If you are one of the many government workers who has been laid off, might be laid off, or has had your hours slashed, you need to be thinking of a new plan, pronto. The U.S. economy added 741,000 jobs between September 2012 and January 1, 2013. The CBO estimate of jobs that will be lost due to sequestration is 750,000. That means you’re going to have a lot of company in the unemployment line.
If you have been laid off, contact your state’s unemployment office immediately and file a claim. These generally take weeks to be approved and, now that the sequester is in effect, could take even longer. This should be your first call. Even if the unemployment insurance payments are slashed as expected —the 2 million Americans currently receiving federal unemployment benefits will see their checks slashed by about 10% at month’s end— this money can be a safety net as you search for other options. The average unemployment payment is $300 a week. You’ve been paying in to unemployment all this time through your income taxes; use it.
Finding a New or Stop-Gap Job
Start job-hunting immediately. If you have been laid off, prepare yourself for the long haul, as the average duration of unemployment is 33.6 weeks, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you’ve just had your hours cut, register with temporary agencies or even a local tutoring company to find some part-time work. Even better, see if you can sell your expertise on a per-project basis.
If you haven’t updated your resume in a while, try to get in at a career center —which can often be found at the local library or a faith-based organization— to have your resume polished and get tips on writing the most effective cover letters.
Don’t count on your local unemployment department to be the answer to your job-seeking questions. Millions of dollars are being cut from job-search assistance programs, and another $15 million in federal funds for reemployment and assessment services will also be slashed.
Quick Tips for Slashing Your Budget & Supplementing Your Income
There are also some quick things you can do to slash or prop up your personal budget.
- If you belong to a gym, consider letting your membership lapse (or pay a small fee to keep it alive without being an active member), and run laps around your local school’s track, instead.
- Stop eating in restaurants; eating meals you have cooked at home is not only cost-effective, but generally a healthier option. For example, you can roast a chicken in two hours with just a roasting pan and rack, some cooking oil and salt and pepper; it will last for two meals and you can boil the carcass to make homemade chicken broth for other recipes.
- Bake your own bread.
- Join Freecycle. If your local community takes part in this trading network, you can often post a request for “wanted” items and someone will give it to you for free.
- If you’re looking for some extra cash and have the time, sell your excess stuff on eBay (particularly if you have lots of clothes that no longer fit).
- Contact your local schools and register as a tutor, if you have aptitude in a certain subject.
- Sell your unused gift cards for cash.
- If your car bill has gotten the better of you, call your loan holder and ask if you can take a deferment. This can postpone your auto payments for 30-90 days, depending on who holds your loan.
- Consider an income-based repayment plan for your enormous student loan.
- Cancel your cable TV and instead look into Netflix streaming or Hulu Plus.
- Make a game of how much of the food in your house you can use before you go to the grocery store.
- You might be tempted to pull your kids out of day care while you’re not working, but this could cause problems once you go back to work. Instead, talk to your child-care provider about cutting their hours by a couple of half-days each week. Of course, if your kids are home and they’re like mine, they will spend this extra time pestering you for something to eat. Don’t expect to get a lot of quality work done when they’re home.
- Move your social activities to your home. For example, having a beer at home is a lot less expensive than hitting the bars.
Other than that, just stay positive, hug your family, and get to work on getting back to work!