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Preparing for a Furlough or Other Decrease in Income (Frugal Friday)

Anticipating furlough days or a loss of income? Consider these ways to prepare for and weather the storm.

preparing for a furlough

All of us either know someone or are someone who has faced a furlough or other decrease in income. These are tough, economic times. No one, except maybe the politicians, is immune.

Our nation has been through this before. The Depression, the 70s. Mr. Mom actually comes to mind. There is plenty to learn from the past and Michael Keaton, especially when it comes to making ends meet.

If you anticipate a furlough or a decrease in income, here are some steps you can take:

1. Realize your priorities.

Food and shelter are your top two priorities. I don’t care who you are. Paying the rent or mortage and keeping food on the table come first. No, you don’t need cable, a new iPhone, or any fancy gadget. Come to grips with the fact that for a season, you will make do with fewer luxuries. No, it’s not fun, but it’s important to realize what are true necessities and what aren’t. If it is not a necessity and it doesn’t fit the budget, then you need to live without it.

(Yes, if only the government saw it this way.)

Audit your expenses and find things that you can cut. While we all enjoy luxuries, know that you’re going to need to tighten the belt for a season. You may need to defer further retirement investing in order to make ends meet. You might need to stop buying organics or whatever higher end food you love in order to stay under budget. You might need to find a cheaper appartment.

There are numerous ways to cut corners and save on almost everything. With a little creativity, you can keep some of the fun and spend less money.

Monopoly 2

2. Stop spending money you don’t have.

Consider cutting up the credit card or at least putting it on ice. Yes, that seems drastic. But, I know too well the siren song of plastic. It makes you think you have more spending power than you really do. Plastic gives you debt, nothing more.

We quit using our credit cards back in 2007 at a time when we had no income coming in. We lived off the little cash we had on hand. This helped us realize the value of a dollar and we were very careful in how we spent each and every one. Spending cold hard cash was a more serious endeavor than just swiping a card. We were able to live on a lot less because we didn’t rely on plastic.

Today we live without using credit.

3. Increase your income.

If you’ve cut every expense that you can cut, then your next logical step is to make more money. Plenty of people desperate to get out debt or simply to stay afloat use creativity and hard work to increase their income. I know it’s not as easy as it sounds. But, I’ve been there. I’ve been “hungry” enough to try all kinds of crazy — but also legal — means to boost the budget.

  • Get another job. Talk to everyone you know, ask at relevant businesses. Even a part-time job in a local shop or restaurant can be a short-term solution to boosting your income. If you are good with kids, see about doing part-time daycare or babysitting. Take a paper route or sign on with a temp agency.
  • Sell something. When we were getting out of debt, I sold LOTS of things that we didn’t need either through eBay, garage sales, or Cash4Books. No, I rarely got its “worth” back, but I figured it was more important to stay afloat. My husband unloaded a lot of guitars and music equipment, even though he loved them. That was a better choice for our family. When we got out of dire straights and saved the money, he was able to buy replacements that were even better than the ones he sold. Don’t feel the loss too hard, just get through the now.
  • Barter. A job might be hard to find. But, if you’ve got the time, you may find that you’re able to barter your services with someone who can give you something valuable in trade. Be creative and just ask. You may surprise yourself with the opportunities you find especially with small businesses or those in agriculture.
  • Reenter the workforce. This is hard, very hard for me to say. I have always been a diehard supporter of one parent being home to care for the children. That is me. Yet, when we were deep in debt, I doubled or quadrupled my efforts as a freelance writer so that I could supplement our income and help us get over a rough spot. SAHspouses can often generate some additional income without having to drastically alter the home environment.

4. Keep your chin up.

Like I said, this isn’t the first time our economy has been down. It probably won’t be the last. Having survived our own personal economic crash, I know that it can feel desperate. Hang on. Poor is a state of mind. Lord willing this situation won’t be permanent. Do your best, keep your eyes open for opportunities, and keep your chin up.

FrugalFriday

What advice do you have for someone facing a loss of income?

This is Frugal Friday. In an effort to make these weekly financial discussions more interactive, I’m no longer posting a link-up. Feel free to leave a link in the comments. But better yet, chat with us on today’s topic.

Disclosure: This post does include affiliate links. If you make a purchase through those links, I am paid a small amount in way of advertising fees.

