Most of us know people who have lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. With the unemployment rate currently at 6.2% and projected to rise as high as 7% in the months ahead, the next person to lose their job could be you.
If you’ve lost your job, it’s time to tighten your belt and develop a plan for the months ahead. These five tips will get you started:
Apply for unemployment benefits
Unemployment benefits are a federal-state program that provides financial benefits to people who have lost their job through no fault of their own. Receiving unemployment benefits is not automatic, but must be applied for by the applicant.
Not everyone is eligible to receive benefits, but that shouldn’t stop you from asking. This handy link of the US Department of Labor will help you find the unemployment office in your city. Applying for unemployment benefits should be the first thing you do after losing your job.
Apply for food stamps
Groceries can take a enormous chunk out of your budget, and for low income or out-of-work individuals and families, the USDA food stamp program can help. Food stamps aren’t just for the homeless but also for the unemployed, under employed or low income earners, and the disabled. This link from the USDA is a great resource for understanding how food stamps work, who may qualify for food stamps, and where to apply.
Since it can take up to six weeks to start receiving food stamps, it’s best to apply as soon as possible.
Enroll your children in CHIPs
CHIPs is the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a children’s health program that is run by the state where you live. CHIPs can help pay for doctor and dentist visits, immunizations, hospital care & services, and so much more. If losing your job meant losing your family’s health insurance, then a program like CHIPs will help. To get information about the CHIPs program, dial 211 for the community resource database or Google search the name of your state and the acronym “CHIPs”.
Seek out food banks and food pantries
Food pantries are direct distribution centers where low income families can receive emergency groceries at no cost. Most pantries will provide a day or two worth of groceries and will also point you in the direction of other area food pantries. Food pantry volunteers can also refer you to free health clinics, tell you where to find free clothes or free holiday meals, free Christmas toys for the kids, and more. To locate food pantries in your area, call The Salvation Army, any of your area Catholic or Episcopal Churches, or Google search the name of your city and the phrase “Food Bank”.
Evaluate your spending and learn to live “poor”
Learning to live “poor” means evaluating your spending and learning how to get by with less. As much as we’ve become accustomed to having lots of toys and other little luxuries, when times are tough, getting rid of those unnecessary expenses may be the only way you’ll survive a period of unemployment without compromising your assets.
Expenses to do away with immediately should include such things as cable TV or a satellite subscription, excess cell phone features, gym memberships, daily newspapers, eating out, paper backs and magazines, junk food, DVDs, and all those little things that you buy without thinking. Cutting utility, transportation, and grocery costs should also be part of your new strategy for lowering expenses. The money you save by living “poor” should be socked away in a savings account to be drawn upon when your family is faced with an expensive emergency, or worse yet, when the unemployment benefits run out.