When my husband and I got married, we were ready for anything and everything life could throw at us.
Pets? No problem! House training, shmouse training.
Kids? Pfft, we got this. Let’s make a whole soccer team!
Job loss? Wait… what? Was that in the vows somewhere?
The crazy thing is that we both look back on that job loss as one of the best things that ever happened to US. Sure, we drained our emergency fund. We collected unemployment. We prayed. A LOT. But through it all, we truly found ourselves as a couple, and we learned how to lean in to our marriage.
That doesn’t mean that it was easy. We had tons of #adulting moments peppered with complete panic.
The experience taught us how to relate to one another in times of uncertainty, how to functionally deal with frustration, and perhaps most of all, how to navigate life with compassion and humility. It’s incredibly easy to enjoy one another without financial worries, but it’s quite another thing to cultivate romance with PB&J picnic dates and impending credit card debt. When there isn’t a certain financial future, things get real. Pretty darn fast.
Let’s be honest here. Losing a job is more than money. It represents loss of an identity, a source of pride, a sense of “normal.” It represents an uncertain future, which is super stressful on every level. On top of that, it’s hard to know how to plan for what’s next, because many job losses last for several months. Yes, MONTHS.
I’m not attempting to sidestep those crappy parts, but I also don’t want to portray job loss as an entirely powerless situation. There is a ton you can do as you wait for that amazing job to emerge to take care of yourself, your family, and your marriage. It’s 100% OK to be scared, angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed – perhaps in the same moment. Regaining that sense of “normal” can circumvent the noise and keep you sane.
Here’s my “Go To” list:
Beef up your resumes (intentionally plural.) Revamp both of your resumes – perhaps even rethink your career path. Are your job options stronger than his right now? Could you work and have the hubs stay home? This is a golden opportunity to change things up. Here’s a handy calculator to focus on balancing finances to gauge feasibility of one parent staying home. Get started on that cover letter , creating one for each different job.
Make sure you are covered – insurance. While many employers offer COBRA coverage, the rates are often high. The monthly rate for our COBRA was ridiculous, but we went along with it since it offered the best coverage. Although I was thankful for the option, it completely wiped out our rainy day fund. You may look into for Marketplace insurance options, CoverTN or TennCare.
File for unemployment. I know, I know. This is the not-so-glamorous part, but if you qualify, unemployment can be helpful to provide at least some income while you search for another job. Monster.com created a very handy timeline of the process of job hunting – it’s suprisingly longer than you think, so unemployment can truly help.
Become the Coupon Queen. You’ve always wanted to be a Queen, right? I learned how to get great deals by finding out when markdowns happen, when items go on clearance, and maximizing every penny. Likewise, it’s time to adjust spending. Get a free budgeting app (e.g., Mint, Goodbudget, Every Dollar) to help you. Other ideas to help:
- Downsize or eliminate cable. My kids loved PBS just as much as Mickey Mouse. With some creative “Mickey is taking a night night” excuses, they forgot all about their more pricey shows.
- Hair don’t. If you’re like me, getting your hair done is a big expense. Although I felt like it was cheating, I talked to my stylist and got tips on do-it-yourself color, which saved me a bundle until we were back on our feet.
- Work on a smaller grocery bill. There are many apps/websites for money saving (e.g., Target Cartwheel, Ibotta, Retailmenot, Hip2Save, TheKrazyCouponLady.) I bought what I could in bulk when it was on sale. And I learned where the discount aisles were in all major stores (truth be told, I STILL do all of these and it is oddly fun).
- Check out school options. You LOVE your child’s school. We did, too…but the kids’ private school was a big expense for us. Although some private schools have options for assistance, the uncertainty of how long the job loss might last prompted us to rule out that altogether. We switched to homeschooling, which has worked fabulously for our family. Public school is also a great alternative.
- Limit dining out to “Kids Eat Free” places. This can save you a ton, trust me. If one of you is still working outside the home, packing lunch is a big money saver.
- Find the local free activities – we loved the free Memphis Zoo (Tues afternoon, TN residents), Lichterman Nature Center (Tues 1 til closing), parks, and kid friendly activities in town. Another fun option is to connect with other moms in the area via our local community groups.
Seize every opportunity for the job seeker. Check out the Career Centers for your alma maters; you might qualify to use them as an alum. Find professional groups for your career fields (or where you aim to find employment) and join. Better yet, start attending meetings to network. Focus on personal branding to refine your online presence. Most of all, keep your eyes open for both short and long term opportunities – the job my husband took “until he could find another one” turned into the real deal. He’s still there and loves it.
Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. He might not experience the stress in the same way that you do, particularly if he is the sole breadwinner. It’s not abnormal for him to experience anxiety or depression during this time. He might feel like he let his family down. He might sleep much more (or much less) – either of which can be hard on you. His eating habits might shift. Your relationship might change. Lean in, even though it might be tough.
You both might look back on it as one of the best things that happened to you.