Nobody plans to be suddenly let go from a job, but, unfortunately, it happens more often than you would like to think. That sinking feeling of not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from or how you are going to pay your bills may feel overwhelming at first, but it does not have to be.
With some careful planning, you can usually stay financially afloat during your time of unemployment and be ready to get right back on your feet when you find work again. The most important thing to remember is that you need to be active and involved each step of the way.
Overhauling your budget
Your first plan of action is to stop all unnecessary spending. Take a look at your records of expenditures from the last few months and separate them into categories of "needs" and "wants." You may even be surprised when you realize what you can do without. For most households, typical "wants" to stop spending on include eating out, going to the movies or other entertainment, buying clothes and going on vacations.
Don't stop there, but take a look at your "needs" and consider whether you can cut back on any of those for a while. For example, you could cut your cell plan to the bare bones and switch to basic cable and Internet instead of the package with all the sports channels. Reduce grocery expenses by purchasing store brand instead of name brand foods and cut your utility bills by using your furnace or air conditioner less and turning off lights when you leave rooms.
Applying for unemployment benefits
You are probably eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Benefits usually range from 25% to 50% of your average weekly pay, depending on what state you live in and your prior income level. You need to apply for these benefits right away because they are not retroactive, and you will not start getting checks until you apply.
Don't let the paperwork scare you away. Spend your first day of unemployment on getting your benefits setup. Start at the state unemployment office website and don't be afraid to call if you are not sure what you need to do. It may take a large chunk of your day, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing at the end of the day that you accomplished something important for your personal finances.
Maintaining your personal and mental health
The financial stresses of unemployment may not even be your main challenge. Take care of your physical and mental health as well so you stay upbeat and keep moving forward with your life. Maintain a schedule of job hunting on weekdays and participating in activities you enjoy during non-work hours. Even just going to the gym or heading out for a walk around the neighborhood every day can make a big difference. Continue surrounding yourself with friends and family, too, and don't be afraid to talk about your struggles with them.