how do you survive without a job?

In the comments on a recent post, Kathy asked:

Hi, I have a question that I do not mean with any snotty tone, whatsoever. I am truly curious because it’s something I’ve always wondered:

For those of you unemployed for lengthy periods of time, how do you survive? Did you have a large emergency fund built up? Do you tend to live on credit? Do you just cut back significantly?

Also, is a part-time job a possibility? Again, please understand that I’m asking out of curiosity–not as an attack.

I have often wondered this as I contemplate what would happen if I lost my job. I have probably several months of savings built up (as I continue to build it), but I don’t know what I would do much beyond that….?

Best of luck to you all in the job-search mode. Things will get better. It has to.

So many people have chimed in to answer that that I thought I’d create a new post just on this topic.

So far, the following responses were posted:

From Anonymous:

This past July, my partner was laid off. We had 3 months of emergency savings and I was working a part-time job while attending graduate school full time.

We immediately cut out every expense except food, mortgage, gas, electric, internet, and phone. We downgraded our car insurance to the state minimum. We did keep Netflix ($10/mo), but spent no other money on entertainment. My part-time job helped slow the bleeding, but wasn’t nearly enough on its own. When the savings ran out, I took extra student loans.

Luckily, the nightmare ended this week as my partner started a new FT job. If it hadn’t been for the student loans (which now have to be repaid at exorbitant interest), I don’t know what we would’ve done.

From Unemployed Gal:

@Kathy and others wondering:

Do they all have spouses who make so much that the rent or mortgage can still be paid with half the income gone? My husband has a (reasonably) secure job that barely covers the bills. But we’re “paycheck to paycheck” until I find work.

What do you do when you have no income and a house that won’t sell? If my husband lost his job too, I guess we’d have to pick out a nice cardboard box to live in. (In other words, we’re screwed.)

Did you have a large emergency fund built up? We did, until we had several emergencies, including a flooded basement. But that cushion did help.

Do you tend to live on credit? We’ve managed to keep our balances low, but a single illness or emergency repair would definitely fill the cards again.

Do you just cut back significantly? Oh, yeah. I’ve never had this many peanut butter-based meals in my life.

Is a part-time job a possibility? I’m looking for part-time, full-time, and everything in between. Most unemployed aren’t sitting around waiting for that CFO opening. I’d walk your dogs for a paycheck.

What do you do if you’re single and you are your only source of income? During a previous period of unemployment in my early twenties, I enrolled in college and paid the rent with student loans. My credit cards got pretty fat then, too. It wasn’t fun, but at least I have a degree (and massive student loans) to show for it.

From another Anonymous:

From a different perspective (as I am single), I have learned the “do you really need that” standpoint. When everything’s going well, you don’t give two thoughts at purchasing that book or going to the movie theater. But when you are out of a job, you don’t pull out your wallet as fast. If I want to read a book, I go to the free public library. Guess what? If I wait, I can also get the new DVDs there too. Yes, I’ll wait a good few months to see the movie, but that’s $10 that stayed in my wallet for food and other necessities. You’ll become creative at saving money but still enjoy things.

Like what Unemployed Gal said, you might cut back on eating out and staying home more often eating peanut butter. You can splurge every now and then, but don’t make it a habit.

And coupons become your friends!

Can I thank you? I really appreciate someone finally asking what it is like to be struggling in this time. You appear to appreciate your job and understand that there could be a risk of losing it due to this economy. Thank you for realizing that times are tough. There are people out there who have jobs and turn a deaf ear when they hear others complaining/discussing/mentioning how hard it is out there. Do they live under a rock or can’t face the reality? Whichever, I thank you for not being one.

This is a topic that doesn’t get enough attention. Thank you for raising it.

{ 44 comments… read them below }

  1. Meg*

    "Did you have a large emergency fund built up? Do you tend to live on credit? Do you just cut back significantly?"

    Yes, yes and yes. I've been fortunate, I put in a lot of years and as a result got a generous severance package (10 months)…when that ran out my employment insurance kicked in (I'm in Canada, don't know how it works in your state). I've been without work for over a year and still have a while before assistance runs out. If that happens, well…I'm probably looking at a significant lifestyle sacrifice, moving back in with my parents & getting a minimum wage job with whoever will hire me.

    That being said, it's no vacation by any means. No benefits, a significant pay cut…but I live in a very small and therefore cheap apartment and which allowed me to save while I was working and allows me to still afford rent now that I'm not. I also drive a 1997 compact car that is paid off.

    I worked in an unreliable industry at the best of times, so I always figured this day would come and I prepared for it.

    1. Jillian*

      you really want to know? here’s a harsh reality I have to endure and have for 2 years of being unemployed.
      Fact 1: in my town in VA, there are not a lot of resources for those who are not married and/or do not have children who are unemployed. The only way to not be waiting like 2 years to have your name put on a list for a shelter, is if you are mentally ill, drug addicted/alcohol abuse, avoiding jail time.

      Fact 2: the gov’t system for assistance is antiquated! there are so many here that are put into this category: 40+ years old, kids have flown the coop, unemployed and no place to go. The gov’t system of emergency assistance isn’t help for us. I’ve even had a Social Worker have the nerve to ask me if I had ‘friends’ or ‘relatives’ that could loan me $! “If that was the case,” I stated firmly, “I wouldn’t be here in the first place!”

      Fact 3: Social Services and Food Stamps: I have a gluten intolerance [severe], and received Food Stamps (SNAP) for $200. Ok, this amount would be ok for most like…20 years ago, but let’s face it–with the prices of basic food necessities going up, $200 just doesn’t stretch it [even for those who do not have a gluten intolerance and can eat bread/wheat and make food ‘stretch.’

