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How To Survive Unemployment (When You Weren’t Prepared)

how to survive unemploymentSometimes, bad things happen when we least expect them. And if you’re on a financial journey, losing your job can feel like a major strain. But there are ways to manage, even if you’re worried and even if you don’t think you can make it work. Here’s how to survive unemployment, even if you weren’t prepared.

1) Apply For Unemployment

Your first step in how to survive unemployment is to actually apply for unemployment. And don’t feel guilty about this either. Unemployment is there for a reason. And sometimes, things happen that are not in our control, so we need to adapt and get back on our feet.

The truth of the matter is that you’ve paid into unemployment. And there is nothing wrong with using what you’ve already paid for. So, as soon as you can, file for unemployment and make sure to include as much detail as possible. This money may not be as much as working, but it’s more than you would make if you didn’t file.

2) Apply For Other Grants & Assistance

If you don’t qualify for unemployment, or if you need a little extra assistance, again, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. There are many grants and assistance available. The federal government has quite a few additional programs if you need it, and your state may have some as well. All you have to do is search online for your “state + unemployment assistance”, and you’re bound to find something that you can apply for.

3) Figure Out Your Insurance Situation

Let’s be honest, COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) insurance is EXPENSIVE. Many people have said that insurance is double or triple what they paid while working. But, insurance is also super important. Imagine landing in the hospital with no insurance.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to use COBRA.

There are other options…

  • like health share ministries
  • or even going through the marketplace.

Since you lost a job, you qualify for a “life-changing event” and can, therefore, try to find insurance coverage – no matter if it’s during the open enrollment period or not.

I get it, why spend money on insurance when you’re already trying to make ends meet? Well, you could be worse off if a medical emergency if you don’t have insurance, and that’s a whole other ordeal that you’ll have to deal with. So why take the chance?

When my husband lost his job back in 2015, and we were still living paycheck to paycheck, we were able to get fairly cheap insurance through the marketplace. Was it the best? No. But it was better than nothing. And for $45 a month, it felt a lot safer than taking a chance on not having insurance. There are other options than just COBRA, so keep that in mind.

save money on your home insurance4) Make Sure Your Four Walls Are Safe

The four walls are usually between:

  1. shelter,
  2. utilities,
  3. food,
  4. clothing, and sometimes…
  5. transportation.

Your four walls will be unique because your financial situation is unique. For example, you may not need new clothes, but someone else may. So you have to decide which four walls you have and how to make sure that they stay up.

To me, shelter, utilities, food, and transportation are my four walls. So if I was ever in a bind, or found myself unemployed, those would be the four bills that I’d take care of. Everything else isn’t important when you’re trying to survive. So focus on your four walls, make sure that you’re paying your bills as much as you can, and keep yourself safe. Eventually, you’ll be able to add in more. But as long as your four walls are taken care of, you’re okay.

5) Try To Keep A Hold On Your Savings

I know this is easier said than done. But, if you have a savings account, try to keep as much money in it as possible. Granted, savings is made for times like this. And sometimes, we can’t help if we have to dip into it. But, if you don’t need to (remember your four walls), save it for when you do. The longer you can hold on to your savings, the longer you can survive unemployment.

6) Cut Your Expenses Way Down

Okay, you don’t have a job anymore and you’re trying to figure out how to survive unemployment. It’s time to get rid of some of the extras:

  • subscriptions
  • TV
  • memberships
  • non-essential shopping
  • gaming
  • kids’ toys/presents/clothes…they have enough

And then you’ll be left with some of the essential bills like your phone bill, home insurance, car insurance, internet, and perhaps a few others.

I would suggest that you:

  1. Call each of these service providers and tell them you simply don’t have the money to keep paying the amount that you have been and if there’s anything they can do. Either they drop the price somehow, or you’ll have to find someone else that will.
  2. When you’ve tried this, email or call Derek’s friends at BillCutterz. They have dropped his bills on numerous occasions and he’s always shocked at how much better they are at negotiating than he is. If they don’t save you any money, you owe nothing. If they find savings, you only owe them half of what they saved you for the first year. It’s a pretty awesome model that you should try out, even if you think your bills are as low as you can get them. I mean, what do you have to lose?

Related: BillCutterz Absolutely Shocked Me and Saved Me Money on My Phone Bill!!

7) Get A Side Hustle

I’ve always recommended a side hustle, even if you aren’t unemployed. These days, everyone needs one. Even if you think your job is secure, having a side hustle can mean the difference between losing all of your income or losing just part of it.

But getting a side hustle is especially important if you become unemployed. It can mean extra money in your pocket while you’re trying to find another job, or give you the opportunity to create your own job and career.

There are so many different side hustles that you can do, many of which can bring in at least $500-$1,500 every month. That may not seem like much, but it’s more than making $0. And it can stretch your unemployment and savings if needed.

8) Know That It Will Be Okay (& Don’t Feel Guilty)

I know what it feels like to think you’re not being a productive citizen of society. But sometimes, we just get dealt a bad hand. Becoming unemployed doesn’t mean you’re lazy or uneducated. Sometimes, it simply means that the company you worked for wasn’t as prepared to pay you as they should have been (or the demand for your service decreased severely). But the blame and shame shouldn’t fall on you.

Life happens. And the best thing you can do when you’re trying to survive unemployment is just do your best and go with the flow. Sometimes that’s all you can do. And that’s OKAY.

How To Survive Unemployment – You Can Do This!!

Unemployment sucks. But, there are tools and resources in place to help you if you need it. And, it’s okay to need those resources until you can get back on your feet. If you’re currently unemployed, just know that things always have a way of working out, even if the future seems a little bleak right now.

Were you wondering how to survive unemployment? I hope this article helped you sort things out!

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AUTHOR Kimberly Studdard

Kim Studdard is a project manager for online entrepreneurs and small businesses. When she isn't spending time with her daughter and husband, or reading her growing pile of horror books, you'll find her working on her HR degree and working towards FIRE.


  1. Really a very helpful post. This is really great information. Thanks for sharing this information with us.  

    • You’re welcome! Best of luck to you during this time!

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