So I asked a friend of mine -- we'll call her "Sandra" -- for some tips to share about how she held it together when she was out of work briefly last year:
Hopefully, Sandra's experiences will help someone else who reads this and finds themselves unfortunately unemployed. Better yet, most of her suggestions are things that can save you money long before you lose a job. There's nothing wrong with working AND being frugal.
- Filed for unemployment IMMEDIATELY: It now takes 5 weeks (longer than in years past) to begin getting the benefit payments, so this is CRUCIAL
- Cut off all major luxuries: (no more fancy dinners, no shopping, all trips were cancelled) and limited things like hair salon visits (non-essential dry cleaning, bi-weekly hair appointments instead of weekly)
- Paid all my essential bills up front: to make sure things like heat, car note and insurance payments, prescriptions, cell phone/internet were guaranteed to be there.
- Took a part-time job: The work was beneath me, but provided a steady stream of extra cash for pocket expenses (about $150 to $250 a week, depending on how much time a put towards it).
- Set aside enough money to pay credit card minimums: I paid 4 months worth although, I was only out of work for 2 months.
- Deferred some bill payments: I called around to see who would let me defer payments out of "hardship consideration, and both my student loans and gas company were willing.
- Reduced cable services: I kept HD channels, but dumped on-demand and premium channel services.
- Gave my family small gifts and "IOUs" for the holidays: It hurt to have to do this, but I'll make it up to them. I also skipped sending holiday cards.
- Switched to low-cost entertainment activities: I rediscovered house parties, museums, going out for dessert and coffee (instead of meals and drinks) and frequented clubs/parties where I knew people, and could be guest-listed.
- Paid more attention to what I paid for groceries: I shopped on sale days and clipped coupons on higher priced items (like laundry detergent and saline solution).
- Cooked at home WAY more: Being unemployed showed me how much of my money went to waste on food, particularly snacks, lunches and dinners, while on the go, etc., etc.
- Used public transportation whenever possible. The price of gas is less of a concern now than it was last summer, but PARKING is still way overpriced and a huge waste of money in NYC and Boston.