Things are getting tight all over and layoffs are imminent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this past February there were 2,769 mass layoffs compared with 1,672 mass layoffs in the same month last year. What this means is that 50 people per every layoff filed for unemployment insurance.
So how do you prepare when your working-class spouse has just been laid off? Most articles will tell you that you should transfer your savings into checking, cash in part (but not all) of your 401K, etc.But what if you and your spouse are living paycheck to paycheck?
First and foremost, support is the most important element of recovery. It is not his or her fault that the economy is poor. Allow your spouse (and yourself) time to mourn the loss. They have lost their purpose, their pride as well as their routine and source of money. He or she feels shocked at being laid off, guilty for letting you down, is as scared as you are about how to pay the bills, where the next job/paycheck will be coming from and how long it will be before finding that new job.
Allow your spouse time to nurse their emotional wounds. Right now they need reassurance, not well-meaning advice and prodding. Sometimes it is very difficult to figure out what to say and it does become painful to see your partner suffer. You just want to solve the problem which can result in nagging. This will ultimately lead to hurt feelings and fights.
While giving your spouse time does not translate into walking on eggshells and not saying anything. Open communication is a positive way to help build their confidence. Ask him or her if they could make dinner or do a load of laundry while you are away at work and thanking them. It definitely helps to feel needed and wanted. However, you don’t need to let your spouse fall into the black hole of self pity. A week or possibly two is long enough to nurse emotional wounds. Then it is time to pull their bootstraps up and get to work looking for that next job.
The children also feel the pressure of a parent who has been laid off. In fact, they are usually the first to experience the anxiety. The most important rule when it comes to your children and lay offs is not to attempt to hide it from them. They will eventually discover that Mom or Dad has been laid off anyway. Also, don’t give excuses such as ‘Dad is on vacation’ or ‘He’s working from home now.” This method won’t work especially when a lay off goes for weeks to months. Lying to the kids even if you think it’s for their own good will just lead to more anxiety and it is just not worth it!
Have a family meeting as soon as possible to explain what has happened and to assure the kids that everything is going to be alright. You may even allow the children to help such as putting stamps on envelopes or showing older children how to take messages when a prospective employer may call. This will help the children feel that they are all contributing and it is not just something that is happening to Mom or Dad.Our car was never as clean as when Dad had to go out for a job interview. Our daughters felt that they were doing thier part in the job process by washing it prior to his appointment!
Do We Really Need That?
Now is the time (children included) to make that budget. Decide as a family what you can live without. Do you honestly need 10 HBO’s and renting movies online? The minimum amount for cable is usually around $80.00. If you foresee a long period of job hunting, canceling cable and the on-line movie rental temporarily could help pay another bill until you get back on your feet.
Groceries can also be another money pit. Making meals from scratch is a lot cheaper than packaged foods or eating out. An average family of four can spend $45-$60 at a family restaurant. Can you imagine dining out three-to-four nights a week? There is also that grocery bill that can be toned down. Do you really need 3 different types of soft drinks or those 6 packages of expensive cookies? Would it kill you to cut back on your meat quota for some cheaper ground turkey or chicken or even (gasp) more vegetables?
There are other ways to save money during this rather trying time. Taking the kids hiking, fishing or picnics in the local park is a lot cheaper than movies and malls. If things get too rough, then pulling the kids out of karate, gymnastics, and dance classes temporarily will also save a great deal.
When we were a one-income household due to a 2 month long lay-off, we saved $340 monthly when we pulled our daughters out of their extracurricular activities. Paying on a weekly basis, it never seemed that much. When the girls were allowed to rejoin, both chose only one seeing how much we were spending.
Adult activities can be reeled in as well. How much does it cost for that deer lease or fishing license not to mention the equipment? Can you live without shopping for the newest summer fashions and wear last years? Even possibly drag out the sewing machine and that box of material that you have yet to use.
This would be an excellent time to clean out your closets and garage. Clean up some unused pieces of jewelry, DVDs, or that forgotten but-still-in-excellent-condition bedside table and put it on EBay to sell. If you have a hobby like candle making or work burning, you might want to look into sites like www.etsy.com and decide to open a small on-line shop to sell your wares. Listings are very minimal and you might just start a new business for yourself!
Stress during this time can be great but it can also bring positive changes in your life. You could find a job in a different field that you enjoy more, start a small business, or even go back to school for extra training. Letting your spouse know that you are in this together as a family is the most important way in handling a lay off.
‘Rebound: A Proven Method for Starting Over After Job Loss’ by Martha Finney
Lynn Kippel, “Secrets to Surviving His Job Loss: A Workbook for Wives of the Unexpectantedly Unemployed”