Lessons I Learned from Being Unemployed

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As many of you know, I started this blog when my husband was unemployed. It was more an outlet for me; something different to focus on that took my mind off things. I wrote this article describing our experience and how we “survived” being unemployed. ~Jessica

Like millions of other Americans, I hadn’t anticipated my husband suddenly being out of work. We’d always lived within our means and had little debt, but we didn’t have much in savings either. We were terrified at what our future possibly held. How were we going to pay our bills? Would we lose our house?

Those were the thoughts running through my head as the reality of our situation began to sink in. I am a stay at home mom for our three young children; my husband was the sole breadwinner and then suddenly he was without a job. How were we going to make it with no income?! I was overwhelmed with our sudden change of circumstances. Thankfully, my husband and I quickly resolved that we would not let this situation break us. We had worked too hard to let this ailing economy make victims out of us. We made a plan and prayed hard that God would help us. Little did we know how abundantly our prayers would be answered.

Here we are three months later and I’m happy to report my husband just started a new job! The truly amazing thing is, due to the changes we quickly made in our lives, not only did we not have to touch our savings, but we added to it! No, this isn’t some “get rich quick” gimmick- it’s a true story of how my family survived being unemployed and living on a part-time retail income.

Lessons I Learned from Being Unemployed

Being unemployed is hard work. My husband and I are both hard workers, but never before have we worked so hard to stay right where we were at. Our only goal at the time was to pay our bills and stay in our home. Within 2 days of being out of work my husband secured a part-time job working retail. When he wasn’t working there, he was spending hours and hours every day searching for a new job. I helped him search before the kids woke up and after they went down for naps. We worked with recruiting firms and friends to find new employment. In one word I would describe it all as exhausting.

The companies you pay your bills to are more willing to help if you ask. Within a week of being unemployed, I called all of the companies our bills were through, telling them our situation and asking what they could do. I was so grateful to find that every company I called was more than willing to help us. We switched phone plans, downgraded our cable and cancelled services. Suddenly our meager income was stretching a lot farther.

I didn’t miss luxuries nearly as much as I thought I would. By luxuries I mean eating out once a week, buying a new pair of shoes, or taking the kids to the zoo. Sure, it would have been nice to do those things occasionally, but right after my husband lost his job, we declared a spending halt. We bought nothing unless it was absolutely necessary, and even then, we most often bought second hand. We re-discovered the value of family time and truly enjoyed spending it together. We made meals from scratch and had a new-found appreciation for the items we already had. Our lives became very simple and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

Meal planning and cooking from scratch saves a lot of money. This is something I’d known for a while, but I gained a huge testimony of it while unemployed. Being as I’d used coupons for some time; we had built up a nice food storage. Since eating out wasn’t an option, I found planning for our meals was critical. I regularly assessed the items in our pantry and planned meals accordingly. We made our own bread and found joy in creating yummy treats ourselves. I also got very creative in seeing how far some food items could stretch. A member of our church dropped off a whole ham one night and I stayed up late slicing and packaging it so as to use the entire thing. I even boiled the ham bone in soup! We were able to feed our family over 7 meals with that one ham!

Using less of everything really didn’t affect our way of life. And when I say everything, I mean everything! One of the areas we strived to use less was in gas & electricity. We wore sweatshirts instead of adjusting the heater and used the warmth of the oven to heat the house after we baked something. We were mindful of even the little things from the length of showers we took to how much shampoo we used. We turned our water heater down and adjusted our dishwasher to the lowest settings. As a result of changing our actions we didn’t freeze, our clothes and dishes were still clean (as were we!) and we ended up shaving 25% off our utility bills!

We didn’t really need many of the items we already had. So I sold them. Well, a lot of them at least. I regularly walked around the house assessing what our family could live without and I sold the items online. I sold books, clothes, and electronics. Anything we didn’t need that I thought might have value was suddenly on the market! My husband scoured the garage and cashed in a load of scrap metal. I’d been couponing for years and had quite a supply, so I assembled coupons and sold them in groups. We spent $20 to cosmetically fix up an old car we’d had for years and hung the “For Sale” sign on it, unsure if we could even sell it in this economy. We sold it for our full asking price a month later. The earnings were quickly transferred to our savings. Each time I sold something I’d calculate what bills that item could pay for or how long it would enable us to live in our house. Tens of dollars turned to hundreds, and hundreds turned to thousands. It was incredible and we felt so blessed.