      My boyfriend crowns me as the ‘Coupon Queen’ because:
      Each weekend I pick up the Sunday paper, clip coupons of parishable and nonparishable items. I go online to the grocery stores in the area and sign on to their weekly sales and coupon offerings that can be downloaded directly onto my store card [i.e. Martin’s Supermarkets, Farm Fresh, and Kroger] in which I also receive paper coupons in the mail each month from Kroger. I usually save $20 in food each time I go. It’s worth the time! It’s about survival so you do what you need to do.

      Fact 4: When I had to sell my car that broke down [bad timing!] It eliminated the cost of car insurance and I bought a bicycle and found the routes for public transportation in my area. Yup, it has it’s downside due to weather conditions, but the exercise is great for stress.

      Fact 5: speaking of exercise: I started walking/running about 3 miles 3x a week. It helps with depression and stress and you’ll sleep easier.

      Fact 6: I was very fortunate to have a Free Clinic in the area that I am qualified for [since on SNAP] and unemployed. I receive free medication for my asthma and such and this keeps me from getting sick. Stress can deteriorate your health and cause complications and I want to be on my ‘game’ for interviews.

      Fact 7: I purchase a pay-as-you-go Virgin Mobile 3G internet USB which is only $40 a month that I use with my laptop to have internet access when I cannot get to a coffee shop or location for free wifi. FYI: although I am only bringing in $90 a week in unemployment, it is well worth it for communication for jobs and even for friends to boost my spirits when I get discouraged.

      Fact 8: I bought a Virgin Mobile cell phone on e-bay for $25 and use a Pay-As-You-Go $20 a month cellphone card at a drugstore nearby (Walgreen’s, CVS…) so that i don’t have commitments to a phone bill. I do not use text anymore, and focus my phone calls on a ‘as needed’ basis. I use the internet for most of my communication unless it is from an employer for a job interview or calling in job contacts at the VEC.

      Fact 9: Don’t rely on friends and family to help you! Ok, you might be very lucky to have kind, compassionate and understanding loved ones who will lend a hand, but you might have to bite the bullet if they start suddenly drifting. I am still struggling with this as I’m not sure if my friends are afraid I would ask them for $ [which I would not!] and well family isn’t always a fairy tale for some of us. However, take the bull by the horns and go online and find resources in your area for assistance in food, shelter and clothing.

      Fact 10: Thrift stores are awesome! I found quite a few in my town I used to shop at even with a job and was able to buy my interview suit [because errrr I gained a little weight] but still wanted to look polished and confident for a job interview. I bought it for $15–well worth it and it’s a designer suit! You just have to take the time for at least 3 hours to sift through the clothing. I suggest eating a good meal and drinking a cup of coffee before you go. You won’t be distracted by a growling stomach. p.s. I have also found a couple of sweat pants which I use for running in [and cut off the legs for shorts and use for cleaning around the place]

      Fact 11: a little tidbit: I purchased Starbuck’s VIAs [small packet of instant coffee] with the Food Stamps so that I can still get out and go to Starbuck’s, be part of society, maybe even network, and uses free wifi. I also had their Gold Card which gives you ‘perks’ like free refills. No, I buy coffee, not the fancy drinks!

      Fact 12: last but not least: STOCK UP! If you see a ‘Buy One-Get one Free’ item for shampoo, get it. For us females, this is what I stocked up on: disposable razors (way cheaper!), deodorant, toothpaste, soap (not body wash, that’s expensive)–you can’t be picky and it does the same thing…keeps you clean, shampoo and conditioner, for me, hair dye from Colorsilk, tissues, qtips and cottonballs, baby powder for handling the heat, stuff like that are purchased at the DOLLAR TREE, extra strength tylenol, any food item that you USE such along with meats, mascara and beauty at Sally Beauty Supply–which have $1 mascaras that work great! also moisturizer for the face and body.

      Sorry this is so long, but just started thinking about all the details and wanted to make it clear to everyone–hoping this may help someone else who is struggling.

      Just keep in mind, that you just have to think very differently about things and not compare yourself for what you DON’T have, but what you DO have! hope this helps! Any questions, fire away. ;)

  2. Sabrina*

    I've been out of work for almost a year now. I'm married and my husband works. We rent a small one bedroom and have no children. Right now we're doing OK between his job and my unemployment. But UI is going to run out soon. We cut back on our internet and TV package, we don't eat out as much, and we didn't take a vacation last year. (Except to return home for Christmas) We don't have a savings built up except for an IRA I have. We're not living off of credit cards, I had a problem with those a few years ago and don't wish to repeat it. Once UI runs out we may drop the TV package all together, and possibly sell my car. This will make it damned difficult to find a job though. I've looked at part time jobs, I've looked at temping, I've looked at doing customer service work, and no one wants to hire me. I even went to my old company that I thought I left on good terms with (they have several openings for what I do). It would mean moving back "home" and possible us being separated, but it would be a job. Even they don't want me. I don't know what we're going to do long term. Before we moved to this city we lived in a small house owned by my grandma. If worst comes to worst, we may have to move back to it which would not be ideal for many reasons. Right now I just don't know. I try not to think about it more than I have to because I don't have many solutions and it just upsets me which doesn't help the situation at all.

  3. jmkenrick*

    Thank you, thank you for this post. And Kathy for asking the question, and to all the posters who generously answered.

    I'm still getting used to how to properly manage my paycheck and all my bills, so these questions are increasingly important to me.

    I also want to reiterate what Kathy said and wish everyone in job-search mode good luck. I'm beyond impressed by how well everyone who posts seems to be handling the situation.

