Living on One Income – What to Do If Your Spouse Loses Their Job

Aaron AvatarTo be honest, I didn't think I would ever be writing a post about my wife losing her job. But, a little over three months ago – this is exactly what happened. It has been a trying experience for both of us. She has been dealing with all the emotions of losing a job she was good at (through reasons should could not control) and then what to do next. Plus we have been sorting through how we can still make ends meet with income being cut. 

While her job loss was related to health reasons – losing a job is never fun. There are so many emotions involved. I remember when I was out of work for some time in early 2000 and it was the most surreal experience. It's like this vacation you don't want – and won't end.

Even in the midst of all this – there have been lots to be grateful for. My wife was able to secure some unemployment compensation related to losing her job due to health reasons and I do have some side income from various sources – namely TTG. I'm a firm believer that God always provides – and He continues to do so with us.

So – what do you do when your income gets cut in half and your spouse loses their job? It can be pretty tough when you're used to a set amount of income- and then it's gone. Here's a few things that we've done (or are trying to do):

  1. Re-assess your budget
    A few posts ago, Dave talked about how spending is typically the problem when it comes to people's money problems – not necessarily the fact they aren't making enough. First thing we have done is just to assess where the money is going and where we can limit / cut spending.
  2. Apply for any unemployment benefits
    I'm a pretty independent fellow and I think we shouldn't be too reliant on the government. However, I believe there are times when you just don't have many other choices. Unemployment benefits are typically funded by employers through the taxes that are paid to workers. So, it's something which has been set-up for employees in case they ever need it. While the resources are finite – it will give you some breathing room to find something else.
  3. Start a side gig or milk your current one
    I'm a big advocate of everyone having a “side-gig“. This is something that brings in enough money each month to (maybe) pay for the phone bill or (even better) pay for the mortgage. Now's the time to start one OR to focus more energy into it. Personally, we've been able to offset some expenses through TTG and other avenues of side revenue.
  4. Utilize emergency funds
    The unemployment may run out and what next? The often quoted advice is to have 3-6 months of living expenses in savings. You may need to tap into this if things start looking bleak. But, this is why you saved (I recommend this as a last resort). We've had to tap into some reserves ourselves – which I would have liked to of avoided.
  5. De-stress
    This can be a trying time for you and your spouse. Be sure you take times to exercise, have fun and continue to enjoy life. As a Christian – I believe God has our best interests at heart, even though we are going to walk through some trying times now and again. Ironically, it's often through tougher times we are brought closer together and faith is renewed.

If you are going through something similar (or have in the past) – I'd love to hear how you were (have been able) to cope.

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  1. Utilize emergency funds. Yeah right. Do normal people really have that? 76% I read live paycheck to paycheck. Spare me that . When you get to layoff 2 or 3 there is no such thing,.

    • I understand – it’s tough out there and I’ve been where you are. It’s a lot more expensive to live in today’s world than – say – our parents world. At the same time, at least for me, a lot of my inability to have an emergency came because of my choices. I spent money I didn’t have. Lived above my means and was (overall) careless. But when I lived well below my means and lived a life of thrift, I managed to get an emergency fund and dug myself out of debt. It wasn’t easy – and I would say that 76% of the people out there wouldn’t have lived / sacrificed the way I did. But, I was hungry to get out from under the burden of debt. I know there are some who don’t have the ability to make a living because of health reasons, other tragedies.

  2. I just lost my job aug 3rd, a job I had 29 years. I was 19 when I started. Both our girls are grown and out of the house. As of yet, my former employer is fighting the unemployment. Since house was paid in full several months ago, we are trying it with me staying home and running the household. Every Internet search I did was for planning ahead. What if that wasn’t an option?

    • Sorry to hear about your job loss Sharon. 29 years is a long time – and I can imagine you might have thought you’d have your job til retirement? I don’t think most of us plan for it happening. Guess that is why saving is so key.

  3. If she is ill she can utilize her disabilty insurance she had through work. She could also utilize the state program. She could try rehabilitation but there are very few jobs right now. Good luck and get well soon.

    • Thanks Lisa – we’ve tried those avenues too – but disability is actually very hard to qualify for.

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