The Bare Bones Budget

Lowering what you spend when there's a job loss

Jun 20, 2011 | WRITTEN BY CHRIS RUSSELL

It was a common practice in the days of pirates.

If you were being chased by a ship that was trying to capture or kill you, you'd dump everything that wasn't vital over the side so you wouldn't be as heavy. A lighter ship goes faster, and your odds of escaping went up.

If you get hit with a job layoff, then you need to make like a pirate ship. Start shedding financial weight from the budget. Do what it takes to survive.

When you're getting out of debt, you should already be living small. But you need to go into overdrive when your source of income goes belly-up. Go into survivalist mode. No, we don't mean living in the woods with a hunting knife that you've named.

We mean get rid of every conceivable expense that isn't necessary to sustain the home. As Dave says, maintain the "four walls." That means food, shelter (house and utilities), clothing and transportation. The four walls are your basic needs. Notice how they don't include cable TV, gym memberships or fun money.

Hear Dave talk about the budget and tackling the other issues when a job loss hits.

At the same time, when you wake up each day, ask yourself what you need to do to survive today. If your cabinets are stocked with groceries, then you don't need to go shopping. The day that you run out of food, go food shopping. If you don't need to drive anywhere, then save the gas. However you can reduce your spending, do it.

As far as the income side goes, you might be unemployed for a week or six months. You should go ballistic applying for jobs and scheduling interviews, but work may not come right away. When that happens, it's time to look for any job to get money coming in. It could be delivering pizzas.

Yes, there may be a pride issue. It's not easy to go from the boardroom to the baking room. But your family needs you to produce an income to live on and a budget to manage it. Put away that stupid little voice in your brain that says you're too good for certain types of work and get to caring for your family. Bottom line.

Reader Comments (4)

Everyone needs this reminder....especially me!
Member at 8:49 AM, June 20 2011
Creating a barebones budget is a good exercise from time to time, even with a stable income. There are times when I especially feel the stress of providing for my family and having the wheels in my head squeek to the tune of "Oh my God! I *have* to make so much money. If I get demoted, or I get laid off, or I get sick, my family would be in trouble and our emergency fund isn't big enough to sustain us indefinitely." When that thinking occurs, I just breathe and walk through our current budget and mentally slash through incidentals. "Don't need this,...or that, that can go, that's a nice to have,that'd suck to have to give up" and lo and behold, I notice that with no consumer debt, we only *NEED* to make about $1800/month to sustain ourselves. That makes me smile.
Member at 9:57 AM, June 20 2011
That's how our six-month emergency fund is structured. You can survive much longer when you go to the no-frills budget.
Member at 11:07 AM, June 20 2011
This message is valid even for those of us who are still blessed with earnings. No expense should go unscrutinized.
Member at 8:48 PM, June 23 2011

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