Tips for the Newly Unemployed


A reader contacted me recently asking for tips because her husband recently lost his job. Unfortunately, I have experience with this situation since this month marks 5-years since my husband lost his job. His last full-time job was with a start-up company that was equity funded and in 2008, with the economy coming to a halt, his company wasn’t able to get their last round of financing.

Suddenly finding yourself or your spouse unemployed is never easy and it means it’s time to get creative, roll up your sleeves, and make lemonade. Having less income and more time at home, thanks to unemployment, has a way of making you more creative.

Tips for the newly unemployed

Where to begin?

First, make a list of all of your expenses and see what you can cut out completely or reduce. Use the same methods described in “Budgeting and How to Track Expenses” for the nitty-gritty details on how to track your spending.

For my family, the expenses we cut were meals at restaurants, good wine, and organic vegetable delivery. (Yes, I enjoyed organic produce being delivered to my home but really – I can buy vegetables and fruit myself!) Once you adjust to living without, you’ll find that it’s easy and you’ll cut more. I usually suggest starting slow with cutting back on spending but when it’s a sudden change like unemployment, you’ve got to buckle down and cut quickly.

How do we afford our mortgage while my husband is unemployed?

Since you still have your job, see if you can get your mortgage company to refinance your mortgage for you. Ask them about a longer term loan with a lower interest rate and no additional fees. Explain your situation and that your husband lost his job. Banks and mortgage lenders would rather work with customers than risk having another foreclosure on their hands. Ask to speak to a manager and be polite but firm.

How do I help our kids change their expectations about our lowered income?

Sit down with your kids and tell them in a way that’s easy for them to understand. Explain what’s going on and what it will mean for your family. Kids need to see how parents roll up their sleeves and work together to get through tough times. This is a learning situation. Your kids will learn from you how to work together with a spouse or partner on how to get through tough times. Tough times happen to all of us and you and your husband will be modeling, “This is how we make lemonade out of lemons.” This making of lemonade is an important skill for all of us.

Go Gingham approved!

There’s also the benefit of your husband being home. When my husband lost his job in 2008, my kids both enjoyed having their dad around more. He and I both work from home now and we have both found “creative employment opportunities” that have left us with less income but more time together. This “time together” is what we view as our greatest luxury in life.

What does your family do for low-cost entertainment?

Here are a few to get your started. As soon as you see how easy it is to have fun and spend very little, you’ll be amazed!

  • Embrace the library :: Because we don’t have paid television or cable TV, cell phones, or a video game system, (I had to change this because my kids recently purchased a game system for themselves with their own money), we get all of our in-home entertainment from the library. Books, DVDs, music, and even sheet music are available to check out.
  • Play games :: Get together with friends and other families for game nights. Play charades or a board game and enjoy a homemade dessert or brownies. Check out “Play According to Hoyle – Hoyle’s Rules of Games” from the library. It has every game you can imagine and rules for how to play.
  • Go camping or home swapping :: Whatever you do, don’t pay for hotels while vacationing. You can also go for a hike or a leisurely walk and pack a picnic. Walks and hikes cost nothing and can be so refreshing when focusing on finances! Be a tourist in your own city or town and go explore.
  • Cook at home :: My husband and I haven’t been out to dinner by ourselves in a restaurant since he lost his job in 2008 and while at first I thought I would miss fancy dinners out, I don’t at all. We do occasionally go out to lunch, which I now think is more romantic. Added bonus: when our kids were younger and in school, there was no babysitter to pay.

It’s hard to be in this situation when you don’t expect it. Suddenly finding your spouse or yourself unemployed means it’s time to get creative, roll up your sleeves, and make lemonade! Try focusing less on convenience and more on low cost. Work together as a family on your joint goal of lowering your expenses. You may find it brings your family closer. Get kids involved with money saving ideas, too. You may be surprised at what they’re willing to give up – or what they’re willing to figure out how to pay for themselves.

Good luck to you and your family.

Do you have any tips to add to this list? How do you cut expenses quickly?

Go Gingham related links:

Tried and true investing strategies – a question asked by Annie of Plenty Perfect
Just balance that checkbook! You can do it!
Frugal living is the key to saving
How finances figure in frugality
Budgeting and how to track expenses – Part 1
Budgeting and how to track expenses – Part 2
Budgeting and how to track expenses – Part 3

14 thoughts on “Tips for the Newly Unemployed

  1. I wait longer between visits to the hair stylist. I also have a basic haircut that looks fine if it grows a little long.

    Also gave up the fancy department-store brand cosmetics I was so fond of. Drugstore brands are just fine if you read their ingredients carefully.


    1. Good tips, Karen! That waiting can be a real saver. I need to get better about the drugstore brand cosmetics. The writing is too small on those packages. Or maybe it’s my eyes 😉
      Thanks for the additions, Karen.