Our trials give others the opportunity to serve. As difficult as it might be to be on the receiving end, it’s necessary at different times in our lives. We saw the Lord’s hand in so many small acts of service given to us by neighbors and friends. People wrote us kind letters with thoughts of encouragement. Others sent small amounts of money anonymously. It was all very much appreciated and we are grateful for the services rendered.

We grew accustomed to this new way of life. After a few months, my husband found a new job. I do think it will take a while for my type-A personality to recover from the stress and uncertainty that was so prevalent during those few months. I’m grateful for the outcome though and understand many others are in situations far worse than ours. If I can pass on one piece of advice for others who find themselves suddenly unemployed it’s this: even in this economy, you have more influence on your personal & financial situations than you think. And never forget the power of prayer!

Article also seen on A Thrifty Mom

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11 thoughts on “Lessons I Learned from Being Unemployed

  1. Tara says:

    Thank you so much for your inspiring words, our family is facing the same situation right now. It is a very unsettling feeling but we know that Heavenly Father loves us and will not let us fail. We know that with his love we will get through this speed bump and be able to see the blessings that will come through this trial if we allow ourselves to see them. Thanks again for your wonderful words.

  2. Summer says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing your story and positive attitude. There aren't many who would see all the blessings that come from something as difficult as losing ones job.

  3. Amy says:

    Thanks for posting that! Although my husband has a job, I still think those ideas are important to implement. You never know when something can happen, and imagine how much better things would be if we were already used to living on less.

  4. Staci says:

    I appreciate you writing this. I think even those in debt (not a job loss) can benefit from your tips. I think living within your means is important (job loss or not). Congrats on the new job. That is great. Take care.

  5. Beth says:

    Thanks for sharing. You took a bad situation and turned it into a learning experiece, it sounds like all your hard work paid off!

  6. Camille says:

    I am a new fan of your blog, I look at it nearly everyday. Seriously, I feel like we could be best friends because I get so excited about the same things. 🙂 I'm pretty good at the bargain shopping stuff, but you really have it down to an art. I just taught a bargain shopping class for our church enrichment and used a lot of info from your site. I was reading this post and wanted to recommend a great book for building up your savings. My husband and I both read, "Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey and loved the plan in the book. We are living our lives by the motto of the book, especially since we are poor students. Thanks again.
    P.S. We live in Oregon right now, and most everything you post is useful to me here- especially Albertsons deals and links to coupons and samples. If you come across any Safeway deals (like the strawberry coupon awhile back)- I'd love it if you'd post them- we do a lot of bargain shopping there as well.

  7. Utah Deal Diva says:

    Thank you all so much for your thoughful words!! This article was very difficult for me to write and it took me weeks to do so. I felt like I was pouring my heart out on the internet! I am so happy that it was worthwhile though.

    Tara- I'll keep your family in my prayers! You have a great outlook on your situation, I admire that.

    Camille- so good to know my deals work for you! Thanks for the book recc. I've heard about Dave Ramsey and read brief articles about his methods but haven't actually read any of his books. I appreciate that!

  8. Tammy C says:

    Good advice.Unfortunatly I have learned the hard way that there are many companies who do NOT work with you when you are unemployed.We had 2 cars repossed even after paying on them.It just wasn't enough the Ford company.

    Also my husband has lost 4 jobs in less then 3 years -March 2006,January 2007,April 2008 and January 2009.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Nice article. Do you know of any other good resources for supporting your husband during job loss? It's been 5 months now…we are struggling. I need help!

  10. Vivs6kids says:

    Just wanted to tell you that I read your article on MoneySaving Mom and had to write and tell you that I CAN RELATE…we just finished an unemployment stint of 10 1/2 months (followed by 6 weeks prior a few months prior for a net of ONE year)…and I could have easily written that article. Almost everything you said, we did also! My husband has had a job for one week and now we begin the process of rebuilding our 6 months of savings that we had reserved and used up. God brought us through and we rejoice in how his provision and how much he taught us along the way…

  11. Barb says:

    This is a great post, Jessica! Thank you for sharing it. It was so fun to meet you at Kim's class and I'm glad I noticed your email address and found your great blog!

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