How to Survive Unexpected Unemployment

We’re all supposed to plan for the worst—that’s why it’s recommended that you have at least 3-6 months of living expenses reserved in an emergency fund. But what happens when you’re saving up and are met with that unexpected unemployment? Perhaps you were part of a group layoff, or maybe there was an illness in the family.

This is what recently happened to us when my husband fractured his spine playing soccer. As an ambulance operator, he does a lot of heavy lifting, and has so far been out of commission for several weeks. When all is said and done, we expect him to be out of work for a total of 4 weeks.

Because he is a part-time employee, he has no benefits. Luckily, he is insured through my company, but no work means no pay. He doesn’t have sick or vacation time to take advantage of.

We have previously survived on one income in the Fall of 2011. My husband entered the fire academy and was a full-time student for four months. However, in that case we had eight months to prepare and save money to help cover our expenses. In our current situation, it was completely unexpected. And to top it off, we recently moved and depleted most of our savings to cover the deposit on the new place.

So we found ourselves in quite a predicament. How do we survive unexpected unemployment?

Eliminate all non-essentials

Essentially, we’ve switched to survival mode. We calculated out our most basic essential expenses for the month (Rent, Utilities, Bills) and work our way from there. We also stripped down our food budget to the minimum—no expensive cheese or red meat, and we try and eat everything in our cupboards.

Strip down your paycheck

We’re lucky in that my paycheck can really cover all our basic expenses. I know that for a lot of people that isn’t the case. But even my paycheck is really stretching it. I recently received some overtime in my last paycheck so we socked away any extra money that we could to help tidy us over until the next month. We also saved the last paycheck that Eric received. Because the brunt of our bills are at the end of the month, we hope to save his paycheck until we need it to pay necessary bills.

Look for extra work

For Eric, because of his injury, he was pretty limited in his work capabilities. However, he has looked into doing some freelance stuff from home. His company is also trying to work with him to do some “light duty” stuff so he can get back to work sooner.

On my end, I was lucky to have some overtime opportunities available at my company. I jumped on those and they should help fill the financial gap.

Any time you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation, your first reaction can be to panic. Give yourself a few minutes to do so, then calm yourself down and come up with a plan. It all works out in the end.