5 Lessons Learned From Being Laid Off

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I love being able to say I’ve never been fired. And I used to like saying I’ve never been laid off.

Until now.

I know layoffs are a reality for many and that it’s more common in certain industries. But since it’s never happened to me before, I never thought of it as an option.

What happens when you get laid off?

A layoff typically happens when a company is restructuring, downsizing, or going out of business. Being laid off means being let go from your job, but not because you did anything wrong. Being laid off is not the same as being fired.

When you’re laid off, you’re entitled to more benefits than when you’re fired. Sometimes you will receive severance pay directly from your employer when they lay you off. You are also entitled to apply government unemployment benefits after a layoff.

How much severance pay and unemployment benefits you receive during a layoff depends on your employment contract and how long you worked at your job.

I truly never thought being laid off would happen to me

Whether one knows a layoff is coming or not, it’s hard to prepare for it fully. Sure, it’s always good to have a financial nest egg to help you through hard times, but sometimes that’s not possible. Or sometimes, the funds go quicker than we thought.

Either way, there are many opportunities to reassess your life when you lose your job.

While there are lessons learned from my first layoff, such as the opportunity to redo my monthly budget and reassess my career options, I cannot lie. It’s been hard in a number of ways. My mental health has taken a toll and suddenly my life feels on hold.

My mental health is paying the highest price for my layoff

It’s been one thing to realize that a limited budget means no new outfits or even fancy new hand soap, but another thing entirely to realize your life feels on hold.

I had been doing well with a combination of medication and therapy last year. But no job means no coverage for therapy or medication.

Knowing that these two things have assisted me, I knew that staying on medication was vital. And that I could hold off therapy until it was financially possible. I had no idea that 3 months of medication would cost a little over $250.

This one fact alone left me spinning. If I could hardly afford my own medication, how could I afford everything else I wanted?

The point is, I can’t. Not right now.

I can’t afford the life I want (yet)

This realization sucked the most. I’ve never been married and have no children. But these are things I have started to think about more since meeting the love of my life. After a year together, we’ve decided we want to be with each other for life.

But right now our plans are on hold.

Even a “budget wedding” is out of the picture. So is having babies. Try telling your biological clock it can’t afford a child. It won’t care!

I know that this situation won’t last forever. But in the meantime, I’d say it’s been more on my mind than anything else. 

I’ve had to amp up my 50/30/20 style budget

I can’t quite recall where I picked up this budgeting method. Perhaps it was on one of Gail Vaz Oxlade’s TV shows back in the day. But somewhere in my early 20s I learned the 50/30/20 rule, and have used it throughout most of my adult life.

It has always seemed to be a reasonable way for me to ensure all my expenditures are covered while also saving and paying down debt simultaneously. And living. I try to live a little too.

Here’s how I broke down my 50/30/20 budget:

  • 50% of your income should go towards your needs. This includes housing expenses, food, transportation, child care, etc.
  • 30% of your income should go toward things you want, like travel, restaurants, entertainment, and luxury products.
  • 20% of your income should serve your financial goals. This includes debt reduction, cash savings, and investments.

I used to put “food” (groceries and restaurants) into my 30% budget since I thought of it as a flexible expense.

Yes, I knew I had to eat, so it might be better in the fixed 50% category, but I decided to stuff an extra credit card payment into this category and make my food expenses flexible.

What to do after you’ve been laid off

I intend on sticking to the 50/30/20 rule as much as possible. While somewhat depressing to see my income decline, I decided to look at this as a lesson learned from my first layoff. It was an opportunity for me to reassess what is important and what isn’t. Anything that is no longer classified as “important” must go.

Cut out all unnecessary spending

When reflecting on my monthly budget, it became apparent I would need to forego a few things. While I absolutely love Netflix and having pretty nails, I simply could not justify the expenses. I had access to YouTube, which is free, and I knew I had a collection of nail polish.

While it didn’t initially make me feel great, by getting real about what is and isn’t important, I was able to reduce my monthly expenditures by $480. These are the monthly expenses I managed to cut:

  • Nails $50
  • Netflix $10
  • Spotify $10
  • Gym $30
  • SkipTheDishes $110
  • Gas $150
  • Car Insurance $120

That’s right. Gas and car insurance are listed above. That’s because I sold my car!

I made plans to share with my boyfriend and get another vehicle when I’m employed again. I realized that I would be off work for a few months and really had no “need” for it, as I really only used it to get to work.

While this was drastic in a way, it was also an easy decision. I certainly didn’t make much money off the sale, but at least now I could forego car insurance, gas, and oil changes!

Find motivation and inspiration to move forward 

I realize that layoffs affect people differently. Some need to find a new job ASAP, while others (such as myself) have some time to think and reflect on what to do next.

When considering my careers, my resume, and my personal skill set, I began to think of all the talents I have but hardly ever use.

Focus on hobbies to fill time between job hunting

One thing lead to another, and suddenly I had some old craft materials in front of me and I was creating Christmas ornaments.

I took my creations to a local market for something to do, along with my boyfriend and his wooden culinary board creations. We were delighted with the response we got, and we somehow ended up in the local paper three times.

Now, truth be told, I did not make much money off my crafts. But it felt good to do something with my hands, something I used to do much more of.

Through these markets I now have a bunch of business contacts to use this new year, and that is certainly a good thing.

Now I can go forward and begin to explore some business opportunities I never thought of before

I have a number of job email alerts set up and regularly see what positions are available.

I am determined to get back on financial track and move forward with my life goals.

But before I do, I am honestly thankful for this time to reflect and prioritize what’s important. In fact, there are some life-changing revelations learned from my first layoff. It may not be the best time in my life, but I am going to make the best of it.

This was a guest post by Meghan Alton. You can follow her on Twitter as @SocialNutmeg 

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