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How to Survive When You Cannot Work


Are you currently without a job, or are you physically unable to go outside your home and work? I recently received a few emails from readers in this situation. For whatever reason (they did not want me to list the details), they were left jobless and unable to work outside of their homes.

Imagine yourself in this situation. You have all of your current expenses (house, car, food, clothing, utilities, etc), but all of the sudden you’re left without an income. Sure, you might find some odd jobs that help, but ultimately your savings are going to get eaten up! So, what are your options when you’re not able to work outside of your home?

Step 1: Reduce Your Expenses

Now, let’s get one thing straight. When I say, “reduce your expenses”, I’m not talking about eating off brand groceries and saving $50 a month. If you aren’t able to work and have no prospect of earning your regular income in the near future, your entire lifestyle needs to change!

If I were in this situation, the first thing I would do is sell my house. It’s my largest asset and really, I can find other housing that’s cheaper. Many people are starting to rent out rooms for only $200 month. This is much better than paying $1,000 to your bank each month for that mortgage.

Next, I would most likely get rid of my vehicle. If I needed to get anywhere, I could always take the bus or ride my bike. This will reduce my expenses greatly because I no longer have to pay for gas, insurance, or the vehicle maintenance!

If there were other items that I really didn’t need (baseball cards, speakers, paintings, extra televisions….), I’d put those up for sale as well. Craigslist and eBay are great tools to make some money on stuff like that.

The last method of reducing expenses would be to watch what I’m eating. No more going out to eat, even to McDonalds or Burger King. It’s too expensive compared to how cheaply I could eat from the grocery store.

Step 2: You Need to Create an Income Somehow

No matter how low your expenses are, if you don’t have an income you will ultimately run out of money!

Given your situation though, a regular job at the office or manufacturing plant is simply not an option, so how can you possibly earn an income if you can’t work outside of the home?

Online Income

I bet you knew this one was coming, but it’s true! Before I started my website, I had no idea how many options were available online! I’m not talking about taking online surveys or spamming social networks either. I’m talking about a legitimate, consistent income.

There is a huge rise in the need for web assistants. For most openings, you don’t need to know code or much about building a website. The owners of the site just want some relief from the tedious tasks day to day. Your duties might include: checking email, filtering spam comments, researching for ad income, promoting the site on other online forums, and putting up the daily posts. It’s all quite simple, and you can do it from the comfort of your own home.

Off-line Income

Let’s say you’re not computer literate, I bet there are still plenty of off-line money-making opportunities. Just think about what you do with your spare time: Do you knit? Do enjoy drawing or painting? Maybe you love playing video games! All of these things could earn a consistent income! You could sell the items you knit, sell the sketches and paintings you crafted, and as for video games – you could be a video game tester to make sure there aren’t any bugs before the official release!

Perhaps you don’t believe that you could earn an income with your hobby. Well here’s a real-life story about a man at my work.

Bob used to work on the shop floor, putting together parts on a line. He seemed quite healthy, but then it happened; a stroke. He battled back as best he could, but his right arm lay limp. He would never be able to use it again.

Because Bob lost the use of his arm (this was his dominant arm by the way), he could no longer work. Rather than mope around at home, he decided to get back into the hobby he once loved; wood burning.

He started out incredibly shaky since he never used his left hand to craft his masterpiece. In time though, Bob learned to create beautiful works of art like never before!

Today, Bob has orders nearly a year in advance for his artwork! He is incredibly happy and no longer needs to work in the factory.

Low Expenses + Consistent Income = Survival

If you ever find yourself in this situation, get creative and think outside the box. With a little thought, your expenses could easily be lower than $1,000 a month, and your income could rise to nearly what you were making at your regular job – you might even make more!

What would you do if you found yourself in this situation? Do you think you would survive?



My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. Great article, you really put your heart into it. You never know what is around the corner. Making sure you are debt free with a hefty emergency fund will buy you some time to get your bearings in an event like this. Larger families have a more difficult time finding affordable housing, and qualifying for another when you are disabled cab be difficult. My house payment, for example, is much lower than any apartment rental within 50 miles. The cushion of time an emergency fund buys is really important when making big decisions like selling your home.

    • Thanks for the comment Brenda and I’m glad you liked the article! I really did put quite a lot of thought into devising a ‘proper’ plan. You are right about the emergency fund. Without it, all of my advice would be worthless. It’s definitely an important thing to have.

    • I agree Brenda. You can never go wrong with an emergency fund–but you can always go wrong without one. It is amazing how many good deals you can find if you are willing to take time and look. Cutting expenses isn’t as daunting as many make it out to be.

      • Cutting expenses and getting rid of old crap is kind of envigorating! It makes you realize how little you really need in order to live. 🙂 Believe me, I’ve done it once.

  2. Brenda does make a good point about the emergency fund. The fiscal discipline to have a fund and to work on paying off debt is an important skill to have before calamity strikes. I have adequate disability insurance but need to get some debt paid off.