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Comments

  1. My advice would to be to sit down and pool together every bit of money you have. We use a type of electronic envelope system where we save up for purchases, when my husband was facing up to 3 months of being laid off we pooled all the money out of the envelopes and into what we called the “ride it through” account. Every last penny spent was discussed. We also lived off our pantry as much as possible. We spent on afternoon going through the house top to bottom and gathering things to one area that could be sold.Craig’s list became our best friend, and that money went into the “ride it through” account. With God’s mercy we did “ride it through” and we learned a lot about what one can do with out when the pressure is on.

  2. We had a few years like that. I don’t really remember the cutting back; we’d only had 18 months of a real income after being students anyhow, and with 4 kids we were used to skimping on everything. LOL And we had nothing to sell after a trans-Atlantic move. So for the money factor, we just survived. No luxuries, not even ones like lettuce if cabbage and carrots were cheaper, which they usually were. We used masking tape with a bit of toilet paper in the middle for band aids, etc. The kids got toothbrushes and undies for Christmas.

    What I do remember: how terribly, terribly hard it was on my husband to be unemployed. He had no oomph for anything at all; there were no job leads, because thousands of other techies were also out of work.

    For our family, though we were in desperate financial straits, the emotional toll on my husband was by far the worst. And that took a huge toll on me and by extension on the children as well.

    So if you’re expecting a lay-off, company bankruptcy, etc, save like mad and do all the usual frugal things…and most importantly, consider how you’ll deal with the emotional stress. You don’t want your hubby to end up with heart issues, as is happening with a friend of ours right now, and you don’t want your marriage to suffer.

  3. Nia Boor says:

    Thank you so much for addressing the upcoming furlough seems it truly isn’t talked about much where I’m from but my family and I are affected. While I know I can rely on God’s provision to give me what we need (not want) I can only stress that the little worry I do participate in does nothing for my family or myself worrying just strips me of my hope, and that it will just plain suck..

    So to those who will be facing even less pay after the whole payroll tax you are not alone and we will get through this with the right set of tools and strategy we will come back from this even stronger than before. For me, it’s hard to see that picture but it is there and I must remind myself of this because April is coming quicker than I know it and my husband needs my prayers and encouragement rather than my whining and worry.
    We are due to have our 4th baby in July and I know this is stressing him out.

    Like you said I am able to find other sources of income to help my family. Sometimes I find a huge wall to climb because I am knocked up so it’s difficult to see the opportunity in that rather than the downfall. Here’s to a great furlough summer and while I may not be able to work PT/FT anywhere there are things for me to do I’m sure of it.

  4. Kelly Hess says:

    When we were in need of a little extra cash, my husband would scrap metal out. We had a bunch of copper pipe as well as aluminum in our house that we would scrap out. One time he made over $500 at the scrap yard. When you throw metal out in the trash, it is guaranteed that someone will pick it off the curb before the garbage truck comes to pick it up. They end up scrapping it out and making extra cash. Our washing machine broke in December and we got a new one. The old one is still in our garage waiting until my husband makes a trip to the scrap yard!

  5. Thank you so much for bringing this up! My husband is a federal employee, and will be hit with a furlough if nothing else changes. We are building our “war chest” as Dave Ramsey would call it to help us through the 14 days without pay. I think this event in our lives will make us really sit back and look at what is really important, and I suspect that we will realize that we are more wasteful than even we imagined we are. We may have to cut out some things, but God has always provided for us in the past and I trust His promises that He will in the future. We have been trying to build an ebay business of selling things we have around the house plus buying things at garage sales and reselling them on ebay and craigslist. We have been really successful so far :).

  6. When my children were small, we had several times that hubby lost his job (through no fault of his own) or his hours were cut etc. He found whatever work he could and I found work on the opposite shift, receptionist or retail usually. As we speak I know 2 women whose husbands are way past retirment age, working the morning shifts at McDonalds and their husbands are doing cleaning at a church. My husband is due to retire, yet the last years of economy have reduced his retirement fund (has no pension) to HALF (again through no fault of his own) so he continues to work at reduced wages. Life can be difficult at any stage. We have to be willing to give up goals and ideals for the moment to do what is needed. Perhaps we have become spoiled and see a lean existence as deprivation. My best advice is work together in whatever direction you choose. Many couples I know say their closest years were the years they worked hard together in lean times. Cutting expensive organized activites for children may be something to consider. Older children can help with babysitting, paper routes, retail and either pay their own way in some things or put their paycheck into the family budget. Probably a novel idea in our time…. But it is the lessons they are learning today that will get them through their own hard economic times. My best wishes to each of you.