  4. Adam*

    Sounds familiar. I was laid off last April and almost immediately took a part-time job in retail. I went from making an ok salary (about $17 an hour) to minimum wage. With being underemployed my biggest saving grace has been my savings. I cut back on cable, eating out, entertainment in some areas, and started putting grocery store bought inserts in my shoes instead of buying new ones and negotiating a lower rent with my landlord. It has kept me afloat but in the near future if my income situation doesn't change I will forced to either a.) Rent a room from someone for hopefully really cheap or b.) move back in with my parents. It's stressful and demoralizing. I've applied to tons of jobs recently ranging from ones I might actually want to do down to being a janitor or a crew member at McDonald's all to no avail. When you're willing to swallow your pride and people still aren't calling it makes for some long nights sometimes. Best of luck to all.

  5. Anonymous*

    I've been out of work for about 5 months. Luckily, I am a recent graduate, so I had the opportunity to do something I said I'd never do…move in with my parents.

    It's a blessing and a curse, because I know not everyone has this opportunity. My parents know that I am a hard worker and I'm not taking advantage of them, so they've let me stay here rent free. I had a little bit of money left over from my previous job, and I've been living off of that…but it's really not a lot. My monthly health insurance, which I have been fortunate enough to keep, has been slowly chipping away at what's left.

    I just found a job, and I consider myself extremely fortunate. I know that many folks have been out of the work force for a year or more.

    Spending wise, I've cut back a LOT. But remember, you still need to go out on occasion to keep from going crazy. Sometimes little pick-me-ups can make a big difference when you're unemployed.

    Best of luck to everyone.

  6. Anonymous*

    This is probably the most pitiful answer here, but this is my response: I survived because I had to move back home with my parents. I'm not proud of it, but I'm very lucky to have such a supportive family helping me in my time of need. I only hope I can repay them tenfold once I'm back on my feet. I know some people aren't as lucky.

  7. Class factotum*

    If you lose your job, one of the first things you want to do is take care of your health insurance. You can get insurance, but what you do not want is a lapse in coverage. It's getting insurance once you are uninsured that is difficult. Changing insurance from a group plan to an individual plan is not so hard.

    You can get cobra (probably) from your old job, but it will be expensive. Keep it until you can get individual insurance. Look for a high-deductible plan, like $5,000. Farmers Insurance, Blue Cross, Golden Rule. Check them out. When I lost my job, I was 42. I paid $160 a month for a $5,000 deductible. A lot cheaper than cobra.

    I had three months' notice of my layoff and then my company paid for six months of cobra, so I stockpiled as many drugs as I could. (I take migraine painkillers and birth control pills.)

    You need to take care of your teeth, even if you are unemployed, so do that before you lose your job. If you live in a town with a dental school, go there for treatment once you lose your job. Don't mess with your teeth – you want to have them for the rest of your life.

    Stop wasting money on frivolities. Starbucks. Cable TV. New clothes. Not necessary. Gym membership probably not. You can run for free, depending on where you live. Swallow your pride and take that Christmas job at Macy's even if it means you will be waiting on the people you used to manage. Oh yes.

    Rice and beans is nutritious and inexpensive. What? You were going to eat out? No! And no booze! Waste of money.

    I have lived this scene a few times. I think I could write a book.

  8. another Kathy*

    I'm the earner in a single income family. Just before I was laid off in 2006 we were told by a career search organization that we should expect to be job-hunting for a month for each $10K of salary we expected. I had enough warning to save up so that I was ready when the time came.

    Being unemployed is not something I'd ever wish for but it's not all downsides. I spent half my time off duty. I did yard work and vegetable gardening, enjoyed enough time to exercise, and made a hobby of learning to cook good healthy meals with inexpensive groceries. Soups, stews, homemade bread, crackers – I even learned to make corn chips. We had fun figuring out free treats and celebrations for ourselves. I volunteered, which is supposed to be good for career networking but it's also enjoyable.

    During my half-days on duty I went into my home office and sat down to my daily job search task list like it was a job. I made sure that I wasn't busying myself with the web surfing and skipping out on the tasks I didn't like and wasn't comfortable with doing. But I think the half days off did me good. I needed to get some balance to keep a good attitude ready for interviews. I was hired in about half the time I expected, and that was plenty long enough!

  9. Anonymous*

    I've survived an 18 month layoff primarily by living off savings accumulated by putting aside 33% of my income for just such a rainy day as this.

    I didn't have big credit card debt built up. What little I had while I was working, I paid off as soon as I got laid off. I knew I couldn't afford to pay interest!

    Also, I don't have cable TV. I shopped for the cheapest but fastest Internet service. My husband and I each have a cell phone from the cheapest provider in town – we don't have a landline. I rarely buy books, the library and its books/DVDs work fine for us.

    Also, we both cook and rarely eat out. We buy a lot of groceries at Walmart, and I get my discounted prescriptions there (no health insurance) using a free discount program I found on the Internet.

    When we do go out for something to eat, it's usually a snack, or an inexpensive breakfast or lunch. I rarely have drinks out, and when I meet girlfriends out it's usually for coffee or tea.

    I sold my gold jewelery that I didn't wear anymore (stuff that was out of style) and banked the proceeds. My husband sold musical and sports equipment he doesn't use anymore.

    My husband and I both drive small, gas-efficient paid-off cars that are 10 yrs old. I try to be efficient about running errands, and am cautious about long drives – I might even run the stats on Mapquest to find out how much gas a long drive (there and back) will cost!

    Yes, unemployment ran out. Yes, I work two part-time jobs. And yes, I still have some $$ saved, thank god. Let's hope the economy recovers soon!!

