Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Preparing For Job Loss

I mentioned yesterday that I'd be sharing a couple posts about how we survived our second major unemployment period and what we've learned from the experiences.

We knew Mr M's job was not super secure- it's a fact of life in his line of work. Every year we face the question "will the money be there, or will people get laid off?" This past summer as that time drew near, everything felt more uncertain than it had in the past, so it wasn't a surprise when he did indeed get laid off.

Backing up a bit, though, there are some things we did beforehand (even before we really started worrying about him losing his job) that really helped us reduce our expenses when Mr M got laid off. Being prepared made the whole experience a little easier.


When Mr M returned from his last deployment, we had to choose which health insurance we wanted. Our options were a plan through his civilian company or Tricare through his guard unit. After comparing monthly premiums, deductibles, co-pays, cost shares, and so on, we decided to stick with Tricare. It's not wonderful, but it was cheaper than the other plan we were looking at, and we've been with Tricare off and on for most of our marriage and we know what to expect. Choosing Tricare meant that when Mr M was laid off by his civilian company we didn't have to scramble to find new coverage or pay out the nose for COBRA insurance. And when we unexpectedly got pregnant a couple months later, health insurance was not a concern since we still had our Tricare coverage.

----> obviously we're blessed that we had as many insurance choices as we did in the first place, but it also highlights the effect our financial decisions can have, even down the road a year or two.


At the beginning of last summer I bought Sunshine's school books and the art supplies for a year's worth of art projects. This meant I didn't have to worry about buying them later on when our budget was a lot tighter.

Last summer I posted about decluttering and downsizing because we'd applied for an overseas job. We'd applied for the job since we knew Mr M's current job wasn't that secure, and the process started us decluttering, downsizing, and evaluating what we really needed. At the end of the summer we held a huge yard sale and sold a bunch of furniture and stuff that we just didn't need.

As part of the process, I also sorted all our clothing at the end of summer. I figured out what each child needed for fall/winter and purchased those items (luckily we had enough hand-me-downs that it we only needed to buy a few things). I also took some extra baby clothes to the consignment store and now we have store credit there for when we need a few things. Not having to buy clothes for 6 months was a huge budget saver.

----> knowing what we had and where it was kept us from buying items we already had, and selling what we didn't need brought in a little extra cash. Planning the kiddos' wardrobe ahead of time allowed me the leeway to find what we needed at good prices ($6 each for 2 pairs of jeans at Gymboree for Sunshine!)


We didn't cut out all of Sunshine's classes, but we did pay for the ones she took up front, since I knew we had the money at the beginning of the semester, but might not later on (we have the option of paying in installments). We continued her fiddle lessons and Irish music and dance classes, but skipped the expensive nature class (though we still hope to enroll her in it again in the near future).

We re-evaluated our budget in general as well as our food budget specifically and I made a concerted effort to change some of our shopping habits. I tend to overbuy our food so we always have a reserve, which is fine when we can afford to do so, but not good for the budget when the money is no longer available. On the other hand, that reserve sure came in handy and helped us lower our overall food expenses as we ate what was in the freezer and pantry.

I also tend to overbuy certain household items like cleaners (Amazon Subscribe and Save makes it too easy!) so we had plenty of laundry and dishwasher detergent stored as well. But I noticed there are some items we didn't have enough stored: namely ziplock baggies and trash bags.We also kept running out of toilet paper and diapers, though I did have stocks of those, just not enough. We don't use paper towels, and haven't since we switched to cloth years ago, so at least we didn't have to worry about constantly replacing those.

Our budget in general is already pretty streamlined, so there wasn't a lot of things we needed to eliminate from it. We don't have cable/satellite or a home phone, we don't drink coffee (expensive or otherwise), and we don't eat out on a regular basis, so all the "typical" cut-back areas in a budget aren't an issue for us. We could probably lower our cell phone bill a little, but I don't think it would be by much. I did cancel our monthly Amazon Subscribe and Save shipments since we were focusing on using what we had.

We also made the decision to sell some assets, namely our truck and travel trailer. This could have been a very difficult decision, but was actually an easy decision, since we'd already made the decision back at the beginning of the year with the intent of eventually buying an RV. While we still plan to buy an RV, the timeline for that has been pushed back. In the end, the trailer was sold just before Mr M was laid off, and we used the proceeds to pay off the truck loan and put the rest in savings. Eliminating the truck payment and having that savings cushion went a long way towards keeping me from stressing out when Mr M did indeed get laid off soon after that.

Eventually the money in savings went to pay bills and when we finally sold the truck in December it was a relief. We had enough money to buy a much more fuel efficient car (with cash) and still had some leftover for bills. Having a more fuel efficient car has also significantly lowered our gas budget since we're spending so much less and going so much further.

Even though we had started getting quotes to re-do our kitchen, we put that on hold since we knew it wasn't practical to spend money we didn't have, even if it would add value to our house. I also cut back on my projects and tried to focus on things that were free or inexpensive.

----> having items stored for future use eases a tight budget. Being willing to cut back and change spending habits can be hard, but it can also save money. Being willing to sell assets can be even more difficult, but can save money as well as bring in money.


We still try to have fun, despite being on a limited budget, so we went ahead with two trips that had been planned before Mr M got laid off. I will admit that the only reason we were able to do so was that we'd already paid for the majority of the expenses for both trips, so we didn't have to spend too much more money when we actually went.

We had already paid our entrance and hotel fees for our Colonial Williamsburg trip, so we only had to pay for gas and food. Our food issues have made us good at planning ahead and eating as inexpensively as possible, even when staying in a hotel.

We had also already paid for our rental cabin and my half marathon entrance fee, so when we went to Tennessee we again only had to pay for gas and food. Since we stayed in a cabin with a full kitchen we brought most of our food and cooked it there and had only minimal food expenses for that trip.

After those trips were finished we didn't go anywhere expensive, but we still tried to do fun things as a family focusing on things that involved little to no money.

----> even when life is difficult it's important to stop and smell the roses. If we're just enduring, we're not enjoying. Which brings up tomorrow's topic: finding the silver lining in unemployment. Yes, there really can be one!

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