Surviving Unemployment

The first few days of being unemployed can be the most difficult. You may find that you wake in the morning with no agenda and without the pressure of the daily routine of work you may find getting motivated to get up and out of bed very difficult. You may find you eat irregularly, lack exercise and become lethargic as a result. None of this helps you to be proactive about surviving unemployment. You may accomplish very little at the end of the day and end up feeling terrible about yourself.

As time goes by the financial implications of being unemployed start to hit home and you may become anxious, stressed and even depressed as you struggle to cope with a much lower income than you are accustomed to. Your debts might start to mount, you may find yourself ignoring anything that resembles a bill and before you know it you are hiding from creditors and feeling more and more like you can't cope.

If you have children and a spouse you feel under pressure to provide them with a good standard of living and worry about the pressure they receive from their peers if they cannot keep up with the latest trends. While you are wondering how to stay afloat and pay the weekly food bill, your children may be worrying about how to get that latest pair of trainers that all their pals have got.

But there are things you can do to reduce all these problems so that you can survive unemployment.

So how do I survive unemployment?

The first thing you need to do is get your finances in order and make a budget that is realistic and that you stick to. You will need to enlist the family?s support with this one. There are also things you can do to raise funds for extra?s that are not part of that essentials only budget.

Action summary:

  1. Make an expense chart listing all your outgoings including any loans etc. Examine your spending to see what you can go without. Restrict your expenses list initially to essentials. When this is compiled check that list against your household income. If you have any surplus income then you can think about adding non-essentials. If you exceed your income see if you can trim back your expenses with careful spending. A sample expense/income chart is below:

  2. ExpensesHousehold Car/Travel Mortgage/Rent Loan Electricity Petrol Gas Service Water/Sewage Tax Phone/mobile MOT Cable/satellite/TV subscriptions Repairs Council Tax (UK) Insurance Food Bus/train Fare Cleaning materials etc Parking Contents insurance   Building insurance Non essentials Life insurance Subscriptions/magazines/newspapers Home loan Treats Debts Cigarettes/alcohol Credit card Dining Out Other Gifts Miscellaneous Hair Care Childcare Internet Medical expenses/dentist Recreation Glasses Savings Prescriptions Holidays Maintenance payment Clubs Taxes TOTAL Expenses00.00Clothing Income Pet costs Salary School fees Benefits TOTAL Expenses00.00Pension   Maintenance/other   TOTAL Income00.00
  3. Find out about any benefits you may be entitled to and sign up for assistance. There is nothing to gain about being 'too proud' about this. Do it as soon as possible as they are unlikely to backdate any claims and there may be delays in your claim being assessed.
  4. Deal with debt obligations that you acquired before you became unemployed.
  5. Notify creditors immediately of your change in circumstances. Do this before they contact you about non-payment. It is in their interests to help you manage your debts, as they want to continue receiving money from you even if the payment is greatly reduced. Contact them and ask them what they can do to help you reduce the debt payments to a manageable amount.

    If you do not inform creditors, there could be serious consequences. You may be billed for late charges, your credit rating can be affected and you may find certain services such as gas/electricity are turned off. Interest charges will continue to accumulate and you may find your debt is turned over to a collection agency and the last thing you want is the bailiff knocking at your door and taking your things away.

  6. Try to set aside money unexpected events.
  7. Do not start spending your retirement funds if you can avoid it.
  8. Identify emergency sources of aid incase you find yourself really struggling.

What can I do to cut back on my spending?

STOP paying for things with credit cards. Pay with cash or do not buy.


When food shopping, plan a weekly menu for the household and then make a list and buy only those things that you need. Avoid convenience stores, as they tend to charge more. If you can buy regular items in bulk and make savings over the month for doing so, that is a good cost cutter.

Do not shop for fun!

NEVER shop when you are hungry, eat before you go out. We always buy more food if we shop when hungry.

Be thrifty and check out the great bargains at garage and car boot sales and thrift stores. But if you do not need it then do not buy it.

At home

  • Turn the thermostat down- that?ll reduce your heating bill. Wear a woolly rather than turning on the heating when the temperature drops just slightly.
  • Turn off lights/TV/PC when not in use.
  • Dry clothes on the washing line rather than using a tumble dryer
  • Run the dishwasher and washing machine only when full
  • If you pay for your water, use bath water for watering the garden
  • Re-cycle useful items for your own use.
  • Make sure items such as soap and toothpaste are fully used before throwing away. Quite often these items go in the bin before they are completely finished.
  • Encourage your family to only put items of clothing in the wash that need washing.
  • Source free/inexpensive activities for the family to enjoy, mountain biking at a local park, walks, camping.
  • Avoid expensive entertainment such as cinema, rent a DVD instead.
  • Avoid eating in restaurants and buying take away food.
  • Eliminate low-value insurance (accidental death).
  • Find out about generic equivalents for your prescriptions.
  • Cut down on buying expensive gifts. Perhaps make something that is personal instead.
  • Have garage sales/car boot sale to raise extra cash
  • Consider what you can do from home to earn extra money.
  • Pay high interest rate credit cards first. See if you can transfer balances to one low interest card.
  • You could raise extra cash using the equity in you house but do so with caution and only if you are really desperate and can repay any extra increase in loan that this incurs.
  • Contact your creditors and ask for lower interest rates on your credit cards.
  • Set a budget and stick to it.

How I remain positive during this time?

Get out of the house

Do not bury your head in the sand embark immediately on a job search.

Have realistic expectations and understand that it may take some time to find another job. While you are searching, consider flexible, part-time jobs that leave you available for interviews and give you some income.

Embrace your cost cutting exercise as a challenge and remind yourself that it is temporary and that in time you will be back on track.

Do not feel guilty about enjoying some of this extra free time, pursue a hobby and strengthen relationships with your friends and family. Do some volunteer activities to keep your spirits high and remain motivated and useful.

What do I tell my children?

There is a tendency to want to protect children from having to go without. It is though a family problem and enlisting their support and tackling the problem as team more likely ensure their co-operation. Do not be afraid to say NO to their endless list of requests.

For more information on how to survive unemployment refer to our articles on stress and motivation.