Question: I'm concerned the company I work for may be considering layoffs. Is there anything I can do now to prepare?
Answer: Yes, there are ways to financially prepare and you've already taken the first step. Acknowledging that you will need a plan, while you still have a job, is a big part of surviving unemployment.
The first step is to assess your budget. Figure out what income you have coming in and what expenses are being paid out. Write everything down, so you can refer to it. Next, you'll want to assess your expenses. Which ones are priorities, and which ones are miscellaneous? You'll want to start cutting back on your miscellaneous expenses now so you can start putting extra money aside.
You'll also want to prioritize your debts. Determine which monthly bills are the most important (i.e. mortgage), and you'll want to pay those first.
The next step is contact all your creditors. Explain that you are preparing for a layoff and ask what types of payment programs are available during your unemployment.
If you're concerned about paying your mortgage, contact the Pennsylvania Housing and Finance Agency. The agency will connect with a HUD-certified housing counseling agency that will educate you on mortgage assistance programs.
If you have children and provide their health insurance coverage, start looking into the Children's Health Insurance Program. All Pennsylvania children and teenagers without health insurance are eligible.
While you're unemployed, don't use credit cards as a replacement for income. Reduce your miscellaneous spending as much as possible.
Take a list and your coupons to the grocery store and shop the sale ads. Avoid processed foods. Eat at home as much as possible.
Economize at home by turning off lights in rooms not being used and conserving water.
Choose entertainment wisely. Go to the library and check a movie out from there. Check the paper for free events. Plan to cut down on your gift giving. Offer to perform a service instead of giving a gift.
Share with your family and friends that you're facing financial difficulties and use this experience to teach your children about living within your means and reaching out to others for support.
Heather Murray is manager of education and resource development for Advantage Credit Counseling Service (dba Consumer Credit Counseling Service). For more information about the agency's services, visit www.advantageccs.org, or to access the free online budgeting tool, go to www.onlinebudgetadvisor.com. If you have money or credit management questions, you can email Ms. Murray at email@example.com.