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Down Sized: Now What?
State of Mind:
At your desk working, maybe you just finished a teleconference, your boss calls; “Can you meet me in xyz meeting room?” It’s an infrequent request, but not alarming. You walk in and see your boss and an HR representative, a rush of emotions hit you; anger, sadness, embarrassment. You’re walked out of the building by security, in front of your now ex-colleagues, carrying a small box of things. No parties, or best wishes, everyone tries to avoid eye contact, as they feel your pain and are relieved that it’s not them.
The next morning you’re up at normal time, only this time you have no place to go. I had worked hard, put in my years, just didn’t seem fair. Everyone’s situation will be different and unique, but the emotions and feelings will be similar. Suddenly a huge part of your life comes to a screeching halt. It sucks that it happened to you, guess what it has happened to lots of others and will continue to happen to others, maybe even to you again someday?
It takes some time to get your mental state back. For me it was a couple weeks before I stopped looking for a reason to “why me?”. Hopefully you will have some understanding friends and family that you can lean and vent on. I was essentially unproductive the first few weeks, at least from a getting another job perspective. Lots of yard work and home improvement/repairs had been neglected, now made it to the top of the “to do list”. I did things I had previously not such as, exercising, lunch with the kids at school and movies in the afternoon.
Early on you need to make sure you understand what will happen with or what options you have regarding things like your 401k, health care coverage, stock options, unused vacation days, severance pay, cobra insurance, unemployment benefits and etc. It’s ok to be down on your self for a while, but you still have to take care of the basis.
Point is what your feeling is normal, but you cannot afford to stay in this mood for long. The sooner you can get out of this pity phase the sooner you can get on with living. Your state of mind is critical here, you must believe in yourself and your abilities.
Your income has either been reduced or it will soon, so look at where you’re spending your money now. It might take some time to find a replacement for the income, so go into conservation mode now. A few small sacrifices now might enable you to sleep better at night in the future; here is a quick list to immediately save you $800 a month:
1) Maid Service – Guess what? You just got a job! Clean your own house for a while. I’m not talking about spending every waking moment cleaning to perfection, I’m saying take care of the basics yourself for a while; vacuum, dusting, bathrooms, etc. If you had weekly service, at a minimum you need to cut back to every other week or once a month service. Estimated savings – $150/month.
2) Lawn Service – If you already have the equipment in the garage, then use it. Make your current service provider why you will not be using them for a while, they will be more willing to work with you in the future if you just need it mowed once. Estimated savings – $120/month.
3) You will now be coloring your own hair. Estimated savings – $50/month.
4) Monthly Massage, Manicure or Pedicure – Forget it! OK if you have a big interview coming up and you need your nails to look good, fine, otherwise forget it. Estimated savings – $150/month.
5) Eating Out – Nope! If you are networking, it’s allowed, otherwise eat at home, it’s cheaper and healthier anyway. Estimated savings – $200/month.
6) Cancel your gym membership, unless you’re in a contract with an exit penalty. Estimated savings – $50/month.
The last two take a little more effort, but still worth doing because they will continue for months, even after you’re employed again:
7) Home owners and vehicle insurance – These two combined can easily be $200-$300 a month. Take your current insurance statements and get several quotes from other companies on the same coverage’s. Chances are you could reduce your monthly expense here by $50/month just by shopping around some. I had good experience with Amica insurance company, ( http://www.amica.com/ ) they matched my current coverage levels or exceeded in all categories, and did it for a savings of about $540 per year. Estimated savings – $50/month.
8) TV/Internet/Phone Service – Call you provider(s), be honest let them know you were laid off, I found them very willing to help me. Cut the premium channels for sure, if you have a cell phone with unlimited long distance then consider removing the landline. Estimated savings – $30/month.
You have some time now to analyze your current spending, what can be eliminated or reduced. Just by cutting back the areas mentioned above, you are able to save $800 a month. However you must balance your time, do not get hung up on these smallish things, and neglect networking, resume writing and looking for a job. The suggestions I make here are to take some immediate pressure off your wallet, but the real solution will be to replace your income.
Get To Work:
You have made it through the initial shock; you have reduced your monthly monetary outlay, now let’s get a job. You’ve heard the cliché “Make looking for a job your job”; it’s true; especially in the current economic situation. Its common these days for employers to provide laid off employees some level of counseling, resume help or retraining services. If you are offered the service, use them. There’s a good scene in the movie “Company Men” where Ben Affleck’s character walks into a job resource facility, if you have been laid off you’ll relate.
Even with all the advances in technology, I think most people still find employment vie the tried and true methods – personal contacts, good resume, and determination. Call your friends, family and business contacts, maybe they know someone that needs someone. No need to sound desperate just let them know your situation, and ask them to keep their ears open. Have your resume polished by a professional. Hit the internet, the phone, and the street. There are many great job posting sites on-line, look for local companies and apply in person. I suggest firstly going to several interviews for positions that you don’t expect to get for what ever reason. If it’s been a while since you have interviewed, this will allow you to be more relaxed and let your true personality shine when the right position does pop onto your radar screen.
Depending on your skill levels and position seeking, there are many “creative” ways to advertise; YouTube, web sites, phone apps, billboards, dressing up like a cow etc. I have never used these strategies, but I would if I found myself in a crowded market place needing to separate myself from the herd (pun intended!). Your situation will dictate your needs, do you need something, anything now, or are you willing to wait for the right opportunity? That’s something for you to decide.
I experienced the high of nailing an interview and expecting to get a particular job, to the low of realizing I was never even seriously in consideration for it. Job seeking is a microcosm of life. There will be ups and downs, but if you work hard and smart, go with your heart and have a little luck, you’ll do just fine.
Congratulations you just survived one of the top 5 most stressful life events. The thrill of that first paycheck is awesome!
Now that you are gainfully employed, take a few moments and reflect on what you have learned about yourself, your friends and your family during this experience: you overcame repeated rejection, social isolation, you never gave up, you are a strong individual. This life experience has made you stronger and smarter. Since we are in a frugal living forum, I would like to stress that you made it just fine by cutting back in some areas, and it didn’t kill you! So don’t fall back into the same old traps just because you have a job again. Don’t forget:
1) Any $1.00 saved (by not spending it) is like earning $1.30 (including taxes).
2) Any one time purchase of more than $300 should be carefully considered. If you are married or living together, make sure you discuss prior to buying.
3) Bring your lunch to work a few days a week, it saves money and is generally healthier.
4) If your schedule allows, continue to clean your own house and mow you own lawn.
5) Pay off your current vehicle, and drive it into the ground.
6) Give back to others in need.
7) Be empathetic and encouraging to others that are still unemployed.
8) It’s not about being cheap; it’s consciously spending your money where it has the most impact for you, your family and friends.
9) Be creative, you do not have to spend allot of money to live life to the fullest.
Keep the belts tight, at least for a while; make sure you build up an emergency savings account. In fact if you’re married, why not try to live on one salary? You did it while you were unemployed. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a doctor or a painter, if you spend more than you make, it will not end well for you. For many of us of us, being frugal is a lifestyle choice, and having money in the bank, allows for more choices. After watching your finances closely for a few months, it can easily become a part of who you are. I hope this has helped in a small way to get through a rough patch, and motivated you to continue your frugal living style.
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