by Lisa Thompson
When you become unemployed or experience an unexpected decrease in your income, one of the first things that races into your head is “how am I going to pay my bills?” Even if you are eligible for unemployment benefits, it probably will not cover all your current expenses. It’s important to come up with a new financial game plan as soon as possible.
The best way to balance the financial uncertainly of unemployment and a weak economy is to figure out how much you spend on regular expenses and how much money you have available.
- Review your past bills – as far back as you can – for everyday things like mortgage or rent, health care, car payments and gas, groceries and supplies, insurance, utilities (electricity, gas, phone, water, trash pickup) and so on. Write down (or enter in a spreadsheet) how much you pay yearly for each item.
- Estimate how much you spend on life’s little luxuries like gourmet coffee, dining out, vacations, the latest gizmo, cable service, Internet access, entertainment (movies, music, DVDs, concerts, sporting events, games), snacks from vending machines or convenience stores, lottery tickets, and so on. Estimate high since you are unlikely to remember all the random impulse buys you make during the year.
- Write down how much you owe on each credit card you have. Also make note of the minimum monthly payment each card requires. This amount may fluctuate based on your balance.
- Look at your checking and savings accounts as well as any other “on hand” money you can access without penalties or fees. Then make a separate list of those accounts where you WOULD be charged for withdrawing money. These might include retirement accounts (such as a 401k or pension), savings bonds, or certificate of deposits.
Be as detailed as you can. You’ll feel more in control when you fully understand your current financial situation. You’ll also need these numbers for Your Income Decreased. Now what? – Part 2: Reduce your expenses, where you learn simple ways to shrink your expenses.