Most of us spend a large portion of our lives working at jobs that provide income to support ourselves and our families and to invest back into God’s kingdom. Work is a normal yet significant part of our lifestyle.

Work is also dependent on factors outside of our control, yet they have a direct influence on the stability of our jobs. Sometimes these factors result in businesses being downsized or shut down, which inevitably leads to employees being laid off temporarily, or worse, losing their jobs. When this happens, a major disruption occurs in that person’s life.

So, you lost your job. Now what?

Here are some ideas to help adjust to this new situation.

Communicate with others

If you are married, of course, you will tell your spouse at the first opportunity, but unless distance prevents it, tell them in person. It’s always better to be face-to-face to break news like this, rather than using electronic means. Be prepared for their reaction as they hear this news for the first time.

Both of you will want to make immediate decisions, but most of them will be based on emotion, not wisdom. The best approach is agreeing not to decide anything in the moment, but take some time to settle down. Meet when both of you are rational and more relaxed to talk about how to deal with this sudden job loss.

Effective communication doesn’t end with this first meeting. Instead, schedule regular times to talk about your finances, so both of you are consistently on the same page. Things will change over time that differs from your initial discussion. You want to be in sync on how to handle each situation as it arises.

In your initial meeting, determine the following:

  • How much money do you have saved to help you get through this period of unemployment?
  • What is your actual income loss, as a percentage, if one of you is still working?

If your total income dropped 35%, then you need to spend 35% less! Once you know how much less you need to spend to avoid debt, evaluate all discretionary expenses. You will need to stop some immediately and not proceed with others. This may mean no more pizza take-out for Friday supper, or cancelling that getaway weekend coming up. The renovation scheduled for next month goes on hold. Your daughter’s dance lessons? Your son’s karate lessons? Tough ones, but every expense needs to be evaluated because paying for housing, food, and basic needs are the top priorities.

It might be a difficult discussion to have, but there is one objective to remember: do not spend more than your total income in this new environment. If you choose to use your savings to subsidize your income, you should evaluate if you have enough savings to last until you are employed again.

If you are single, the same principles apply, but find someone who will be willing to hold you accountable to sound financial management. Communication won’t directly pay the bills, but it will sure help to deal with them.

Set up an income/expense statement

Set up an income/expense statement, if you haven’t already. Whether it’s an electronic spreadsheet or pad of paper, list all your expenses. At the bottom, add an income line with total income.

Every time you purchase an item, add it to the corresponding line of your expense listing, so it deducts the same amount from your income. Do this daily. Every day! This will allow you to effectively track your expenses to see how much money remains for the month and when to stop spending.

Don’t have, don’t buy

Lastly, a few don’ts. Don’t use your credit card. And don’t use a line of credit when you don’t have the money to pay for what you want to purchase, thinking you will be able to pay it off soon. Soon never arrives, and now you are hopelessly in debt with no way to pay off the balances. This will result in unpleasant phone calls from collection agencies and financial institutions.

Follow this rule: “Don’t have, don’t buy.”

Reach out and trust

The loss of a job is more than financially unsettling – it can be mentally and emotionally challenging as well. Don’t keep it all to yourself. Talk to your spouse. Reach out to caring friends and relatives. Be open about what you are experiencing so they can listen and walk with you through this.

And trust in the Lord. He has been, is, and will always be faithful to you. Lean on that.

RICK VERKERK is Promise Keepers Canada’s Director of Conferences.

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