How to Budget While Looking for a Job

Senior couple smiling and holding a piggy bankIn today’s challenging job market, looking for work can take a hit on more than your morale.
Keeping up with your bills and basic living expenses without a steady stream of income can lead you to feel overwhelmed and uncertain about how to make ends meet.
Fortunately, whether you’ve lost your job or are having a hard time getting your foot in door for the first time, there are steps you can take to manage your finances without incurring large amounts of debt and stress:

  • Take stock of your financial situation. Review your spending habits, and prioritize your expenses in terms of “luxury,” “nice to have” and “essential.” Make essential items such as rent, food and transportation your first priority and identify which of your luxury and “nice to have” items you can cut back on until you regain employment. Kiplinger’s budget planning tool can help you identify your expenses and start prioritizing.
  • Eliminate non-essential services. The combined cost of television, phone and Internet services can quickly add up. If you have both a home phone and cell phone, consider getting rid of your landline and opting into the cheapest cell phone plan. Try getting rid of your television service until you regain employment; as a bonus, the time you spent watching TV can now be used to look for a job.
  • Be honest with creditors. Let your creditors know that you have lost your job instead of missing payments without an explanation. You can request a reduced payment plan or an extension to pay your bills. If you own a home, check out Goodwill’s tips for avoiding foreclosure and keeping your home when finances are tight.
  • Keep your health insurance. While it may be tempting to view health insurance as an unnecessary expense, one major accident or illness could end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars if you’re uninsured. If you’ve recently lost your job and worked for a company with more than 20 employees, you can apply for COBRA benefits within 60 days of being laid off. Visit USA TODAY for additional options to stay covered.
  • Seek assistance. Instead of going it alone, consider seeking help from an organization that can help you set up a realistic budget and connect you to services that can help your family stay afloat during periods of unemployment. Visit the United Way’s 211 page to get information on community services in your area and check out the National Foundation on Credit Counseling for help finding free or low-cost credit counselors near you.

Making a budget, reviewing your expenses and outlining your plan to get back to work will help you regain control of your finances and decrease stress as you look for a job. Many Goodwill agencies offer financial strengthening services to help you make the most of your current budget, as well as job training programs that can help you go back to work.
To find out about services that can help you stay financially secure as you search for a job:

Contact Your Local Goodwill