Your work hours have been cut. Or maybe you have fewer opportunities for overtime. You probably feel powerless, if not a bit panicky.
First, recognize that you are not alone. The U.S. Labor Department reports that companies are cutting hours for more workers due to the slowing economy. Reducing employees’ hours permits businesses to slow operations and avoid lay-offs. At small firms, in particular, it’s often cheaper to cut hours than to cut staff.
Second, don’t wait around for your employer to reinstate your schedule. Although you might expect to be given more hours in a few months, hope alone won’t get you through the tight times. There are steps you can take right now to lessen the financial impact on your household budget.
Creating an Action Plan
We recommend putting together an action plan. Your goal is to figure out how to cut unnecessary expenses and find ways to bring in extra money. Here are some tips to get your started.
- Seek family cooperation. You may be embarrassed to be home more. Maybe you feel like a ineffective provider. Now is not the time to wallow or withdraw from your family. Seek the support of your spouse in “tightening” the family belt for a couple of months. You needn’t go into detail with your children, but they, too, can be encouraged to find ways to save money. Make it a game and promise a “reward” (perhaps an inexpensive ice cream outing?) when the family budget improves.
- Scrutinize your household budget. Get out your checkbook and recent bank statements. Where does your money go? List what you spend each month on housing, transportation, utilities, food, entertainment, communications devices, gifts, celebrations and other expenses.
- Determine which expenses are really necessary. Aside from shelter (your rent or mortgage payment), food, and medical care, what expenses are absolutely necessary for the health and welfare of your family? Can you do without satellite TV or your Internet connection for awhile? What about eating out less frequently? Should you cut-back on the use of your car or try public transportation to save on gas? Eliminate trips to beauty salons, golf outings, expensive after-school activities, or other luxuries.
- Continue to meet your loan obligations, if at all possible. Now is not the time to withhold your rent payment or skip a mortgage payment. You also don’t want to stop making your credit card payments or car loan payments. If at all possible, make the minimum payments and make them on time. You don’t want to incur additional finance charges or penalties.
- Don’t incur additional debt! It’s a good idea to put your credit cards away while your income is reduced. Get in the habit of paying cash for your purchases. That way, you’re more likely to stick to your household budget. If you do need to charge purchases, use the card with the lowest interest rate. Put off making major purchases (car, appliances, furniture or clothing). If that’s not possible, shop for used goods, rather than brand new.
- Explore income-generating opportunities. The hours that you used to spend at your full-time job (or overtime) can be devoted to generating new sources of income. Do you have a hobby (photography, yard work, car repair, household maintenance) or a special interest (pet-sitting, child care, house-cleaning) that could bring in some money? Make up flyers and pass them around your neighborhood, tack notices to bulletin boards at recreation centers or retail outlets, or advertise your services in church bulletins, community newsletters or online sites. You may be able to find a part-time job that won’t conflict with your regular work. Your spouse and teenager could also consider part-time employment.
- Sell what you don’t need or try bartering. Do you need that second or third car? What about that extra computer? Selling household goods, clothing, sports equipment, computer games, kitchen appliances, or electronics can bring in extra money. Hold a family garage sale or use a trustworthy online auction service. You may be able to work out a bartering arrangement with a relative, friend or neighbor that would cut your expenses. You could mow your neighbor’s lawn in exchange for his performing routine maintenance (oil change, etc.) on your car. Or, propose that you ride to work with a neighbor in exchange for your helping with his or her home maintenance/repair chores.
Remember, there is no crystal ball to predict whether your current job situation is temporary or long-term. With either scenario, your family will be more likely to weather the tough times if it pulls together on the financial front.
If your revised budget isn’t having a positive impact, or if your debt load is increasing, consult a professional. Our counselors have the training, experience and knowledge to guide you toward financial stability. They can determine if a debt management program would suit your situation. Seek their assistance and get back on track. Call 800.750.2227 (CCCS) for a free credit counseling session, or get started now online.