  10. Anonymous*

    I was laid off for about 9 months recently in 2009. I'm married and we have a toddler. Before I was laid off, I had about 3 months of savings. I'm fortunate, my husband makes enough that combined with my UI, we were doing ok. It was tight, but ok. It was ok enough that my husband encouraged me to take the summer easy on the job search to be a SAHM. If I didn't find anything before my UI ran out, well, we had my savings (at the time) and my husband's. I'm sure we could have gone 20+ months if necessary with me at home.

    However, I did use most of my savings, at my husband's encouragement, to pay off my car (it was new, but an economy car). I had to keep internet so that I could job search when my son would give me time during the day. Taking him to the library to job search wouldn't work. My husband and I aren't big spenders anyway, so it wasn't a big lifestyle change, aside from not being able to save anymore.

    The only debt we have (after I sold my car) was our mortgage and my student loan. We have now sold our condo and will rent for a while. Leaving us with only my student loan debt.

    I also went on my husband's health insurance.

    I consider us very fortunate because, aside from the stress I put on myself, it really was a blessing in disguise. I got to spend much needed time with my son (I had zero work life balance at my old job) and I found a much better job at a higher salary! Its also a way shorter commute and a better fit for me (I think). Being laid off forced me to do something I should have done a long time ago, but was too scared to do.

    I'm not saying it was a total walk in the park, it was a major life change. But, for me, it really worked out for the best and had a happy ending.

  11. Anonymous*

    Thankfully when I lost my job as a local reporter in 2008, my parents were in a position to help me out. I was able to get a job as a substitute teacher which helped out a little bit, but then I applied for an MA program at a European school where I am currently living off of federal student loans. When I get back to the States I'll live with my parents while I look for a temporary job and apply to PhD programs.

  12. Anonymous*

    I was just coming out of grad school.I didn't lose my job, but it was only part time and after college there was not enough money to support myself on a part time job. I moved in with family members out of state, do a bit of freelancing. I've tried temping but they barely have anything coming in and when they do it's minimum wage.

    I have absolutely no extras because everything is potentially gas money to the next interview.

    So basically the virtual assistant work I do and family donations support me. Anything that isn't gas or food, such as medical care and credit cards gets nothing. My credit rating is in the toilet and I'm approaching 7 months of unemployment.

  13. Anonymous*

    Having just returned to work after 7 months unemployed and looking, I'll take a stab at this one:

    For those of you unemployed for lengthy periods of time, how do you survive? Short answer: spouse's income + unemployment insurance. Longer answer: Knew it was coming a few months in advance and started saving/ cutting back as much as we could. Drew up a budget that let us (mostly) fund the day-to-day expenses from SO's paycheck ($40k/ yr). Had agreement with SO about how long we could afford for me to be looking/ holding out for a Good Job vs. taking whatever I could get. (The one I ended up in is somewhere in the middle.)

    Did you have a large emergency fund built up? $20k, which I guess is large to some and not to others. It was enough so we didn't panic when an unexpected car repair came up.

    Do you tend to live on credit? Do you just cut back significantly? No, and yes. Was lucky enough to have fairly low housing expenses, as we bought just before the recent bubble. By suspending the college fund investments, slashing whatever non-discretionary expenses we could, and postponing a lot of big and small purchases, we made it work.

    Also, is a part-time job a possibility? For me, this was part of the "how long can I afford to look for a job" calculation. In my state, PT work makes you ineligible for unemployment, so as long as my UI eligibility lasted, I didn't seriously consider PT work. I'd just gotten to the point where I was considering it, when I landed my current FT position.

    Also, I make no apologies for using UI to help support myself for most of those months. This isn't just charity, folks. It's what allowed me to pound the pavement, networking and applying everywhere in a 100-mile radius, for as long as I did and ultimately find a job that (gasp) makes good use of my skills and experience. If I'd had to take the first job I could find, regardless of how ill-paid or poorly matched I was, that's just wasted productive capacity.

  14. Anonymous*

    My FT job was cut to PT last January, and by the end of Feb. it was gone altogether. I had what used to be a 2nd job in retail that ended up helping to supplement my UI. We were pretty much ok until my spouse had to begin student teaching (unpaid, FT for a semester). We were going to put it off until our situation got better but the in-laws said they'd help us out and not to put it off any longer. In the meantime we're both working 2-3 part time jobs each – definitely NOT slacking! But it's causing some resentment on both sides. They're complaining about helping and we're feeling like we're doing everything we can to generate income – we can't work in our sleep! We have only about $800 in credit card debt, and we've been paying all the smaller bills and just asking for the mortgage shortfall for 3 months – not bad! Moral of the story: no matter how much they say they'll help, avoid mixing money and family! First priority, once we're both 100% full time again: build a nice big nest egg and never have to ask for another dollar!

  15. Anonymous*

    I am single & living with someone. We were both laid off 2/09 and had 3mos of savings. He called in a favor and went back to work at a $20k pay cut. I found a part-time job and got on unemployment (first time ever). I could no longer afford even COBRA and lost my health insurance back in September. That was almost a year ago and I've just been notified that I have 3 more months of unemployment left.
    We are struggling to pay rent every month and I don't know what's going to happen in May. People are competing with 300+ other people for 1 full-time job here in FL, so I've been searching for another PT job. What do you do when you are told over & over again that you are "over-qualified".
    I just need a job!

    1. Danielle*

      I have the same problem, 2 Degrees later, not experienced enough or even on par with the professionals and overqualified for regular jobs. Write a separate resume for general employment. Replace your education with a mundane (example: compute skill training instead of Computer programmer) write up. It sucks and degrading yet you might have a shot for general work to keep you afloat. If they ask in an interview, you can discuss it, otherwise leave your education out. I hope this helps. If you can practice your trade on the side; keep working at it and someday you’ll find a job in your field. Best of luck

  16. a.e.*

    I was completely unprepared and ran through much of my savings moving my things into storage and then moving myself across the country so that I can live with my parents. I get unemployment (even after a year and a half – thank you California) so I'm restricted from taking other work (legally). I have worked with my father on some side work which provided me with a nice nest egg to not be so tight with money. However, I can't complain much. I was in the highest bracket for unemployment so I am bringing in $1900 a month with limited expenses (car note, insurance, gas, credit card bills, food, personal items, medicine, etc.) However, when I finally do get a job, my first priority will be building and emergency fund so that I never have to live with my parents as an adult again.

