Unemployment is always something of a catch-22. On the one hand it can mean a loss of vital income, but it can also offer some valuable time to take stock, think, plan, dream, and possibly even make a career change. With careful planning, some strategic budgeting, and maybe even some cuts in spending, many will be able to wait for the right job or opportunity to come along, rather than having to take a job they might not be suited for and may even be miserable in. Here are five ways to save money during unemployment and how to keep things afloat as you try to get settled.
The second largest expense for most people are car expenses. If you’re working a full time job, having a vehicle may be a necessity, but when you are unemployed, there are far fewer places you need to be at a given time. Consider networking to find a family member or friend that might be interested in sharing a vehicle with you for a monthly fee. If you can completely part with your car for a few months while someone you trust takes over the payments, even better. Ultimately, if you can divest yourself of the expense of owning a car while you are in the least need of one, it will cut down considerably on the financial stress level that unemployment can bring, and allow you to use that time and money more wisely.
Keeping an active and healthy social life is an important part of maintaining good emotional health during the unemployment process and can even help with valuable networking, but eating out all the time can counter the positive benefits of socializing by simply adding in financial stress. Being unemployed should provide more time to for you to cook and prepare meals for yourself, which will help cut back on food expenses. This doesn’t mean you need to stop eating out entirely, but it does mean you might want to limit it to one night out per week.
Being unemployed creates a huge gap of time you may feel compelled to fill. There’s nothing wrong with finding new hobbies, and no one can job hunt 10 hours a day 7 days a week so it’s important to try and fill this time with some meaningful activities, while still keeping an eye on your budget. Packing a picnic lunch and reading in the park is free, and many museums and other cultural centers offer discount and even free days during the week. Check out local events and volunteer opportunities that can give you more experience and get you into places for free.
Television is a double-edged sword. It’s quick, convenient entertainment right in your living room, but it is also expensive, and it can make it all too tempting to fill all your newfound free time binge watching TV shows. Try getting off the couch instead and head to the park with a good book, go to the library or find another inexpensive form of entertainment that keeps you connected in some way with the outside world. Connect online with sites like LinkedIn and HR Employee Onboarding programs that can get you touch with more businesses and employers and help your job search along as well.
No matter how long you are unemployed, the likelihood is high that someone is going to have a birthday, a wedding, or baby shower or some other gift giving event. Consider giving a hand-made gift or card. Even just a card and wrapping paper can run $10 or more, so even just cutting out that expense by making a card, writing a note, and using a Starbucks or other store “gift-sized” shopping bags can help cut down expenses on purchased gifts. And reusing your store bag as a gift bag is good for the environment as well!