Because of your situation, friends, family, and neighbors can likely be counted on to help. Your usual day care center may also offer drop-in service for those days that you'll be out interviewing. You can even try to schedule all your interviews and meetings for one or two days every week. In general, however, this will be one area that offers you the good potential for saving money.
Depending on whether you are dealing with a private grammar school or a large university, tuition bills can be a significant problem. If you have one or more children attending college, call the financial aid office and explain your situation. Depending on the size of the school, they may be able to help you apply for loans or grants, depending on your son's or daughter's academic standing. One parent discovered that a large state university had a fund to provide interest-free loans to students who were also scholarship recipients. Because his daughter had received a small scholarship earlier in her academic career, the university was able to grant her an interest-free loan that paid a large portion of her tuition. Financial aid offices can often be more creative than you would imagine, especially if your son or daughter has a reasonable academic record.
Small private colleges and private or parochial elementary or preparatory schools may be able to help you set up a payment plan. Depending on your prospects for a new job, though, this may be the time to talk with your children about the possibility of completing their education at a less expensive school.
Obviously when you're worried about where your next paycheck will come from, it's difficult to be concerned about the plight of others. Charitable donations are probably the first thing on your list that you'll immediately delete. You do have good reason for putting your family's security ahead of donations you may normally make. However, there are a couple of things you can do to ensure that you still share your valuable resources.
When you're out of work, there are only so many hours in a day you can stuff resumes into envelopes or go on interviews. You'll likely have time that you can use, although you'll have no idea how long that will be the case. One of the best ways to deal with the anxiety too much time produces is to volunteer, even if only for a few hours per week. Not only will volunteering help you deal with the open-ended anxiety of being out of work, it will also help you feel less isolated and more connected to other people. All the while, you'll still be fulfilling your community obligations, even if you can no longer do it financially.
Most important, when you do find another job, don't forget to share your good fortune. Resume your donations and add additional funds if you can from time to time.
Entertainment and Personal Expenses
You'll be able to cut large portions of this part of your budget. You'll quickly begin to realize that one movie for two people can pay for groceries for a day for two people. You'll start to realize that there are trade offs with every dime you may think of spending.
On the other hand, some forms of inexpensive entertainment will help alleviate the boredom and anxiety. Rent a movie, go to an art museum on the day they have free admission, take the kids to any one of a number of free museums or historical exhibits.
Other personal expenses, such as dry cleaning or health club memberships can be reduced or eliminated altogether. Tape an exercise program from public television instead. If you press it carefully, a good suit can go through 10 or 15 wearings without being dry-cleaned.
Gifts can be a problem when money is tight. Give family members a gift certificate for free baby-sitting or other services. They'll appreciate it more than you know, and they'll certainly understand, given your situation.
Alimony or Child Support
If you are making monthly alimony or child support payments, your payments are based on your salary before you were laid off There may not be any provision in your divorce decree to deal with drastic changes to your income. Rather than let your payments lapse or try to negotiate with your former spouse, you should consult the attorney who handled your divorce proceedings.
Although laws may vary from state to state, you will likely have to work through the court to make any changes to your current payments. Because being out of work involves numerous financial choices, you'll probably want to put child support payments ahead of any alimony obligations you may have. However, because you are legally bound to pay both if that's what your divorce decree included, you may not be able to negotiate exactly what you need. This is one area in which you may have very litde flexibility. In addition, your options may be limited by the relationship between you and your former spouse.