  17. Rebecca*

    My story is actually very similar to the first Anonymous story in AAM's post. That and the posts so far have pretty much covered it.

    Here's a hint for anyone with a friend who's jobless and out of money.
    Do: Offer to come over to their place and hang out. Just go hang out and talk. Maybe bring a six-pack and a bag of chips. At the very least, your presence will break the crushing monotony of jobless life — but you have decent odds of cheering them up and making them forget for an hour or a few. They'll also appreciate knowing that their friends haven't forgotten about them just because they can't go out anymore.

    Don't: Give them luxury goods thinking it'll cheer them up. Let's just say I would've rather had that $250 to pay bills. And I did pay bills with the $120 it went for.

  18. GeekChic*

    When I first graduated from grad school I couldn't find work and it took me 18 months (and moving to another country) to get my first job post-grad school.

    I was fortunate to be able to live with my father for part of the time and I spent part of that time volunteering. The rest of the time I spent on my uncle's farm helping out for room and board.

    My family situation was very fortunate as was the fact that I didn't have any student loans. All in all I was very lucky.

    Good luck to everyone out there that is still looking.

  19. Anonymous*

    My boyfriend lost his job with no warning almost six months ago. he was technically a temp worker so he didn't get a severance and didn't qualify for unemployment. he only had a few hundred saved up that went to the deposit on the apartment we had to move into together to save on costs.

    I was a full-time student at the time and a freelance writer, so I started working part-time as a waitress to help make up the difference, but we were stil late on rent a few times and weren't able to pay cable/internet and car insurance.

    After finishing school in December I was able to get a FT job paying $25k, but for two people that's not a lot. Both of us have bad credit and can't get loans or credit cards — my bf can't even get financial aid to go back to school, and he's either overqualified or underqualified for every job out there. My parents help out with groceries and clothes, but I can't ask them to pay for my boyfriend, and his family has their own financial problems.

    Our internet/cable has been shut off, the car was put up for repo last month and our car insurance lapsed. We're both really depressed and feel isolated because we can't afford to go out with friends. On top of that my bf doesn't have health insurance, and has a broken tooth that causes him extreme pain, but we can't get it fixed because it would cost $1000.

    I really don't know how we're going to make it through the rest of the month, much less long term. our bills are so backed up that even if he does get a job it would take us months to pay them off. I don't want to move because I like my job and my town, but just can't make ends meet.

    To answer your question, you can't really survive without a job. At least that's what I've found.

  20. TheLabRat*

    Exhausted the savings, sold everything that could be sold, and finally was forced to move to a new city so I could stay with family. This is not the first time I've been through this. At least this time I'm not homeless.

  21. 12 yrs exp*

    I think this question is VERY insulting! Why are you courious? Why not find out for yourself? I don't mean that to be snotty either. However, if you're not in the unemployment boat, move on and be thankful for what you have.

    Unless you have the ability to provide everyone with meaningful work and much need help, get out of the way and hope it doesn't happen to you.

  22. Ask a Manager*

    @12 yrs exp — Why insulting? I think the response here shows that it's a topic people really care about, and it makes sense that they do: People care about how other people are getting by, and they also think about how they would get by if they were in that situation.

  23. Anonymous*

    My husband has been on SSD or 10 years, since he was only 42. With my half way decent (it seems real decent now) paying job we were just barely making it. Now I have been on unemployment for the past 10 months and I have to rob peter to pay paul. We used up all of my 401K savings about 13,000 in the beginning. If my electricity gets turned off, I will have to live with my son, unfortunately. If one little glitch in my budget happens,which it has, it puts me behind in my bills and I can't catch up. It gets to be demoralizing, I used to shop at Macy's and have Coach pocketbooks, so those things sould hold up until I get another job!!! We can't go anywhere or do anything ith friends because we don't have the money even to buy wine or appetizers if we get together. Hope, just hope that I find a job soon!

  24. Anonymous*

    I have never had a "great" job or made a lot of money. I was finally making "OK" money because of all the over-time at work for the last year before I got laid off. I just bought a house a year and a half ago. It was a fixer and since I lived alone and never had time, I didn't care that I didn't have a kitchen or carpet or heat in the winter. I had to have my girlfriend and her 2 daughters and 2 cats move in, just to pay the bills. My GF lost her job a few months later, so we're both on unemployment and have to do side-work, under-the-table to make ends meet. If we get caught, we'll have to pay the State back, but UI doesn't even come close to paying for a modest lifestyle for a middle-class family, so what are we expected to do?

    We're sort of OK, most of the time, but sometimes it's a huge struggle and looks like we'll be on the street by the same time the next month. If we get "official" jobs, we'll lose our unemployment, which would be fine if the jobs would pay even close to what we need, but there are no jobs that even pay as much as unemployment and we used to have jobs that paid more than double what UI pays.

    I am very good at budgeting and keeping up with the finances, so that helps a lot. But, I didn't have my last job long enough to fix up my house, pay off my credit and set up a savings all at the same time, so I had nothing when I was laid off and I have even less now. I had to end up selling most of my prized possessions. Everything else I own isn't worth enough to anyone to sell. I'm getting to the point where I may have to consider BK or repo on my car if it comes down to paying for my upside down auto loan or feeding the family.

