How to Manage Your Money if You Don't Know When You'll Be Paid Again

An 8-Part Series on Managing Your Money During Job Loss, Income Reduction, or Furlough


If you’ve been recently laid off or furloughed, it can be stressful financially because you don’t know when more money will arrive. Yet, in the meantime, you have bills to pay!

You weren’t expecting to be in this position. It’s not your fault. You didn’t see it coming. None of us did.

We know it’s stressful to get blindsided by job loss or job change. You ask yourself, “Are we going to be OK? Are we going to make it? Will our lifestyle have to change?” Although we can’t stop that stress from seeping in, we can help you reduce that stress and focus on prioritizing the money you do have right now. This eight-part series will teach you exactly how to budget successfully to stay afloat if you find yourself in this situation.

The Job Loss Rollercoaster

Does the stress from a job loss weigh heavy? Does it creep up on you unprompted in between binge-watching Netflix? It isn’t just you, and you’re certainly not alone in these feelings. Grappling with life after an unexpected job loss is a rollercoaster of emotions. You have moments of complete calm (More time with the family! Being mesmerized by slime videos on Youtube! My body is healthy! I have so much to be thankful for!) and the lows are low (Uncertainty. Doubt. Fear. Feeling stuck and broke. So broke. What if I never get another job again?).

You’re stressed about money just about every minute of the day—and night, because you can’t sleep when you are stressed about money.

It’s time to sidle up to one of the most powerful tools in making your money stretch like it’s made of silly putty: the humble budget.

It’s Your Time to Shine, Budget

Someone might have told you that budgets don’t work when your income is unpredictable (or nonexistent), and maybe you believed them. Or maybe your own experience has made you quite sure that it’s pointless to budget when you don’t have money coming in. You’ve tried to forecast. You’ve tried to budget. Nothing has worked.

The good news (yes, there is good news!) is there are a couple of simple reasons why what you’ve tried in the past hasn’t worked. And better yet, you can change your relationship with your money, giving you more control of your finances and your financial stress than you ever thought possible. Also—bonus!—you can sleep better too.

Everyone Needs A Budget—But Especially You

Let’s get this straight—everyone needs a budget. But you–you and your recent reduction in income–need one even more.

The budget will help you to stretch the money you have now. The budget will give you boundaries so you aren’t always guessing and worrying. The budget allows you to plan for the future, and make informed decisions about your choices now. The budget will give you the confidence to make better decisions. The budget will help protect money for groceries, and to pay the next bill that’s coming due.

If your budget hasn’t worked/isn’t working, it’s probably because:

1. Your Budget Was Set in Stone.

Talk about a budget, and most people imagine something you set at the beginning of the month (or, worse, the year!) and then twist yourself in knots trying to match it. Or else you failed. Everything in your life changes week-to-week and day-to-day, why pretend a budget is different? Budgets can and should be flexible.

2. Your Budget Was Built Around Anticipated Income.

Budgeting money you don’t have yet is like a farmer promising exact deliveries of crops to his neighbors the day after he puts seeds in the ground. It doesn’t work. Instead, he should wait until the crops actually grow, then take stock and divvy them up appropriately.

A budget that replicates itself each month without thinking or a budget built on a hopeful forecast of what money might come in is, at its best ineffective; at its worst, downright dangerous—especially with unpredictable income.

Not Just Any Budget

You need a budget that is as nimble and adaptive as your changing circumstances. You need a budget that works with the money you already have in hand, and that helps you prepare for your future plans. And the things you don’t know about yet. A budget that puts you in the driver’s seat.

In this series, we will teach you how to build and maintain a flexible budget that will become one of your trusty sidekicks over the coming weeks and months. Your stress levels—and your life—will never be the same.

Next up, Part 2: How to Know What You Can Afford