Budget? I’m Unemployed – what Budget?

Maintaining a budget is difficult under normal circumstances, but trying to balance your checkbook, compute your finances, and make ends meet when you’re unemployed is definitely a challenge.

If you were financially savvy when you had a job (that leaves me out) you might already have a budget in place that you can live with by making a few cut backs. For people like me, however, attempting to balance your budget will most likely be very painful.

When you were employed, you probably knew what your income versus expenses were.

You had a job that covered your living expenses, and hopefully had a few extra dollars at the end of the month to have some fun. Now that you are unemployed, income versus expenses takes on a whole new meaning. You are now in “financial survival”.

The first thing you need to do is to make a list of your daily, monthly, weekly and yearly expenses. You may be saying “I know what my expenses are”, but if your like me you may have a water bill that only arrives quarterly. Remembering the quarterly or annual bills can save you the headache of remembering after the fact.

You may also be asking “Why do I need to list my daily expenses?” The reason is It is important that you recall all of the items (including luxuries) that you spend money on, even if it’s coffee from the convenience store every morning when you pick up the newspaper.

You need to mentally go through each day and write down as much of your spending as you can.This exercise will help you see where cuts can be made

when I did this I was amazed at how long my daily list was.

Next you need to set up a system to determine what are absolute necessities and what you can possibly do without. When I made my list I put a “N” next to those items that were absolutely necessary (power, water, food…), a “DN” next to items I really don’t need (starbuck coffee, copy of People magazine, chineese for lunch…), and finally I put a “U” next to items I wasn’t sure about.

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Related: Living on a Budget

This system really helped me see where I could cut corners to put more money in my budget for the necessities, as well as have some left over for the undecided (an occasional night out…).

Once you go through the list once, you probably won’t need to do it again. In my case, that one time was a wake up call to be more careful with my money. Especially now that I’m unemployed.

Some things I would not recommend getting rid of. Mainly the Internet. The Internet can be your life line to jobs that you would otherwise not know about.

If I didn’t have the Internet to look on sites such as Monster.com or Careerbuilder.com, I would miss out on literally dozens of openings every day.

When deciding what to put a “DN” beside of, look at the long term ramifications as well as the immediate ones. Canceling an Internet bill may seem like a good way to have some extra cash in your account, but doing so may delay the amount of time it takes to find a job.

And finally, once you prioritized your expenses and decide what you really don’t need take a look at whatever income you do have coming in (unemployment insurance, child support…).

Maybe you have enough coming in to explore other options, such as starting your own business or going back to school. There’s actually programs to help you do either of these things.

Check with your local Employment Security Commission for more details. If you’re like me and notice that your income isn’t going to quite cut it, you may need to consider a part-time job through a temporary agency to make ends meet.

That too can be a challenge though, there are a lot of people out there competing for any position that is out there.

Even if you have to take a job that requires minimal skills to keep your budget afloat, remember it is only temporary. You will still be looking for a job that matches your background and skill set, but you until you find it you need to take whatever is out there.

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I have a MBA and 18 years in the Learning and Development field, but there’s not many of jobs out there right now that needs that expertise – and it seems that when one is posted it’s filled before I have a chance to get my hopes up.

So now I find myself applying to temporary agencies willing to do anything to bring money in. As the old saying goes –

Desperate times calls for desperate measures. And as sad as it is, these are definitely desperate times.