A reader left the following comment on my post about how to prepare for unemployment. Her situation is heart-breaking, and I hope that you all will help me come up with some helpful suggestions for her (I asked her for permission to share her question here). I’ll offer up a few ideas of my own, and then open up the floor to you guys.
Okay, brilliant women, I need some advice for my situation. I am a law enforcement officer for the state of Ohio and have been notified I will be out of a job by 7/1. The last two years have already been horrendous…divorce, death, illness and near financial ruin. I am a single mom with a pair of teenagers in an $800 per month apartment, lots of student debt and about $20,000 in consumer debt I got saddled with in the divorce. I have no savings except retirement savings that I won’t be able to access until 3 months after my job loss. I have been searching for a lower cost housing option, but the lesser rent options are in drug infested neighborhoods. I can’t buy another house because my credit took a hit during the divorce. Unemployment will be less than half of my salary and I get only a bit of child support because I earn more than my ex. I plan on going back to school to get my Masters and earn my teaching degree. Is there hope for me?
First off, I’m so sorry about all the difficulties you’ve had over the last few years. That’s a LOT to deal with, especially in a short amount of time.
I don’t know all the details of your situation, so some of my advice may be impractical for you….I’m just going off of what I know from your comment.
Given that you’re already saddled with student debt and consumer debt, I’m not sure I’d recommend going back to school right now, especially if you plan to be a teacher. As I’m sure you know, teachers don’t tend to earn a large salary, and trying to pay back student loans x 2 plus $20k of consumer debt would be really, really hard.
If you do want to go back to school, I’d advise that you look for another job (plus maybe a part-time job as well) to work for a year or two, and during that time, cut your expenses as much as is humanly possible so that you can make some progress on paying back your debt. Then you’d be in much better shape to consider going back to school.
Here are a few things I’d suggest to you.
1. Look beyond apartment complexes for lower-cost rent options. Check Craig’s List, the PennySaver, and other such listings to see if a person in your area is renting out an apartment. Maybe someone has a basement apartment for rent or a mother-in-law suite up for rent. Mr. FG and I lived in a basement apartment for the first several years of our marriage and the rent there was much lower than at apartment complexes.
Also, consider downsizing your apartment. If necessary, one of you could sleep on the couch in the living room so that you can get away with fewer bedrooms. That’s not ideal, of course, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
2. Look for a part-time job now. I don’t know if that’s possible with your schedule, but if you can pick up a few hours at a part-time job, you could put that money into a savings account so that you’re not completely without money when your current job is over.
3. Eat as cheaply as possible. The grocery bill is one of the few bills that you’ve got a fair amount of control over, so take advantage of that. Drink only water, eat more vegetarian or light-on-the-meat meals, eat oatmeal instead of breakfast cereal, eat cheaper produce (apples instead of strawberries, bananas instead of mangoes), and whatever you do, don’t eat out. Almost anything you eat at home will be cheaper than eating out, and in a situation as desperate as yours, you can’t afford to eat out.
4. Sell your stuff. If you’ve got anything sitting around your apartment that you don’t need, sell it, and put the money into your emergency savings account.
5. Keep a spending diary. Your budget may have some small money leaks that you’re not really aware of, and writing down every single penny you spend will help you to be aware of those. Find the leaks and plug them!
6. Get rid of any non-essential bills. Be ruthless. Cable TV, cell phones, new clothes, and even extra-curricular activities for your kids need to go when times are this hard. If your kids want to be involved in something, help them find a part-time job to pay for the activity.
7. Look into what aid may be available to you. Local churches may offer you some assistance, and you may qualify for some public assistance in the form of things like food stamps.
Hang in there, and I pray that things will get easier for you soon.
Readers, what advice would you offer to this single mom?
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