Quitting or losing your job?
Whether you saw it coming or not, being laid off is always a bit of a shock. And even after months of consideration, quitting your job can leave you wondering what comes next, and how you’ll stay afloat until that next thing actually comes along.
Traditional advice emphasizes dipping into savings, but for many Americans, that’s just not an option.
What do you do when you barely have a month’s worth of expenses, if that, and your career is in transition?
Do these ten things and feel calmer, more confident, and ready to conquer that job search with everything you’ve got.
10 things to do right away
(1) What do you have? Checking and savings accounts are an obvious place to start, but don’t neglect stocks, bonds, 401(k)s, and even the cash you have lying around. Depending on how you manage them, credit card points could be a small boon. Liquidate them for groceries, or cash them in to cover moving expenses if your situation is dire. Don’t forget to take into account any debts you owe, through your credit cards, student loans, or otherwise.
(2) What could you get? If you were laid off, you may be eligible for a severance package from your former employer, and this might be something you can negotiate. Don’t sell yourself short here. Being laid off also grants you access to unemployment benefits, and it could only hurt you to wait to apply. It only takes about an hour, and you can expect to hear back in about a week. Expect to receive a maximum of about half your former salary, and in some states you’ll need to fill out a weekly form to prove you’re actively looking for work.
(3) What could you get if you really, truly had no other options? I’m talking credit, and should definitely be your last resort. Nonetheless, it can be reassuring to know what could be there for you if you needed it, and if you inform yourself now about the various interest rates and other terms, you’ll be able to make smarter decisions down the line.
(4) How do you spend? This is going to take some time, but it’ll be worth it. Look at bank statements and credit card statements from the past two or three months to figure out how you’ve been spending your money lately. Keep track of predictable recurring payments like gym memberships and car payments, as well as more variable bills like electricity and water. If you haven’t moved recently, you could even check out utility bills from last year that correspond to the upcoming months, to get a more accurate estimate of what’s in front of you.
After rent and bills, create categories for your spending. You could simply use “Transportation,” “Food,” and “Entertainment,” or you could get more specific: “Transportation,” “Groceries,” “Restaurants,” “Movies,” and “Bars” might cover most things, and you could throw in a “Misc” for good measure. Do what makes sense for you – just be sure you get it all.
(5) How will you spend? Don’t forget expenses you may need to pay now that you’re unemployed. If you got insurance through your employer, you’ll need to find your own coverage. Same goes for gym memberships, public transit passes, etc.
(6) What can you cut? Now you know exactly how much you have, and how much you *want* to have for normal monthly expenditures. But since you don’t have your regular income anymore, unless you’ve been miraculously good at saving, you’re going to need to cut back. It’s important, though, to not cut out every little thing that makes life worth living. Sitting in a cold, dark room eating ramen and drinking tepid water isn’t going to get you fired up for a job search.
Do you actually use and need Netflix, HBO Now, and Hulu to be happy? Pause one or two until you’re back on your feet. Could you run on a trail instead of a treadmill? Could you improve your cooking skills and only eat out occasionally? You have more time on your hands – put it to good use and save some dough.
We recommend checking out Truebill which will find, track, and help you cancel subscriptions (some you won’t even remember you are paying for).
(7) Make a comprehensive budget. After you’ve gotten a handle on your assets and your expenses, plan out a monthly budget for the next six months or so. This is how much you can spend in each category every month, and it should have a little wiggle room for random fun so your soul doesn’t die. If you’re thinking, “There’s no way I have enough money to survive for six months,” don’t worry. Help is coming your way.
(8) Pay attention to your groceries. Do you have a tendency to buy a bunch of stuff that sounds good but that you’ll never cook, or that can’t possibly be combined to make an edible meal? Fix that by planning out your meals in advance and buying what you need for those meals. Limiting the number of trips to the store can also reduce random purchases.
(9) Get a job-related gig. Finding a part-time job of some sort ensures a steady stream of income and enough time to dedicate to your real job – job searching. Were you a copywriter? There are a million freelance copywriting gigs with your name on them. Teacher? Try tutoring. If you can find a gig that falls under your career umbrella, it’ll be worth putting on a resume and you won’t have to explain away an awkward gap.
(10) Get a random gig. Although not ideal, the gig economy has officially arrived, and it means you’ve got options. If your career doesn’t lend itself to part-time gigs, or if you’re ready for a break from your usual job description, consider taking on a different role. Drive for Uber or Lyft (or any number of smaller rideshare companies), deliver with Favor or Postmates – check out the services available in your area, and look at community-based job and gig posting boards like Craigslist for time filling gigs.
This too shall pass
You might get paid to fill out surveys, or be a movie extra, or hand out flyers. As long as it isn’t something that makes you so miserable you have no willpower or time left for writing cover letters, any paying gig could be worth checking out.
If you follow these ten steps, you should feel in control and ready to conduct a calm and thoughtful job search, instead of sending out resumes in a panic and accepting the first offer that comes along. Your next job should be an improvement on the last, and financial security will allow you to focus on finding the right fit.