Regrouping after a job loss – Don’t Panic!

Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs

A good friend of mine asked for my advice on a financial issue her family is facing.

She, her husband, and their baby girl had been living in a town that they loved, surrounded by lots of family and friends.  They built a beautiful house, and thought they would stay in this area forever.

Until her husband got an offer to move to a different state to pursue an exciting career opportunity.

Even though they hated to leave their family, friends, and beloved town, they made the leap.  That was 6 months ago.

Then he was laid off.

Naturally, they are upset that this opportunity didn’t pan out, and that they are now far away from the support of their family and friends.

They’re scared, which is very understandable!  They need to take care of their family while he’s looking for a new job.

In order to help my friend, I came up with a number of suggestions for her and her family.

Here are my first 5 tips for regrouping after a job loss:

1) DON’T PANIC!

When my husband and I were vacationing along the East Coast this summer, we saw many warning signs about rip currents.  The signs taught us that in order to escape a rip current, the first step is: DON’T PANIC!  The next step is to swim parallel to the shore until you’re out of this fairly narrow current.

Losing your job is shocking, scary, and may seem like the end of the world.  It’s like you’ve suddenly realized you’re in a rip current – your 5 year plan for your career seems to be quickly getting further away.

DON’T PANIC!

Take a deep breath and realize others have been here before you and have come out the other side just fine – sometimes even better for the experience because they’ve had to get creative.

Now, start swimming parallel to the shore.  Start re-visioning ways you can get paid to do what you had been doing.  Can you become a consultant in your field instead of working in the same office each day?  Or can you think about your field upside down or backwards and come up with a new service you can offer?

This also might be a great opportunity to start that business you’ve been dreaming about! 

2) Fiscal Fitness

Examine your monthly expenses to see what you can cut.  You’re looking for “luxury items” that you pay for each month that might seem like necessities but aren’t.  You may consider cutting out cable, large cell phone plans, magazine subscriptions, gym membership, daily coffee runs, eating out, music subscriptions, clothes shopping, and dry cleaning (most items can be dry cleaned at home using special kits available for sale in Walmart), to name a few.  Just stick to essential expenses for right now, and try to avoid large expenses, if possible.

An important point to note is that this cutting back is just temporary!

Don’t get discouraged thinking that you’ll never be able to watch your favorite cooking shows on the Food Network ever again!  Once you’re back on your feet, you can add back in expenses that you missed.

Don’t be surprised, though, if you find that while you may miss cable when you first cut it, after a while you may find a peace in your life without it.  You may have extra time in your day to read, pick up a favorite craft, or spend time with your family.  When you get a new job, you may make the decision not to get cable again – and that’s ok!

3) Don’t seclude yourself in your house!

Don’t completely cut out your entertainment budget.  This may seem like a complete contradiction of the tip directly above, but hear me out.  This time is probably scary and frustrating, and you can’t job search 24/7 – you need to keep your sanity!

Maybe you don’t buy the expensive concert tickets, go out to fancy dinners, or go to the movies every week.  Your entertainment budget will be much smaller right now, but that just means that you have the opportunity to get creative so that your money goes further!

Here are some ideas to use with your new entertainment budget: enjoy a picnic dinner with your family at a local park, find discount movie tickets, rent a $1 movie from Redbox, eat dinner at home and go out to ice cream, find discount meal coupons to a favorite restaurant, look for free activities in your area (like outdoor movies during the summer, festivals, etc.) and frequent those, and suggest a pot luck game night with your friends.

4) Your local public library

When you’re cutting expenses, if you find that you have to cut out the internet, remember that there are lots of places that offer free Wi-Fi these days.

Even though Starbucks, Panera, and Barnes & Noble offer free Wi-Fi, I recommend checking out your local library.  They will not only provide you with free Wi-Fi for your job searching needs, but tell them about your situation, and a librarian will be able to direct you to other resources to help with your search.

5) Your health is your most important asset

Maintaining your family’s health is so important!  I know it may be tempting to buy only noodles and beans & rice for your family, but you don’t want to run the risk of lowering your resistance to colds and other ailments.  You need to bring your A game – staying healthy will help you do that.

Buy good quality food on sale!  Look at the sale flyers that the grocery store sends around each week and find the healthy and nutritious items on sale.  Build a menu for the week around those sale items, and write down your shopping list.  When you go to the store only buy the items on your shopping list!

Stay tuned for more tips on regrouping after a job loss.  In the meantime, try to keep a positive attitude – everything is working out.  You may not see how right now, but one day soon you’ll look back on this experience and see that the path worked perfectly.

