My family’s situation is not only typical for this economy but may border on being a cliche given the current unemployment rate.
We’re a dual income, a middle-class couple raising a 4-year-old. My husband and I make comparable salaries give or take 3K to 5K and have survived 2 job losses (both mine) since 2008.
The first one came 4 months after the purchase of a new home which doubled our mortgage payments.
I was unemployed for 7 months and then found a job as the banquet sales manager for a high-end restaurant. This more recent layoff only proves that no one has the money for private banquets anymore.
Like most of the country, we work hard to afford a certain lifestyle which includes all the normal trappings of a first world country and serves as a daily reminder that our college degrees were worth the money.
If your parents were anything like mine college was viewed not as a place to expand your mind but more as an insurance policy that would pay off upon graduation with a full-time job and health benefits.
Unless you were raised in the Great Depression no one really prepares you for what to do in a bad economy or how to deal with sudden job loss.
Here are some tips and lifestyle adjustments which allowed my family to emerge from the dark days of unemployment pretty much unscathed and a bit more enlightened.
1. Pull your child out of daycare or fire the nanny.
This simple act can free up anywhere between $500 and $1,000 a month.
2. Put your cell phone bill under a microscope.
We lowered our bill over $50 a month by switching to a cheaper plan and taking a scalpel to monthly charges for internet, GPS service and unlimited texting.
3. Research options in health insurance.
Unemployment doesn’t come with health insurance and Cobra is usually very costly. Spend the time to thoroughly research different insurance plans.
If you’re healthy choose a plan with a high deductible that will lower your monthly premiums. Companies like Golden Rule offer discounted plans for individuals.
4. Do you really need a satellite dish or cable?
We all love having hundreds of viewing choices but these services can run up to or over $70 a month. Join Netflix for $10 a month and watch as many movies as you want.
5. Cancel memberships to health or fitness clubs.
Family memberships to these places usually range from $70 to $150 a month. Forget it. Buy a jump rope, drag your bicycle out of the garage or start power walking around your neighborhood. It’s cheaper.
6. Eat at home.
This goes without saying. Even the most reasonable restaurants cost more than cooking at home.
7. Find free entertainment or at least cheap entertainment.
Museums, parks, and beaches are free. Matinees are usually 1/2 the price of evening shows.
If a show hasn’t sold out many live theaters will offer 1/2 price tickets for shows a half hour before the performance starts.
Invite friends over for a potluck dinner where everyone brings a dish.
8. Discover thrift stores.
If you love to shop but can’t afford it, seek out your local 2nd hand stores.
Shopping at consignment or thrift stores can be a lot of fun and will offer some surprising fashionable finds.
9. Curb gift giving.
Talk to your spouse about temporarily suspending gift giving for each other during holidays or birthdays.
Or at least set a dollar limit consistent with your situation.
10. Got stuff? Have a garage sale.
Auction off items on eBay or advertise it on Craig’s List. All easy ways to make a few extra bucks from stuff collecting dust in your basement.