    • I agree. An ER fund and having no debt is huge in preparation for a disaster like this. For us, we could make it work but at the moment it would be tight. We have a bit more saving to do. At least we have some good habits though like cooking at home, growing our own food, carpooling etc. All of those things save money.

      • What about when that Emergency fund runs out though? It’s important to have multiple incomes to avoid draining this account in a few short months. Often times, a new job cannot be found until a year later! It sounds like you have other good habits though – like cooking at home, growing your food, and carpooling. Kudos!

  3. I gotta admit this is one of my big fears and one of my big motivations to reach financial independence. Like above commenters have said the emergency fund is your first line of defense against jobloss or disability. If it is a disability that does not allow you to work you should apply to begin recieving social security. Also, if it is a big fear then some of this can be alleviated by purchasing a short term or long term disability insurance policy (this must have been done before the disability). And of course like Derek stated you absolutely MUST cut your expenses. Thanks for touching on this topic.

    • Yep. With today’s economy, who knows? Maybe I could lose my job tomorrow! It’s good to think about these terrible events sometimes, just to make sure we’re prepared. 🙂

  4. I don’t think getting rid of the car is for everyone. If you have payment, then I’d say sell it and get a cheap car that you can pay cash for. Some people really need a car to go to the grocery store and such. Also, if worse come to worse, you can live in your car for a bit. It’s better than being on the street.

    • If you live in the country and can’t get a ride on a bus or ride your bike, then yes, of course you should keep your car. I think I would rather rent a cheap room and survive without a car than to not be able to pay the mortgage, lose my house and my savings, and then live in my car.

  5. I think this is a great plan. Another precaution that my wife and I have to prevent this from happening is the ability to ALMOST maintain our living on one of our paychecks. It hasn’t always been this way, but we are lucky now. We have also built up an emergency fund, but I realize we have been lucky.

    • Living life frugally is a great way to avoid financial devistation! Kudos to you and your wife for deciding to do this!

  6. 9 months in and I’m surviving! We reduced our expenses and I found some income freelancing, so we’re surviving. It’s time to take it to the next level and become a full time entrepreneur.

    • 9 months!? That’s crazy! It’s actually pretty awesome that you’re surviving with entrepreneurial tactics. Good luck on increasing the revenue! 🙂 I would love to hear your story.

  7. Great real world scenario tips on cutting expenses. If it did happen, you have to stay positive and creative. When I was in between jobs, I even applied to be a game show contestant. Thanks for the reminder, should write about my experience.

    • I’m sure everyone would love to hear your experience! I know I would!

  8. Surely there are lots of things you can do to earn money if you can’t go outside go online. That’s how I earn extra money. So anyone can do the same thing to unless they are bedridden.

    • That’s what I figure! Once you realize that there’s money to be made online, it’s pretty easy to survive, even if you’re stuck inside the house!

  9. Many years ago, both my wife and I found ourselves out of work for a period of time that turned out to be for 6 months. One cold January day we got a bill for more than we had in our bank account. It was our wakeup call. We had been attempting to get jobs in our field, that would complement our master’s degrees. Now we decided to change strategies. I went out that morning and applied to be a taxi driver – yes I understated my education. My wife got a job as a waitress later that week and yes she too de-emphasised her education. After many more months of looking I was finally able to land a consulting job at the opposite end of the country and she was able to land a low level clerical job through a friend of a friend. Now we are nearing retirement from great well paying jobs – looking forward to a healthy retirement income. We have often looked back and felt that part of our success was that enforced frugality and our recall of how helpless we fell, when despite all your mental capital, there is no money coming in, but the bills keep coming.

    • Great story! Thank you for sharing! Sometimes ‘you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do’. You needed money, found work (even though it wasn’t up to your previous standards), and got through those tough times. Good job.

  10. Also don’t be afraid to ask family for help. My parents will be moving in with me for a year or so to help save money for retirement, and it will save us both money. In the past people might have been embarrassed to live with their parents as adults, but this concept is changing.

    • Not a bad idea (as long as you have a proper place for them and you get along). Thanks for the comment Tracy!

  11. I did not find this helpful at all; in fact thought it misleading. If you CANNOT WORK, then you can???
    I am sure that none of you have a chronic illness or illnesses, so you need to change the title of the article to reflect the content.
    Also, when cannot work there is NO INCOME, so you cannot use the following equation:
    Low Expenses + Consistent Income = Survival.
    Oh, and the fear of your ER fund running out can be mitigated by multiple incomes!!! HAH, you people have no idea do you? Personally, I have PTSD with full-body damage, and chrohn’s with that; plus other complications. It took me days to get to the point where I could go online to look for help; and within a few minutes already so sick I cannot do much more. So, yeah.

    • It looks like you were able to write this comment, so you could start a website and earn money that way right? Sounds like I just solved your problem! 😉 You’re welcome.

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