Have you or someone you know ever been in a job loss situation?  If so, what did you do that helped you recover?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Happy decoding!

Fun fact for today – The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has two facilities – one in Washington, DC and the other in Fort Worth, TX.  Together, they use 9.7 tons of ink each day! (Source: http://www.federalreserveeducation.org/about-the-fed/structure-and-functions/financial-services/fun_facts.cfm)

PS My friend just told me that her husband accepted a new job today!  How exciting!

Follow your dreams!

Following my dreams! Photo credit: Mike Kraeuter Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Following my dreams!
Photo credit: Mike K.
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs

As I’ve mentioned before, Financial Literacy is my passion and has been for several years now.  With some encouragement from my mom and my husband, it was on my birthday this year that I started this blog.  This past week, I posted all of my blog posts on the Facebook page that I recently created for Decoding Your Dollars (you can find it here).

Both starting this blog and posting my blog posts on Facebook have been steps along the way to following my dreams.  Can I just tell you how fantastic this feels?!  Soon after starting my blog, and then again after sharing all my blog posts on my new Facebook page, I have felt like I am on cloud nine!

This reinforces the importance of following your dreams!  Doing so will make you feel amazing!  Putting yourself out there may seem risky or scary, but it’s not life threatening, and it’s usually pretty exciting.  And it could improve your life – quickly, drastically, and in ways you never imagined!

Some common dreams that people have are dream houses, cars, jobs, and spouses, to name a few.  These pieces all come together to create your dream life.  So how do we apply “following your dreams” to finances?  Let’s look at one of these goals – buying your dream house.

You might have an image in your mind of your dream house, which is a great start.  Build a vision board for yourself, which includes all the details about this house and what will be inside it (read more about vision boards in this post).  Doing this will get you even more excited about your dream!

Next, hop on the internet and search for house prices in the area where you’d like to live.  From there, you can determine the amount you need to come up with in order to put a down payment on your dream house.  I recommend aiming for a 20% down payment (I’ll talk more about different types of mortgages in a future post).  Break that calculated down payment amount into monthly pieces to be able to determine how much you should save toward your goal.  As you see your account balance increasing, you’ll feel encouraged to find more money to put in your bank account.

The down payment amount that you calculated might sound like a lot of money, but don’t get discouraged!  If you think creatively, you can come up with ideas to come up with the down payment even quicker than you expected.  For example, look for a home that’s priced under market value because the sellers really need to sell, look for a rent to own situation, look for a fixer-upper that only needs cosmetic fixes, to name a few thoughts.  You can also come up with a list of things you can do for a fee – running errands for people, cooking meals for busy families, yard work, etc.  Before you know it, you’ll have the keys to your dream house in your hand!  You can do it!

If you find that you need a little extra encouragement, have I got a blog suggestion for you!  When you sign up to follow the blog, it’s like a pep rally in your inbox each day.  The posts will get you really energized to follow your dreams!  Enjoy!  www.dailypeptalks.wordpress.com

So, get out there and dream big!  Then break those dreams into attainable goals that you can achieve along the way.  As you start to achieve those mini-goals, you’ll get even more excited about the overall dream and that will help you make it there faster!  Following your dreams will get your creative juices flowing, which will make the journey seem easier and exhilarating.  Have fun with it!

Thank you for your support while I follow my dreams – I really appreciate it!

Jumping for joy! Photo credit: Mike Kraeuter Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Jumping for joy!
Photo credit: Mike K.
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs

Happy decoding!

Fun fact for today – Did you know that $1 bills last in circulation ~18 months, $5 bills are in circulation for ~15 months, $20 bills are in circulation for ~2 years, and $50 and $100 bills are in circulation for up to 8 years?  From that information, it seems like $5 bills are the most popular form of paper currency! (Source: http://blog.lendingclub.com/the-us-dollar-bill-50-fascinating-facts/)

Fun with Money – the back of your bills!

Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs

This week, I read a great article that taught me to be mindful about my money in a slightly different way.

Brendan McKeon, the author of the article, is from Seattle and traveled to Washington, DC for work.  As he was walking through the monuments in DC, he realized that they looked familiar – they are many of the buildings featured on the backs of our bills!

He then took the time to line up the bills he had in his pocket with the actual buildings and took some pretty amazing photos!  You can find those photos and his article by clicking here.

I think I’m pretty mindful about my money.  However, I had never spent much time contemplating the backs of the bills in my wallet until I read this article.

The thing I find so profound about my realization is that this translates into everyday life.  Perhaps you’re experiencing a problem and you’re currently struggling to find a suitable solution.  Consider then taking that same problem and thinking of it a different way – perhaps even “backwards”.

