Establishing a Budget While on Unemployment in California


Becoming unemployed changes budgets drastically. Having an emergency fund can alleviate some stress while looking for a new job. However, depending solely on these funds is not a good idea, as that will deplete them faster. Applying for unemployment and receiving benefits is an added relief. Having an emergency fund and receiving unemployment allows you to successfully budget monthly expenses. Knowing how much money you have to leverage in relation to monthly expenses can make the time of unemployment less stressful and allow you to focus on finding a new job. Prioritize and reduce expenses where possible. Work with bill collectors and available relief programs to help alleviate stress. In the following sections learn more on how to establish budgets while unemployed:

  • Calculating monthly expenses
  • Differentiating between wants and needs
  • Opting for free activities
  • Work search and odd jobs
Calculating Monthly Expenses

Begin by tracking all household monthly expenses. This can be done by hand using pen and paper. Write down where your money went, or use apps like Mint, or even excel. If student loans are a topic of worry, work with the loan agencies to defer loan payments while out of work. If you have credit card debt, try to work with the companies, as many times they have programs to assist during times of unemployment. Still try to make minimum payments to avoid getting into further debt later. Phone plans can get pricey, and often times there are a lot of unnecessary added features that can be removed to cut back on expenses. California offers programs to help manage and pay utility bills for residents going through a rough time. There are also food programs like food stamps and free meal programs for children currently enrolled in school. Calculating your monthly spending, and separating the absolute necessities from the creature comforts, will help you to establish a lean and efficient budget.

Differentiating Between Wants and Needs

Once monthly expenses have been successfully tracked, it is now time to separate needs and wants. Needs include bills like utilities, car payments/maintenance, gas and rent. Often times fixed expenses can be reduced like a gym membership or changing cable packages to save money while unemployed. Eating out and other leisure activities may need to take a backseat in order to cut back on expenses. Preparing meals at home can help save tremendous amounts of money on food expenses. Even though the household may have cars available try using public transportation as this can save on gas and maintenance. There are usually local programs that offer discounted public transportation passes. Riding bikes locally will save on transportation expenses and also keep individuals active. Selling assets may have to be an option in order to bring in extra money for expenses. This could be anything from an old baseball card collection to a boat that is rarely ever used. Don’t go running to sell off all your assets the moment you become unemployed. First, try working with a budget and taking advantage of all programs California has to offer to help during this uncertain time.

Opting for Free Activities

When becoming unemployed, individuals feel like simply staying home and being inactive. This can cause individuals to go stir crazy, or even become depressed. Instead, try getting involved in the community. After cancelling a gym membership, get exercise by going on walks or hikes around the neighborhood. Try joining a local community sport team or visiting the park to workout. Libraries are great community centers to volunteer and get access to books and resources to help with the job searches and budgeting. Local food kitchens offer free meals once a day and applying for food stamps can also lessen the burden of buying food while unemployed. Take advantage of coupons and sales at the grocery stores on items the household would normally purchase. Not only do some of these free activities enable you to save money, they also allow you to build your network and scope of interests, in addition to keeping your body and mind active.

Work Search and Odd Jobs

Looking for work has now become a full time job after becoming unemployed. Treat the task as seriously as possible by making a daily schedule allowing for breaks and meals. California offers programs to further enhance job training. Maintain an updated resume and cover letter and always be willing to accept job opportunities. Use your skills to do odd jobs for friends and families which will bring in some extra money. Something as simple as pet-sitting or gardening can bring in fast cash. Unemployment requires beneficiaries to report income earned when it is more than a certain amount. Check with local unemployment offices before accepting odd jobs so unemployment benefits are not reduced or denied. A full-time job opportunity may not be the first source of income presented to you, but do not be discouraged, because often times, temporary and part-time opportunities can become full-time employment. Pad your budget by taking on odd jobs while searching for your next career.