  2. love these suggestions, and although thankfully, my husband is currently employed (“knock on wood!), we do live on one income right now….i think these are great ideas for any family looking to make the most of the money and resources that they do have.


    1. Peg, yes, we’re all knocking on wood for you!
      You raise a good point that “any family looking to make the most of the money and resources that they do have,” is how to have money left to save and invest. Living paycheck to paycheck or beyond your means is stressful. We like to call it “living close to the ground” and it’s all about living on less.
      Thanks, Peg! You have a great attitude.


  3. My husband became unemployed in 2008 also…multiple factors including mental health issues and the economy. He has not gone back to work and the unemployment checks ran out a long time ago. I was a stay at home mom…so a bit of a shock returning to full time employment outside the home after 15 years at home with my kids!

    I have learned MANY things in the past 5 years. As far as money/budget/frugality goes…I realized there are 2 ways to make it through this challenging financial time in our marriage. #1 make more money and #2 spend less money. Sounds pretty obvious…but the make more money part was an absolute necessity considering he made 60K annually and I was making 20k.

    I learned how to diversify my INCOME (kinda like how people say you should diversify your retirement stuff) 🙂 I have 1 full time mon-fri job for 40 hours a week that provides a decent income and health insurance for my family (at a PRICE) then I have several other very part time jobs to make ends meet…teach piano, photography, graphic design, personal assistant for disabled, taking in renters for spare bedrooms ETC.

    Spending LESS money for us meant:
    no eating out
    basic cable
    shop second hand for clothes
    turn down the heat
    barter for services (photography trade for building a fireplace in our home)
    babysitting trades (FREE!)
    getting a more economical vehicle
    (went from an SUV to a compact and 78$ a tank to 30$ a tank for the same distance!)
    going from having 3 vehicles to ONE
    growing a garden
    accepting help from others and not being too proud


    1. Sher,
      My hat is off to you! Wow. I’m very impressed. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you get lemons in life. You have made a lovely batch of lemonade.
      You have a wonderful attitude and I appreciate that you buckled down and got busy. Not everyone would do that.
      Congratulations on all that you have done. I hope you continue on your “frugal path” even when you don’t have to. 🙂 Keep up the good work!


      1. I just had time to come back and read the blog today…thank you for your kind words. Luckily I have always been “frugally minded” and very organized. But there is a clear difference between being frugal by choice and by necessity. Optimism and a good attitude is the only way to survive a tough season in one’s life. Not to say I was never mad or upset that our roles reversed and I was “forced” to work so much. The first year I was pretty mad, distant, and moody. But I realized it didn’t do anyone any good. Lastly, I am keenly aware that there are always people who are in “worse off situations” than I am in and I have much to be grateful for…including my skills and abilities, my health and strength to do all that I do to keep my family going.


  4. Wonderful post Sara!! When me and my husband started in US a decade ago, my boys were babies and we had loads of expenses and very little income. I picked up some valuable money saving habits in those days which come in handy even today.For example, I always compared prices even when buying in bulk – you would be surprised that sometimes buying in bulk can be more expensive than buying from retail possibly because of a sale. I also always check the Manager’s special in every store – things are often at 1/4th of a price and of great value.
    By God’s grace, though we are a one income family for now, we have enough to have a comfortable life. However, I never, for once, forget that it’s fragile and it’s always important to be grounded and know the limits.


    1. Minnie,
      Well done on the comparison shopping! You are so right – knowing prices is key to see if you’re actually getting a better deal or not.
      It is always fragile! I am thankful every single day and it sounds like you are, too.
      Congratulations on the life you and your husband have built here. I admire all that you have accomplished.


  5. What a great, information-packed post, Sara! I really enjoy hearing exactly what you do to create your stylishly frugal life. I feel like we should be doing these things before a crisis occurs, but it is so hard to be this disciplined when the house is not on the line! You make me want to try harder to plan ahead and be in a better position to handle anything that comes along. Thanks!


    1. Annie, yes, doing these things before a crisis arises does help! Looking back, there are plenty of items I spent money on that TODAY I would never dream of buying. That money is looooong gone! Living below your means helps in a crisis and keeping spending in check – no matter how much money you earn – is a good lesson to learn early in life.
      Thanks, Annie!


  6. Both my husband and I fall into the eating out trap because it is so easy to choose convenience! Time to buckle down with the meal plans. 🙂


  7. I loved reading these experiences, thanks all. Too many people I run across cant imagine a single income life. Last year my husband was laid off while I was on maternity leave. Once we got over the initial shock, we had the best 6 months of our life! Time together as a new family and nowhere to be! We started doing everything ourselves including making alcohol. When it was time for me to go back to work, we realised that the best thing for our family would be to keep being creative and he is now the stay-at-home-dad with a small flexible business http://www.shovelandfork.com – and I come home to dinner!


    1. Thea, what a great story! Thank you for sharing it. I agree with you that being forced to live on less can really get those creative juices flowing! Well done. Can’t wait to check out the site. 🙂


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