  7. Good tips. We are agonizing over losing cable (stupid, shouldn’t be so hard, but it IS!) I have a direct sales business but the fact that over a third of our city will be furloughed I am not confident I’ll be able to ramp up sales. So cable and food is where the biggest hits will be. :(

  8. Since Hubs is a small business owner, we had a rough few years during the recession. I have a full-time job with benefits, so my salary kept us afloat. It sure was tough making ends meet while he wasn’t getting paid though! He even brought the baby to work one day per week so we could save on daycare costs. We really stretched our grocery budget during that time, and now I call it our two-year Pantry Challenge!

    • I agree with this. Murphy’s Law always seems to apply more when you are the most vulnerable. It’s almost a given that when you don’t have the money for it is when you’ll get told you need new tires for the car or the washer will break.

  9. If you have credit card debt, start paying only minimums on the cards (partner that with not using the cards) and put the extra you are paying on the cc’s in savings. Once the storm has passed you can start paying extra on the cards again. It might seem counter productive but what you’ll need is cash to get through the hard days.

  10. I wouldn’t consider myself financially poor, but I still don’t have an iPhone. I just can’t bring myself to pay for it yet!

  11. Jen at Ovuline says:

    Great suggestions! Whether going through furloughs or not, another way to save is to contact your insurance company and/or shop around for different companies at least once a year to make sure you are getting the best deal. We have saved a few hundred dollars a year this way!

  12. Rebecca B. says:

    My husband lost his job 4 yrs ago, our income was cut by $100,000!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes that was very difficult in the beginning but we have adjusted to now having him self employed and are happier than we have ever been. I still have cable that is our one luxury but just regular cable no extras. We sacrificed by not going to the stores, I went to target the other day and it was the first time in over 3 months, if you don’t go you don’t buy. I also started making my own cleaners, cooking from scratch, using coupons, thrifting, selling extra stuff etc. I have sold on ebay for several years and beefed up by selling to help supplement. In exchange for all our sacrifices we don’t have debt, we spend more time together and we enjoy life a whole lot more. Our biggest worry was health benefits, we found out our local hospital had a program through their financial counseling dept. They look at your income and if you qualify you pay a % from 0 up but you must use their in hospital clinic and pharmacy, I didn’t mind because we qualitified for free everything. In the summer I grow a garden and go to our farmers market. I also buy 99% of our clothes at the thrift store when they have the weekly 5 items for $5 sale. I must admit the brands I find are way nicer than what I could afford in the stores. A lot of the times I find stuff with the tags still on. It’s all about really looking at what is important. My biggest thing was I wanted to stay in our house for our kids and we worked with our mortgage company who has modified our mortgage more than once to an amount that is cheaper than renting an apartment. I am grateful for all the lessons I have learned along the way. Best of luck.

  13. Last year we knew that ny husband was due for a lay-off. We saved as much as we could, paid off debts, cut back, etc, in anticipation but the most important thing we did was to pray for wisdom & direction. When it came right before Thanksgiving, we both had a peace that defied the circumstances, which helped so much w/ “mind, mouth, mood & attiude”. In the end, he found a new job in three weeks, and we ended up using his accrued vacation pay/severance to pay off the last of our debts. Now we’re facing anther potential lay-off in the next two weeks, but we’ve been so blessed in the last few months, we’re just taking it as it comes.

  14. Our family has been going without for along time. We have never used credit cards, so we don’t have to worry about that. We cook at home, no cable, we use netflix. We own our cars. This is a big one not having a car payment frees up so much money. We have also downsized our home seriously awesome feeling living on what you have with no debt.

  15. This couldn’t be more timely. My hubby is a government worker who just signed his furlough paperwork for 14 days and loss of all overtime. It has been a very long time since we had to tighten our belts so hard. They were pretty tight already as we are a 1 paycheck family. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed . I guess I am feeling so overwhelmed it is resulting in some denial. Thanks for all the helpful suggestions. I keep having to tell myself It doesn’t do any good to rage against the machine so to speak.

  16. Great tips! My suggestion is to surround yourself with people who think like you do and have similar priorities, then you can all support, guide, and help each other.

  17. We put our credit card on ice in the freezer.. but also make sure no credit cards are tied to websites. I forgot my amazon account was tied to a credit card. Oops.

    Kate

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