What can you actively do when your spouse, possibly the major income earner, has lost a job? Take two major steps at home: Cut spending at home, and keep your family healthy.
1. Cut Spending at Home
Estimate monthly bills.
- Pull out the last three months’ utility bills and record how much they cost each month. Add mortgage or rent and insurance onto this. Use an excel spreadsheet, if possible.
Estimate other monthly expenses.
- Record grocery, gas and auto, entertainment, household, medical, pet, clothing and miscellaneous expenses. Find these expenses through recent credit card statements, bank record of ATM purchases, and receipts. If you use cash, record the cash you withdraw and estimate where it is used.
Cut out restaurants, movies, soda, alcohol, delivered pizza, snack foods, candy and clothing. Ask yourself: “Is this essential for family health or can I put it on a wish list for when we are employed?”
Search for lower prices: Buy bulk instead of singles; use coupons; check the dollar store (some have grocery sections, and paper and cleaning supplies).
Credit cards with high balances?
- Freeze them in ice,
- cut them up, or
- cancel them at the bank.
Frozen, you have time to reconsider a purchase; cut up, they can’t be used; and cancelled, you reduce your liability should you need to talk to your bank about a loan.
Determine a new budget. Utilities and rent/mortgage are fairly static (though unplugging cords, turning off unused lights, and air-drying clothes help). What can you afford to spend on groceries, clothing, and car expenses? $1200 a month is doable for a family of four.[i] $800 a month is even possible with creativity.
If you have space in your budget, add back in a few inexpensive treats.
- One bottle of low-cost wine for Friday night
- Frozen pizza one night, instead of take out
- Search for a “kids eat free” night at local restaurants
These treats make it less likely that you’ll blow your budget due to frustration.
2. Keep Family Healthy
Don’t cut spending by eating fast food. It will cost you more in the long run in low energy, weight gain, and medicine.
Cut out junk food – it costs money and fills the family up with empty calories. If this habit is a hard one to break, purchase good quality chocolate (the more cacao, the better) and eat a single square, slowly, as a treat.
Cut out prepackaged dinners (boxed macaroni and cheese, frozen dinners, ravioli in a can, or packaged muffins), and cook fresh and basic:
- Dry noodles, cooked, with tomato sauce and spices from your cupboard
- Small portions of meat, chicken or pork purchased on sale
- Homemade muffins, made with whole wheat flour, fills a tummy for longer than refined flour or purchased muffins
- Cut up large carrots (not prepackaged small ones) and celery, serve with ranch dressing for dip
Choose vegetables that pack a vitamin punch.
- Fresh or frozen over canned
- Bright colors over all one color (more variety of vitamins)
- In-season local versus out-of-season shipped
Cereal – choose lower sodium, minimal sugar (glucose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup), whole wheat versus refined, fewer preservatives, no added color. Cost? Look for sales: less than one cent per gram for value (400g box should be less than $4.00). Oatmeal is one of the best cereals for cost and health. Add a cut up pear and a bit of brown sugar to cooked oatmeal.
Many additions exist to these lists. What can you add?
Check out next week's posting - part 3 to: Your Spouse Lost a Job - How to Cope.
[i][i] Car expenses include gas, but not insurance and registration