    On top of all that, I have no education, skills or contacts in any field that I could get a job in right now since I come from the construction field, and I live in one of the hardest hit States in the U.S.

  25. Kathy*

    @12 yrs exp: I'm sorry this question hit such a nerve with you. AAM — thanks for speaking up on my behalf. Didn't get a chance to see more of the comments until today.

    12 yrs exp: A few years ago when the Air Force first started "force shaping," I was on the cutting block and was separated along with a whole bunch of other good people. I am very lucky that I was able to find a job soon after(before the economy went bad) and my transition was smooth. But it scared the hell out of me that if I could so easily LOSE MY JOB IN THE MILITARY, for heaven's sake, then losing a job elsewhere is just a heartbeat away.

    I now work in state government and don't take for granted that losing my job here is always a possibilty, too. I'm 29 and know that since I have such a long working life ahead of me, unemployment is a real possibility. So, when I see people actively seeking employment in the private sector, my heart goes out to them and I want to know how they are making ends meet, so I can prepare myself should it happen.

    Why would I want to find out how it feels? Good grief, no one would willingly choose that. By your defensiveness, I'd guess that you are faced with some tough circumstances regarding employment and I wish you the best.

    Thanks to everyone else for sharing their thoughts!

  26. Ryan*

    no, yes, and yes. I was laid off 2 months after I took a new job that allowed me to finally move out of my parents house. I had a few thousand dollars saved up and only a couple hundred on the credit cards, but I had student loans, car payments, insurance, and now rent and other monthly bills. That was a year and a half ago.

    Being in the construction industry, there wasn't really anything out there especially in Oct. I took the first job that would take me, but it turned out to be a joke and I quit. Subsequently, that made me ineligible for unemployment.

    After a short stint trying to sell insurance (which I had to get licensed for and trained which all cost money) I started my own remodeling company. Work during the summer was ok, but not great. It got worse during the cold months.

    A car accident, unexpected medical bills (root canal and a crown without insurance), and a handful of other unforeseen problems, savings is gone and credits cards are nearly maxed out.

    Living broke you look at spending money especially on the little things completely different. If it doesn't help you survive, you don't need to buy it. No going out to eat, to bars, pretty much anything extra.

    My roommates are planning trips to the Dominican Republic while the only the only trip I'm planning is the move back home with my parents. They have been great with helping me to survive this long.

    I know it's a long post, but thanks for letting me vent.

  27. Anonymous*

    I was laid off effective 12/31/08. Severance of 16 weeks = to my salary & employer provided medical/dental ins under COBRA at employee rates for the 1st 6 months. All of that, & a 2.5 mos notice of the layoff helped tremendously.

    I had a gut feeling that something was going to happen & began cutting back on spending & paying down debts in August (2.5 mos prior being notified).

    I do live in one of the hardest hit states but given my overall experience & MS degree, I didn't expect to have such difficulty landing a new position. I feel that my age (50+) is a negative factor.

    In spite of all the good things mentioned above, it is very difficult to be unemployed & feeling dependent on the system & dependent on my husband. We were married for 6 mos when I was laid off. His job is scheduled to end in June.

    Fortunately I have been able to pay the same monthly amts on credit cards as when I was working; I don't want to negatively affect my credit rating &, being married, it would also affect my husband's.

    We have definitely cut back. I cook now which I never did before & have lost weight as a result! We both have cells phone thru AARP(cheap), basic cable, basic internet-if we could get local channels without cable we would eliminate cable. I have a mortgage, car payment, student loan & credit cards. I get the max unemp benefits but it doesn't even cover the mortgage. Fortunately, my husband is working loads of OT right now.

    If I could find a PT job that would increase the $ coming in over unempl, I would consider it. It would have to be close to home though because a PT job is likely not going to pay enough over unempl to offset the costs assoc with a long commute. I would certainly consider a contract or consultant job, even knowing there would be a definite end to the job.

    Currently, I am trying to get accepted into the WIA (Workforce Investment Act) for training. This would enable me to update my skills & have a better chance of getting hired.

    My recommendation to you is to keep saving as much as you can every month, get your resume up to date, draft an out-of-work budget now, start networking while you are working (meet others outside of your work environment), stock up on non-perishable items when you find a good sale & when you have a coupon, buy fresh vegetables this summer & freeze (they keep 6-9 mos), make a plan to pay off your debt now & stick with it, anytime you are going to spend $ consider if you really need it or if it is worth what you are giving up (savings, paying debt), track every penny you spend for a month or two & eval where current spending can be trimmed to increase your savings or to pay down debt quicker.

    I agree this is a hot topic and reading through the posts from others has 1. made me realize how fortunate I am, 2. given me ideas on how to reduce my costs even further, and, 3. the importance of family and friends during these hard time.

    Thanks to everyone for sharing. There is always inspiration to be found if we open our eyes and our ears and show consideration and respect for each other.

  28. I Am Scared!*

    I have been unemployed since 9/1/09. What no one has mentioned yet is the depression, funks, moods, etc. that you experience. I can only speak for myself, but this hit me very hard. I can't tell you how often I honestly could not get myself out of bed, or if I did get out of bed I could not make myself function. It was awful and I hope I never feel like that again.

    To the Anonymous that started with, "I've survived an 18 month layoff…" I have to say that you are a very lucky woman. My husband treats me as though I am DOING this TO him. He is a CPA & makes a descent salary but he continues to hold out $ for himself. If he has sold any of his "stuff" he kept the $ to himself. IF I get a job, I plan to follow your path and start saving the 33% right away! Give your husband a huge hug and many kisses!

