The budgeting survival guide for the unemployed

Jul 5, 2013 at 7:00 a.m. ET

Have you recently lost your job? Maybe you've even been out of work for a while now. We're sharing money management tips for the unemployed.

Woman holding unemployed sign

Have you recently lost your job? Maybe you've even been out of work for a while now. We're sharing money management tips for the unemployed.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. unemployment rate currently sits right around 7.6 percent. In fact, most people will be affected by unemployment at some point in their lives, whether it happens to them directly or to a close family member, such as a spouse. Whether you're new to the unemployment world or you've been on the job hunt for quite some time, we're here to help. It can be tough living off little income (typically in the form of bimonthly unemployment checks), but it's possible — in fact, very possible.

Write down your monthly expenses

Start a spreadsheet and track each and every expense over the course of one month. It doesn't matter if you're paying cash, debit or credit — write it down. At the end of the month, add up all of your expenses to see firsthand where your money is going.

Separate wants from needs

Of everything that was spent, separate your fixed expenses (what went towards bills) from your variable expenses (what went towards miscellaneous items). Leave the fixed expenses alone for now, and take a good look at your variable expenses. Where can you cut back? Pick just one area to start with and go from there — maybe it's something as simple as purchasing generic items at the grocery store instead of brand name. Changing your habits in little ways adds up to huge savings over the long haul.

Take a look at your fixed expenses

Variable expenses are easier to change than fixed expenses, but are all of your fixed expenses really necessary? Think about it. Maybe your child takes expensive swim lessons that are offered for much less at a community pool. Maybe you're paying for a premium cable package that's hardly ever watched. Or maybe you're driving a gas-guzzling SUV when a cheaper, more fuel-efficient economy car would suit your needs just as well. Pick two items to reduce in your fixed expenses column.

Engage in free activities

Unfortunately, most unemployed individuals either wind up sitting at home all day or racking up credit card debt. Instead of trapping yourself in your home or overspending, get involved in your community and participate in free activities. Some ideas include:

  • Go on morning hikes or walks
  • Join a community sports league
  • Go camping on the weekends
  • Take the kids to splash pads instead of expensive water parks
  • Visit free museums and libraries
  • Workout daily

Continue with the job search

"Success doesn't come to you, you go to it." — Marva Collins

Searching for a job is your full-time job, so take it seriously. With the internet and social media, it's very easy to get distracted. Set a detailed, weekly schedule and motivate yourself to stick to it. Allow for breaks, lunches and time off. Utilize this time in your life to figure out your passions and rediscover your interests. Many universities offer free classes throughout the year. Take advantage of this and use your extra time off to further develop your skills. Be a go-getter, and find something to be thankful for each and every day.

More on budgeting

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Can you save for retirement if you don’t have a job?
How to live off of 50 percent of your income