How To Stretch Your Budget During Unemployment

by Courtney Hall

Finding a job is much like finding a needle in a haystack. The job market is anything but stable and even those with jobs are fearful to lose them. The shaky economy and relentless media headlines regarding unemployment do nothing to reassure people, really it really does the exact opposite. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment rate fell at around 9.1% as of August 2011.

The gloomy economy has affected millions of Americans leaving them unemployed and overqualified. The part often not thought about is how long many workers stay unemployed. According to a recent study done by the Labor Department reported in the New York Times, the average length of unemployment is a whopping 40 weeks. Any amount of time being unemployed can be stressful but to go 40 weeks is budget crushing. Dealing with unemployment is never easy, but there are ways to help stretch your budget and keep things afloat until you find your next job.

Here are some tips to help stretch your budget during unemployment:

1. Register for benefits. It’s a good idea to register right away but even if you waited, thinking your unemployment period would not last longer than two weeks, it doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. The average unemployment check nationwide is $270 per week but remember benefits do vary from state-to-state. This program can help stretch your budget but don’t expect it to replace your income.

2.  Become best friends with your budget. The time has come to differentiate between your wants and needs. You need to start keeping track of what you’re spending and where. Regardless of your financial situation this is a good habit to have and will help you keep on top of your financial goals.

3.  Find other resourceful ways to make money. Raid your attic, basement and garage and look for items that you no longer want or need. Then go old school and have a yard sale or try selling the items on craigslist or eBay. Don’t worry if you end up selling your stuff for less than what you paid for it because right now that is  money going into your pocket. Remember even while you’re looking for your next job there are always random jobs that can help you earn a little extra income such as baby-sitting, dog walking, handyman repairs, etc..

4.  Communicate with your creditors. Be open and truthful with your lender especially if you know you’re going to come up short. I know it’s surprising to hear but creditors prefer to have an open and honest discussion with you about what you are able to handle financially. In fact, letting them know you’re struggling shows you’re financially responsible. Choosing not to pay your bills gives them absolutely no assurance. Word to the wise — NOT paying is never an option.

Staying on top of your finances during unemployment is anything but easy. The above steps will help keep you on track financially but regardless it will be a daily struggle. However, keep your chin up because you will get through it and you’ll come out with confidence in knowing you can handle absolutely anything life throws your way!