    What Rebecca said about seeing & being present for friends in this situation – Bravo! Invite them over for dinner – they will appreciate a balanced meal & save them money & provisions. If you're girlfriends, invite them to spend the weekend with you to REALLY get them out of the house. I spend the weekend with my best friend at least once a month – I'm so lucky to have her!

    To the Anonymous that was "laid off effective 12 /31 /08, I too am worried about the age factor. I will be 49 this year and will be competing in the IT field against much younger people. I am planning to go to the dermatologist to see if there are any non-surgical & not terribly expensive options to make my skin look a little younger. I will also go to my dentist and ask about teeth whitening. I plan to tell both of them about my situation & ask if they are willing to do pro-bono work that they can claim on their taxes! I may not get anywhere, but it doesn't hurt to ask. I am attending school (training really) because of a WIA scholarship! It's invaluable!

    To the unemployed AND employed, PLEASE call, write, or drop in on your senator, representative, and congress people! Tell them that you want the unemployment extension approved. I certainly am!

    I for one am planning to increase my taxes when/if I get a job, gladly! I know how important a balanced budget is, but are we as citizens of and the country of the United States of American willing to let 14.6 million of our own go without any monetary help in these times? The government felt that several companies were too big and important to let fail so they were "bailed" out. Am I chipped beef? Are the people here that told Meg how they are getting by chipped beef? Why on earth is it acceptable to basically say that 14.6 million U.S. citizens are NOT TOO BIG or are UNIMPORTANT ENOUGH; therefore, we CAN LET THEM FAIL??

    Yes, I am one of the 14.6 million unemployed. However, I'm 48 yrs. old and this is the first time I've been here and I plan to do anything & everything in my power to never be here again. Don't forget – I'm planning on increasing my taxes just to do my part when I become employed.

  29. Anonymous*

    I live in my family home, finished with college, no employer shows interest and I am losing hope with the useless label hanging on my head. This idea that it is paradise to be unemployed in the USA is nonsense! I've been applying to even very lowly minimum wage jobs but, like a catch 22, the liberal arts degree blocks even that.

  30. Anonymous*

    aside from savings, I just said screw looking for jobs and started working freelance for myself as a graphic designer, started selling custom items I build online, and occasional refurbished computers on ebay (people always leave perfectly good computers on the curb for garbage next door, all it needs usually is cleaning)
    and so far, I have not had to cut any costs, and actually have been making more than I did working for an employer, I got a new jeep this year.

    living after getting fired isn't difficult, you just have to come up with a (hopefully legal) way to make money

  31. Kara*

    I was terminated on December 10 and did not qualify for unemployment. I have no children (thank God) but no support either. All of my bills are my own, and I admit I am not the wisest of spenders.
    I was making decent money for me, but I guess some would look at it as chump change (30k) and that let me live how I wanted to, but did not really give me a cushion. I had zero savings.
    I sold random things on ebay… mostly movies, books, my Wii… everything that would sell that wasn’t necessary.
    I also used Christmas money on bills.
    Luckily for me, I got a FT job offer last week. It’s a huge drop from what I was making, but with a little wiggling, I can still pay my bills. I took it. I am still looking for a second job, but my future doesn’t hinge on it.
    As for the future? I had no idea.
    I briefly considered fleeing the country, stripping… both equally as ridiculous and unappealing.

  32. Dee*

    I just want to mention that I have always been told a savings covering 6 to 8 months of unemployment should be sufficient. Today that is not good enough. I am a single parent and caring for a ten year old and myself has now becom a struggle. When my child was born I stayed home with her for 10 months (living on savings). As I worked over the years to rebuild my cushion, my 13 month cushion ran out five months ago. I pinch pennies and we have given up so many things. Just remember with today’s economy it is smart to plan for an extended priod of time. We are still hanging in there but times are difficult. Just over prepare for worst case scenerio and if it never comes, you will be well prepare.

  33. Donna*

    You’ll all hate me for this, but I currently have a job and would love to get out. As in stop working altogether and pursue my non-money-making passions. Thus, I was hoping some of you might have advice on how to live without a job ON PURPOSE. But it seems that it’s a struggle and there’s no easy way out. Unless you find another way to make money, which I don’t want to do. It would be nice if all of the unemployed could live together as a community and become self-sufficient. Do their own farming, etc. Ignore all of society’s messages that ‘you have to have a job otherwise you’re useless.’ I beg to differ. There is no meaning doing stuff that has nothing to do with you. At least back in the old days, all the jobs made sense. Now all they make is dollars and cents. And that, my friends, is a huge tragedy.

    1. Cheri*

      You know, I kind feel like the barter system could replace the monetary system in this economy. If you want something you should be able to trade something or perform a service to acquire it.

  34. Mrs. E*

    My husband and I bought our first house in Jan. 2008. My husband lost his job in March 2008. He has not been able to find a job. Hi unemployment ran out after 99 weeks. I have been working as an instructional assistant and going to school to get my teaching degree with credentials. I have 6 more weeks until student teaching, but I can’t quit my job to student teach until my husband finds a job. We have been living on my small income, loans from school, and loans from family to get through the summers. We have cut our expenses to the bare minimum. No more direct TV, no more cell phones, or credit cards. We refinanced my car, cut back on insurance, and we go to the food bank. We eat a lot of spaghetti noodles. Sometimes with gravy. My husband is in construction, but I have applied for every job he can possibly do. There are no call backs. We are barely scraping by.

  35. Ms. Jack of all Trades*

    I am so glad that someone cared so much to even ask this question. I have been unemployed since 12/08 and have yet to find employment. I have two degrees; one in IT Networking & Security Management, the other in Healthcare Administration. Outside of the two degrees I’ve mentioned, my background also consist of data entry, clerical, call center, retail, warehouse, mortgage, insurance, etc.