Does looking at the difficulty from a different angle help you solve the problem?   You might be surprised that it will!

For example, say you’ve just had your hours cut at work.  Your first thought might be – what are my unnecessary expenses?  Let me reduce those and hunker down to wait for better times.  That’s a great place to start.  However, what about thinking of other ways to make more money?  This doesn’t mean that you have to get several part-time jobs.  Perhaps you can find someone who will pay you to make freezer meals for them.  You’re already cooking for yourself and your family, so doubling the recipe wouldn’t be too much trouble.   Or perhaps you can run errands for someone for a fee – you already have your errands to run, possibly to the same stores!  You could create a poster of services that you’re willing to do for people for a fee and post it on community boards in your area as well as on Craigslist.

So, next time you’re having a problem, be it with your job, budget, school work, office work, home, car, relationships…try thinking of things from a different angle to come up with a creative solution.  Also, be sure to be mindful about your surroundings and everything else in your life.

Making an important discovery might be as simple as taking something that you’ve seen a million times in your life and simply turning it over!

Happy decoding!

Fun fact for today – The buildings featured on the backs of the U.S. dollar bills are:

  • $1 bill – a pyramid, though not a specific one that I can tell through my research
  • $5 bill – Lincoln Memorial (Washington, DC)
  • $10 bill – U.S. Treasury (Washington, DC)
  • $20 bill – The White House (Washington, DC)
  • $50 bill – U.S. Capitol (Washington, DC)
  • $100 bill – Independence Hall (Philadelphia, PA)

Bonus fun fact – Since I live nearby the great city of Washington, DC, I have taken many pictures of the beautiful monuments around the city.  Below, I’m sharing my favorite pictures I’ve taken of buildings featured on the backs of bills.  Ironically, the only picture I can’t find that I’ve taken is one of the U.S. Treasury.  Haha – I’ll have to fix that soon!  Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

Lincoln Memorial Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Lincoln Memorial
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs
The White House Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
The White House
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs
U.S. Capitol Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
U.S. Capitol
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs
Independence Hall Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Independence Hall
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs

Change is in the air – emergency funds

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=32842&picture=-100
http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=32842&picture=-100

With the unofficial end of summer behind us, and the change in seasons imminent, it made me think about change in general.  Change can be an exciting and sometimes scary thing.  However, you can take steps in order to put yourself in a good financial position so that you don’t have to worry about any change that may come your way.

So what kind of a change am I referring to here?  Well, sometimes the company you work for may go through a merger, consolidation, move, or reduction in workforce, to name a few options.  Or you may decide to move to a new area or to take some time off to stay home with your kids or re-think the direction of your career.  And sometimes the pipes burst and you need to pay the plumber to come over to fix the issue.

An emergency fund can be the perfect parachute for you in these unexpected times.

You may have heard of people talking about the importance of an emergency fund.  Do you have one? It may be just what you need in order to tide you over for a bit when unexpected expenses or situations arise.

What is an emergency fund?  It is simply a savings account where you regularly deposit money for unexpected events.  I recommend depositing money to this account each time you receive a paycheck.  As they say – pay yourself first!  You can also use the coins that you roll toward this emergency fund.

How much should you have in this account?  Of course, the more money you have in there, the better.  Suze Orman, financial expert, suggests having at least 8 month’s worth of expenses in your emergency fund.  I don’t think it would hurt to have at least a year’s worth of money in there.

How do you figure out how much to put away?  Let’s say you want to have one year’s worth of savings in your savings account.  That means, if you spend $500 each month on housing, $100 on cable/phone/internet, and $400 on groceries, then you know that your monthly expenses are $1,000.  To have one year’s worth of expenses in your emergency fund, then you need $12,000 in your account.

That may seem like a lot of money, but remember that you’re working toward this amount a little bit at a time.  Each paycheck, you will be putting money away in your savings account.  Don’t be discouraged if you save a modest amount each month.  Even if you start out only saving $5 each paycheck, that will add up over time.  Start saving a comfortable amount, then challenge yourself to increase that amount over time.  You will see the balance of your savings account increase faster than you expected!  And remember, any amount that you’re able to put in this fund will go a long way toward easing any tension and worry from unexpected events that you may experience.

I wrote about savings accounts in a previous post – click here to read more about types of accounts that I recommend.  You’ll earn more interest on your money than you will at a regular bank.  I think you’ll like it!

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today: Paper currency is actually made out of fabric – 25% linen and 75% cotton (Source: http://www.federalreserveeducation.org/about-the-fed/structure-and-functions/financial-services/fun_facts.cfm).