or other discount stores when I have to.
You will have to cut expenses so that whatever cash reserves you have will last long enough to achieve your goals. . Our goal was to start our own businesses that we were passionate about and enjoyed that also let us spend more time with family. Cutting our expenses gave us the extra time we needed to preserve our cash and build our businesses. Had we cut our expenses, we would have been forced to seek searching for non existent soul sucking jobs.
8- Re-examine Your Budget
I know, I know. You probably already did this. But take a second look. Make a spreadsheet or jot everything on paper into groups to figure out where you can cut back. Rent, Food, Clothes, Movies, restaurant etc. Use your debit card to pay for all transactions and than log on to your banking account and download all activity to your computer. Then use a program like excel to put all your expenses into categories. I guarantee you will find something you can cut back on.
I discovered that groceries was my biggest area where I could cut back. I stopped buying name brand boxes of Scooby doo cookies. We started making cookies instead. We drink more water and no more soda. No more bags of Doritos. We were able to cut several hundred dollars of foods. So don’t be afraid to cut back on food. It’s probably junk food anyways.
Oh and please, QUIT SMOKING.
9- MONEY: How to save $500 per month right now
You might think you thought of everything. But just in case, here are some things you can cut back on. I have to admit, I didn’t think I could live without cable t.v. but it’s amazing how much more productive I am now.
–Get rid of cable: Save $30- $120+ per month: Don’t wait until your down to the wire. Cut this out right away. If you must watch T.V. or movies then here are some free and really cheap alternatives
– Watch Free T.V. Online at place like Hulu.com.
–Rent movies from the library for FREE
–Get a monthly blockbuster or Netflix movie account. *for about $9.00 / month you can watch movies from Netflix online and rent movies through the mail. Not bad for 9 bucks/ month.
–Get rid of land-line phones: Maybe even cell phone: $10 – $40 / month:
-Make internet calls: using web based companies like Skype.com. It’s free to call other Skype users. Pay 2.3 cents per minute or pay $2.99 per month for unlimited calls to U.S. and Canada. People can even leave you a voice mail on your SKYPE account if you are not at your computer and can’t answer.
–Use a pay as you go phone: Be careful, this can get pricey if you are a heavy user. So only use this as an emergency phone and to schedule interviews etc.
– Cook Diner Every Night: Always make leftovers for lunch the next day: Results Vary $200 – $400 / month
Eating out is very expensive; especially for a family. We are a family of 5 and we manage to spend less than $25 dollars a day on food. 3 meals a day and we eat very well. No hamburgers or boxed mac and cheese. We eat lots of fresh veggies and herbs with smaller portions of meat which is actually better for your health. I personally love to make Thai food, Chinese and Risotto. All very cost effective and everyone raves about my cooking.
Leftovers:You can maximize the output of your effort with minimal extra effort. Meaning, if you cook dinner, make a little more so that you will have lunch for the next day. Freeze the leftovers and pull it out for a meal when you don’t have time to cook. You free up your time to do other things. Just warm and serve.
–Buy or use one cookbook that you are trilled about: Or print recipes online: it’s important to make diner a fun process and something you’ll love to do at home in order NOT to feel deprived of going out to eat. In our home, everyone helps. Even the kids. It can be a fun thing to do in place of dining out. It brings your family together and diner becomes a fun family event. My sons cook entire meals that rival some grown adult cooks I know. Even my 3 year old daughter helps out. Try it. You’ll like it.
– Shop around for cheaper car insurance Save: $20 to $500: Maybe you haven’t done this because you thought it would be a ton of work. But it’s really easy with the internet. In fact you can compare multiple competing insurance companies at once. Here’s one that I found online that lets you compare up to 14 competing care insurance company rates at once http://www.insurance.com/:
9-MONEY: More Extreme
One of the best things we did was squeeze a little cash our of thin air. Not quite but, these are definitely more extreme ways for you to get a little cash to give you a little more mileage and time so you can reach your goals for your new life.
– Sell your car: Extra Cash: This is a hard one. If you have a second car that you don’t think you will need, than consider selling it. If you’re in the city this might be easy. But if you live in the suburbs and need 2 cars to get around than this might take more planning with your significant other. Especially if you have kids. But, it’s possible. We did this for a while and survived.
– Rent a room or basement out: Renting a room for an extra $200 to 400 dollars per month might be the extra cash you need to get you by for a few more months. We never did this because our house wasn’t big enough, but if you have the room why not.
– Move to a place with cheaper rent: You’ll need to downsize your life and get rid of all the stuff that won’t fit in your smaller less expensive place. We have a smaller cheaper place in Montreal. We did put some things in storage, but its still cheaper than the total cost of our old place by a long shot.
– Move in with family and friends? Living with relatives is not ideal. But when you are trying to survive and outlast the bad economy, a temporary situation might be what you need so you can figure out what you want to do. Start a business, change careers, move somewhere where the cost of living is next to nothing. Use your time wisely to work through what you want to do. .
This is a good way to just do a little cleanup. Lighten your load a bit. Plus, get a little more cash too.
Sell your unused stuff online: Extra Cash
We went through all our stuff and we sold a few thousand dollars worth of things. Look for things that are hidden in your closet that you don’t use very much. I found a camera lens and a video camera among other things. My husband sold things in groups. He had a bunch of potted plants that were not worth a lot if sold individually, but together he got over $400. Take your books to a local used bookstore and while you are at it, get rid of unused clothes and donate it to goodwill. Make sure to keep the receipt for a tax write off.
11- Find Ways To Make A Little Extra Money On The Side
You can’t look for a job all day long right? You’re going to have some free time. Why not spend that time looking for part time gigs or start your own business.
I started a home business a few months after I was laid off. I make close to a thousand dollars a month now from a few hours of work a week. It’s not much, but I absolutely love it. Plus, I’m keeping my business skills honed.
You can also try freelancing your skills. check out Elance.com for freelance work. You’ll find all kinds of stuff you can do ranging from data entry and copy-writing to web design and programming. It’s the eBay of freelancing. Also look on Craigslist in their job section. Sometimes they have one off jobs like contract sewing. I recently saw a guy who put an ad on Craigslist for his services. He rented himself as a part time handy man. He did repair work for ladies who couldn’t’ fix little odds and end in their home.
Good Luck to you.
There are a lot more things you can do to survive long-term unemployment. I hope these spark new ideas for you. I would love to hear your best tips for how you are surviving long term unemployment.
Today, we are making strides to rebuild a better life that doesn’t require 2 six figure incomes. It is already a more meaningful life because we are living more authentically. Our number one goal is to build a life that benefits our entire family: have more quality family time, more experiences vs. more stuff. Climbing the corporate ladder is not our number one priority anymore because the corporate ladder can get tipped over way to easily.