    However, the only downside is the fact that I have many gaps in my employment history. Since 98 I’ve been going through temp agencies that promises the job would go permanent but unfortunately none of them did. I have never held a full-time job with an employer without it being temp. It wasn’t because I did not want to, it’s just that I went with whatever company called me first.

    I am a single mother of one and I have to say it is very hard living without a job. I am thankful that my daughter and I do have a roof over our heads thanks to my grandmother. Due to the unemployment I have had to find ways to bring in income; I started a small cupcake business in 2010 which is doing fairly ok. Everyone says I have the best cupcakes so i’m definitely working on trying to get it up and running full-time. I also cut grass, wash cars, clean houses along with other hands on job. It’s still not enough. I am 31 years old and never had my own place and I am trying my hardest to make a way for my daughter and I to see that dream come true.

    If anyone can provide feedback, advice or comments please do!!!!

    Have a blessed day!

    1. The Good Life :O*

      just want to say to Ms Jack. Been there. After 1st husband passed (two passed) I was single for 12 years. I realized that what I put into my children (ages 1,3, and 5) would be paid back for good or bad. My world circled around them with part, temp, and seasonal jobs filling in around family activities (when possible, like deliveries, real estate, and community college physics lab teching I took them with me) until marrying my beloved which my son introduced to me.
      Now, if you’ve read my post I’ve the circumstances to tell you I was right. Take care of your family first. Love people. Let other’s see the steadiness and integrity and the thoughtfulness which you bestow on your grandmother.
      And if your beloved doesn’t come along then you’ll still have your daughter, her love and thoughtfulness, and the contacts she brings into your life. I choose my life and my kids value my happiness. I’d add volunteer, read, experience art, music, theater, and joy with her. This will enlarge your world and allow you to understand and appreciate so many lifestyles.
      But keep you and yours safe at the fore front. I find my rule of thumb to this day is to behave as I would want my daughters to behave.
      Ps… In my other entry I speak of two children… the third is handicapped and living with her brother (my son). He’s very insistent and happy having her there. I’m Blessed :)

  36. The Good Life :O*

    Widowed from true love (seriously) in 2008 just as youngest left home. I was a very successful homemaker. Tried the live by self in apt life. Hip but lonely. Lived with successful son. Too condescending. Daughter – baby central. 2 years later no job in sight, no insurance, health problems from stress and savings (not counting retirement which I’m not old enough to access) almost gone. Lived with a bf for 1st time. Not my style. Now. Happily. I stay mostly in my prius :) I’m small enough to stretch out. My children see how happy I am so don’t give me grief. BF thinks I stay with my family. Friends enjoy the pretty patio I’ve set up on their back lot. Lounge chairs, picnic table, covered firepit and rechargeable battery candles. I shower when I babysit my grands several times a week. They love that I have soo much time for them. If I needed to I’d spend the money for a gym. I put black velcro around windows to attach tulle (recycled from ballerina skirt) and/or space blanket as needed for breeze or privacy. My car lights and alarm will shriek and flash if door is opened from outside. my windows are tinted. And humidity isn’t a problem when I need to close the widows for warmth as long as I cover my quilt with a space blanket. Very, very comfy :) As for my health…great. I I dance at no cover clubs, eat their buffets, have potlucks at public pools, walk the mall, read at libraries and book stores, stress relieved, calories limited to mostly organic gardens at 3 homes, bartering, and cheap meds. I spend about $400 a month including car insurance, gas, repairs. Lemon into lemonade. My beloved would laugh with me!

    1. Anonymous*

      I read your post and I am amazed. I think others sometimes don’t realize the hard places others are in. I don’t know your age, but I don’t know how you live in your car this long. I have a lot of respect for you. We take for granted so much, you seem to have great strength.

  37. Jillian*

    ok, everyone–a couple of KEY FACTORS that most do not even consider but needs to take place in order to get that 2nd wind and persevere:

    Yes, to you, you feel demoralized if you have had to move back with your parents, but at least you have that and you can focus on looking for jobs. Even if you have to sell your car, rent a one bedroom apartment…all those things, at the end of the day, you are doing what you need to do. After all, you can’t cry dollar bills to pay the rent, etc. So you have pick yourself up from wherever you have started and start over–every…single…day.

    Which translates to: forget feeling like a heel or a degenerate–you know you are not! you know in your heart of hearts that you are a steady and capable worker. No one really has to know the ‘details’ that has derailed your life. Why? because if you keep harping at it and talking about it, you end up wearing that ‘cloak’ and reiterating negative thoughts and attitudes. You end up digging a hole for yourself and well, how can you be positive in finding a job like that?

    Forget about what others may think or even that you are shocked that you have to make serious sacrifices. Just keep going and fake it til you make it–when you apply for a job or a job interview, pretend like that those losses are not even an issue and focus on your capabilities you have, how you have the tenacity and are stronger for those pitfalls and use it as positive energy to dig your way up and back to where you want to be.

    Sure this is how I’m roll. I think setting aside the overwhelming feelings [you can feel overwhelmed and balk at home for a while, but you need to let go after a while in order to not stay ‘stuck.’] Just keep in mind employers do not want to hear uncomfortable and hardship stories. They want to know how you can be the shining star at their company and pick up where you left off before you were laid off, etc.

    Good luck to all who have struggled and remember– there is probably someone else who has it worse than you.

  38. beth*

    I worked for almost 14 years,then got laid off when the company i worked for down sized,I drew UI for 3 years while i job searched for 3 years, in about 10 states and finally found a job with a cleaning company, I had the job for almost a year,then my boss went in drunk and got us all fired, I lived off my savings while looking for a job, I finaly had to move in with my family in november, I’am still job hunting I’am not going to stop looking till I find the job that I want.

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