I had a reader contact me recently. Her husband has lost his job due to cuts at his company. So many businesses especially the large ones are laying people off. Inflation has hit their bottom lines the same as it has hit all of ours as we try to maneuver through all of the price increases on everything.
My reader has a family of 4. They are in their early thirties, were middle income, and scrimped and saved for a number of years to build a down payment for their home. Their dream came true a little over a year and a 1/2 ago. They had a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home built. They landscaped it and had a very nice fence installed in their backyard because they have 2 young children.
They have been enjoying their home and were easily able to pay their mortgage of almost $3,000. a month including their property taxes. Until the Hubby went into work a week or so ago and was told he and 2,000 other people were being laid off due to economic conditions.
They are just devastated because they didn’t even see it coming. Now they are faced with what to do until he finds another job. She stays home with the children. They have slowly built an emergency fund since they purchased their home. Almost every bit of savings they had prior went to the down payment on their home. But that emergency savings won’t last long unless they make some cuts. And even then it won’t be easy.
They know with the economic downturn that it will not be easy to get a job that pays what he was making yearly. He has already started getting resumes out and has had one interview. In the meantime, he is looking for any job even part time to help pay their mortgage and basic expenses.
She specifically asked me “What would you do if your Hubby lost his job? What expenses would you cut?”
I will be honest that nothing like what has happened to her family has ever happened to us with the exception of Hubby only getting half pay when he didn’t have much sick time on a new job and became ill. But that only happened for a short period of time. But I will tell you when that happened we cut everything but our most basic expenses.
They are doing the right thing by looking for a job right away and also considering part time to get them through this time. I mentioned to her that she could do Door Dash or Instacart when Hubby is home to help out with the children. There are plenty of You Tube videos out there about how to do that. She is looking into that along with some other side hustles that she could do.
But let’s answer her question on what to cut. I would cut every expense that isn’t a basic one. Basics to me are shelter, basic food, insurances like medical, home and auto), a car and gasoline, utilities( electric, natural gas, propane, or oil, water and sewer, and trash pickup), internet and one cellphone. Since her Hubby is looking for a job, he needs his phone and the internet. But I would switch to a carrier like Mint Mobile instead of the higher cost one they have now. I would also check my homeowners and auto insurances to see if I could find a cheaper company. She says they are covered on medical and dental insurance for the next 90 days. Their co-pays are small. I would have everyone in the family go to the dentist and get cleanings and any work done that is needed.
I would cancel Cable TV, any home phone, and all streaming services that you pay for. You can get a Roku and get lots of free things to watch including You Tube. That will be your only source of entertainment during this time.
I would cancel any newspaper or magazine subscriptions( even online ones) that you pay for. Most libraries have these things. All other subscriptions like grocery and restaurant delivery services need to be cancelled. You can go to the store and buy your food and, in this situation, I would not pay to eat out whether that is coffee, fast food, or a restaurant meal.
Make your food at home from scratch using basic fruits, veggies, beans, rice, potatoes, and the correct portion of meat. Buy your food where you can get the cheapest prices. Drink water from the tap. Make your own bread using sourdough starter and rolls from scratch. If you have stockpiled food during this inflationary period, use it before you buy more. When you no longer have food, use the food banks. Use the store apps to get free food. Plant a few veggies now to help with future food.
Pick your appliance to cook your food in depending on how much energy they use. My natural gas stove becomes a decoration from May until October. Be mindful of how much energy you are consuming at all times.
Use up what paper products, household cleaners, and personal care products that you have especially if you have stockpiled. Many cleaners are much cheaper to make at home. The only paper that is a necessity is toilet paper and perhaps some printer paper.
Do your own yard work. Water only when really necessary. Count on the rain. Water your flowers or bushes using water that you have saved in the shower or sink when you are running it to get warm. Use a bucket to do that. In case you end up having to sell your home, you want to maintain it.
Hang your clothes to dry instead of using your dryer. Don’t use A/C except when it is brutally hot. They live in an area that has cold winters and not so humid or hot summers. If you do use it, set it to 78. If you are not on the budget plan for your energy bills, change to that until he gets a job. Keep all lights off in the daytime. Turn off computers and TV’s when not in use.
Pay your mortgage, homeowners and auto insurance, and medical insurance after paying for food. That is if you are really serious about keeping your home and health. You will have to decide what to do about your medical insurance when the 90 days are up. I would look into a Christian medical sharing plan.
Buy nothing unless it is an absolute necessity. Grow some food in containers. Every little bit helps. Pop tarts and cold cereal and snacks are not a necessity. Eggs, toast, oatmeal, homemade muffins, pancakes and waffles, homemade brownies and cupcakes will work and be cheaper. Meatless meals are cheaper than ones with meat. Eating out is not a necessity. Any form of entertainment that costs money is not a necessity. Get out the board games or cards or read a book. Buy no clothes or shoes unless the kids grow out of something. This time of year look for them at garage sales.
Use your car as little as possible to save on gasoline. Make good use of Gas Buddy to check gasoline prices in her area. Use any reward points that you can to help defray the cost.
If you have any gift cards just sitting in the house, now is the time to make good use of them for necessities.
I would let relatives know the situation and tell them you will not be exchanging gifts until things get better. I would turn down any birthday or other parties where you are expected to buy a gift.
I also told her to reread many of my posts because they will give her many ways to save money.
These tips are not only for losing a job but for anyone who has lost part of their income whether it be a spouse who is no longer working( cutting the income in 1/2) or just plain inflation that has radically upped your cost of living. Many seniors are doing a lot of these things so that they can afford to live on their fixed incomes. Many seniors in my area are only living on Social Security. That has always been difficult but with the high cost of everything, they are barely scraping by now so they have cut all wants out of their budgets. I have watched so many of them stop paying for prescriptions because they can’t afford them. These are dire times.
For an example, two seniors who retired with $2900 a month 20 years ago would need $4758. in today’s dollars to live with the same standard of living. Sure they have gotten miniscule raises except for this past year but most years they got way less because the cost of medicare went up every year or a just tiny raise. It is very difficult to live on SS as your main source of income. If you are getting close to thinking about retirement, make sure that you account for inflation in the future years by saving a large nest egg or you will be in a not so fun situation. Inflation is rampant these days and our government is fudging the inflation figures( just got look the numbers the government puts out each month and then go back and look at the prior months and you will see that they quietly change them). We all know what the real figures are because we do the shopping. Some prices are coming down but most are still rising. I was hoping things would straighten out this year but I think things are going to get worse this year and next. I don’t see an end in sight. I majored in accounting in college years ago and have been tracking these things. Just my opinion, the picture isn’t pretty.
So these tips are what I would do. I hope they are helpful to her. I also pray that her Hubby will get a good job soon and that they won’t lose their home. But if they need to sell it, sooner is better than later. Right now in her area, the prices people are selling their homes for are quite high and selling quickly.
Anybody want to add to this in the comments feel free. She can use all the advice she can get.