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Dealing with an unexpected job loss

Life moves. And sometimes, just when you think you have it all under control — hello, curveball!

Managing finances can be tricky during normal times. It gets downright frightening during periods of unemployment. Emergency savings can help ease the stress, but with each withdrawal made to cover expenses, that cushion gets smaller.

This is a time when every penny counts and having a plan helps you maintain control. When dealing with unexpected unemployment, follow these steps:

  • Don’t panic!
  • Make (or refine) your budget
  • Save what you can
  • Take advantage of unemployment resources
  • Explore opportunities
  • Ask for help with next steps
  • Be patient with yourself

Don’t panic!

Losing a job may throw you into a bit of a tailspin, especially when it’s unexpected. Take a few deep breaths and keep your chin up.

Work up a plan to keep moving forward, and then work on that plan every day to keep yourself heading in the right direction.

Make your budget

When you’re between jobs, saving money is key. But it’s hard to know where you can save money if you don’t know where you’re spending it. A budget helps outline all your expenses. That way, you can decide what absolutely needs to be paid and where you can cut back.

As you prioritize the expenses in your budget, focus on the things you need to survive — food, utilities, shelter, and transportation. Eliminate anything that isn’t a need right now. Once eliminated, you’ll begin to see what your baseline budget looks like.

Finding places to save money is crucial, but it’s also important to know where NOT to cut. Avoid cutting money from healthcare, insurance premiums, and minimum payments. If you were working toward paying down debt, consider making only the minimum payment during this time.

If you don’t have any income right now, start with the amount of money you do have. If you’re receiving unemployment, be sure to include your benefits as income. This will help you when planning out your monthly bills.

Numerica’s Budget Workbook is an option to lay out your income and expenses.

Numerica Budget Workbook

Save what you can

Once you make a budget, review your finances, and find places to cut back — save any extra money you find!

Numerica’s Bonus Saver is a great way to separate your saving and spending money. Plus, designating an account for savings helps keep you from spending money you originally planned to save.

Take advantage of unemployment resources

Depending on which state you live in, the qualification criteria for unemployment may vary. If you have received a severance package, your benefits likely won’t start until after your last paycheck.

However, it’s important to apply for unemployment benefits sooner rather than later. You may have many options when it comes to applying for unemployment benefits, whether it’s online, over the phone, or by mail.

The unemployment offices in your state will require extensive documentation to determine your eligibility. They may look at employment history from the past 12-18 months, including gross pay amounts, outside income, and other personal information. Speed up the process by making sure you have everything ready before you apply.

Job retraining

If your job loss is long-term or permanent, your state may help you train for a different line of work. For example, Washington state offers a program called Worker Retraining, which pays tuition to train workers who receive or are eligible for unemployment benefits.

Information about programs in your state are available through the office where you draw unemployment benefits.

Federal, state, and community resources

Unemployment benefits and job retraining are just the beginning. Whether you’re in greater Spokane, Wenatchee Valley, North Idaho, or the Tri-Cities, check for additional resources available to meet many types of needs:

  • Shelter/housing
  • Food
  • School lunches
  • Childcare
  • Transportation
  • Utility/power

Programs like these exist for times like these. Be sure to connect with the resources available to you. 

Explore opportunities

In addition to tapping into the unemployment resources available to you, it’s also a good time to explore opportunities available to make money or look for that next job.

Look for other sources of income

If you need to take a lower-paying job or part-time jobs to make ends meet — do it. You may also earn money by selling unused items on eBay or Facebook Marketplace. At this point, earning some money is better than earning none at all.


Talk with family, friends, former co-workers, and people working in fields you’re interested in. They may know of current job openings or be willing to act as a reference when you apply for another job. Connecting with people on LinkedIn is another good way to find opportunities that fit your skillset.

Update your resume and begin a job search

Make sure your resume reflects your current skills and your past and current duties. You can look for a job through your network, local temp agencies, job fairs, classified ads, and online job search engines. Job searching takes time, so be patient and don’t lose hope.

Tap your emergency fund

Everyone needs an emergency fund, and a sudden decrease in income is a good reason why. Remember, these funds are to be used for emergencies, not to maintain a standard of living. Food, housing, medical insurance, or new brakes for your car qualify as emergency expenses.

Ask for help with next steps

OK, so you’ve refined your budget, explored resources, and still feel unsure of what to do next. This is totally understandable. You’re probably finding yourself in uncharted territory. That can feel overwhelming to anyone.

There is no shame in asking for help when you need it — and sooner is better than later.

One of the best things you can do if you’ve lost your job is contact your financial institution or the institutions that service your loans. You can always give us a call at 800.433.1837.

At Numerica, our money experts are always ready to help. We can answer questions and connect you with our partners like GreenPath. GreenPath provides free, personalized counseling to help you find solutions after a financial crisis. Numerica members receive one-on-one access to money management, budget, and debt counseling advice. Call a GreenPath counselor today at 855.400.3710 to get the ball rolling.

Whatever you do, don't stop opening bills! Ignoring them will not make them go away. It will only make it harder to get back on your feet once you’re back in the workforce.

Be patient with yourself

Life moves — sometimes up, sometimes down. Don’t let circumstances outside your control affect your self-confidence or feelings of self-worth. All of us will likely experience some level of hardship in our lifetime, and it’s important to know you’re not in this alone.

Stick to your plan, and stay on track. When your next opportunity starts knocking, you will be ready.

Today's Rates

June 22, 2024