You just got the dreaded phone call…you have been furloughed. Now What?? It was happening all around me, but I did not think it would happen to me. Surprise…it did. After the shock faded, I wanted to cry (I didn’t).
The unfortunate thing is I was one of millions of people this is happening to across the country. I was told this is a 12-week furlough, but I have to be prepared for the possibility that these 12 weeks could be longer.
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I spent the first 24 hours letting the news sink in and realized it was not the end of the world. I got a good night’s sleep and got started the next morning with a plan of action for how I was going to manage the next 12 weeks.
Tomorrow was a new day and it was time to think about how to get through the upcoming weeks mentally, physically and financially.
So, here are the things I did.
1. Reviewed My Finances
I knew I had to pay 3 months of bills. I calculated all of my fixed expenses for the next 3 months…mortgage, HOA fees, insurance, utilities and a few other monthly costs.
Fortunately, I had no credit card debt besides what had been charged in the last 30 days. Within a few days, I had a plan of action for paying the bills and I was pleasantly surprised.
Things were not nearly as bad as I thought they would be. My company paid out all of my paid time off. Additionally, they continued to pay for my benefits.
Then there was the stimulus money that showed up. Since, I had worked my whole life, even with the money available for expenses, it was still hard not to worry about being unemployed.
2. Cut Expenses and Created a Budget
Once I figured out that I would be able to pay for the essentials, I took the time to eliminate anything that was not essential to living.
We all have these little charges that we pay for services and most of the time don’t even use them. I canceled most of those services. And the other thing that I did a lot of previously was eating out at restaurants.
The state shutdowns helped with that just by making it inconvenient to eat anywhere but home. These shutdowns also helped with the amount of gas that I used in a week.
There really wasn’t anywhere I could drive to. Nothing was open. I took this time to put together a budget so that I would not have to worry about money.
3. Applied for Unemployment
I recommend you do this ASAP. I was furloughed on a Friday and had completed this step before the weekend was over.
Now, if you have been watching the news, you know that filing an unemployment claim has been a challenge and I live Florida. For many, this was a nightmare. It took me about 2 weeks to start receiving money, but I did look at my claim often and I still do.
This part takes patience and persistence. You have to understand what your state offers and what the requirements are to receive it. Once my state claim went through, I automatically started receiving the federal portion of the money.
Fortunately, filing for unemployment was not the challenge for me that it was for many other Floridians. While it was not as much as my normal paycheck, it was going to be a nice lifeline for financial survival during the furlough.
4. Make the Most of Your Time
I had not had more than a week or two off work at any given time, so I was sort of excited about all the things I could do with this time. I made a plan for all the things I was going to do in my 12 week hiatus.
There are things that needed done around the house that take more than a few hours. This was the time to get these things done.
Not only did this plan help me get things done around the house and in other areas of my life, it kind of helped take my mind off of the fact that I was temporarily unemployed.
I have a lot of unexpected free time and I might as well make the most of it.
5. Plan to Exercise
I think keeping physically fit is one of the most important things you can do. You may not be able to go to the gym, but that does not mean that you have to spend all day on the couch in front of the TV.
I am fortunate enough to live where the weather is nice and being able to walk outside has been a Godsend. Just being exposed to the sights and sounds of the great outdoors has done a great deal to keep my outlook very positive.
Anytime you go through a major change in your life, exercise should be a priority. I have always chosen something that I enjoy just so I feel motivated to stick with it.
I will be adding swimming or some type of water exercise when it becomes available. Just 30 minutes of time in the sun also helps me feel better about things in general.
6. Keep a Schedule
Just because I was not working did not mean that I started sleeping in and eating bonbons all day. I did the best I could to keep a routine. Since I had a job that allowed me to work from home, that part of my life did not change.
That made it a little easier to keep a similar schedule. It was just a matter of replacing the “work” part of my day with something productive. I have a loose plan for each day even if it includes only going to the beach and having a great lunch.
Even though your schedule will change, make sure you have one that includes productivity towards a goal and self-care.
7. Practice Good Self-Care
It is difficult to say exactly what this is. It is going to be different for everyone. For me, this means avoiding anything that is going to cause undue stress.
I get that being unemployed is no fun, especially if you are living paycheck to paycheck. It can be a very stressful time in your life. But worrying about it will not solve the problem. Focus on staying as mentally and physically healthy as possible.
Try thinking of ways that you can make extra money if you need it. People have become innovative during this time. Do you have a skill that is marketable during this time?
I have avoided anything that puts me in a position to focus on being unemployed. There is nothing to be gained by dwelling on it.
8. Update Your Resume and Linkedin Profile
In my situation, I am supposed to be going back to work on July 1 or sooner. The way I look at it, until I actually go back on the payroll that could be subject to change.
There is no loss in being prepared for the “what ifs” that could occur. And that means being prepared to look for another job.
While you are not working set an hour aside to update your resume and your Linkedin profile. Employers search through online resources for prospective employees.
You will be one step ahead of the game if these things are current. If you would happen to be contacted by an employer, you would be able to hit the ground running.
9. Talk to Your Creditors If You Cannot Pay
One of the worst things you can do is let due dates pass without talking to your creditors. Especially now, there are many people facing a situation where they are not going to be able to make all their payments on time.
Many lenders (and landlords) have programs that will allow you to make other arrangements for payment. But you cannot take advantage of any of these programs if you don’t talk to the people you owe money to.
It is also important to understand exactly how these programs work. Is the debt being forgiven? Is it being added to the end of the loan?
Will it be due in a lump sum sometime in the near future? There are many many scenarios that can unfold when it comes to finances and not being able to make payments.
The good thing about the current times is you are not alone. The lenders want to work with the people who owe them money in the hopes that they will be able to be paid eventually.
Furloughed – Final Thoughts
So, the above 9 tips give you guidance on being unemployed. Maybe you are not in this situation, but you never know when you might be.
What can you do to be ready for a time when you might not have a job. These are the things that will give you peace of mind if you do not have an income.
Have an emergency fund – People talk about it all the time and may wonder why you would need more than a few thousand dollars.
Well, how well do you want to sleep at night? You should have at least 3 months of income. That will get you by in a pinch. Six months or more of income is better.
At the end of the day, something is better than nothing. A thousand dollars will keep food on the table for a while. I gave thanks every day for my emergency fund.
DO NOT carry credit card balances – this will be the biggest burden to you if you do not have an income.
Credit cards are convenient, but they are a very long double-edged sword if you have a balance that takes more than a few months to pay off.
Live below your means – really this one feeds into the previous two suggestions. If you have lived below your means, you should have no reason to need to charge expenses on a credit card.
Additionally, if you are living below your means, there is no reason why you should not have money in an emergency fund.
For me, once I got over the shock of being chosen for furlough, I looked at the whole time as an opportunity for me to work on some personal projects.
As long as the furlough ends with me going back to work, I will survive. Even if I don’t go back, I feel confident, I can figure it out. I still have my emergency fund and can take it from there. If you are prepared, you can do the same.