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Just laid off? Do this now

It's terrifying to face a job loss. Within seconds you start thinking about your home, your family, your bills. How will you live? How will you pay everything? If you've just lost your job (or you're months/years into unemployment), here is your emergency must-do list. This may be hard, but it's what you need to do to survive. Paula Sirois, deals.com

Get the facts: Gather up all the bills and expenses and bank accounts. Be honest here. This is the most vital part. How much money do you have on hand (in savings, etc) and how much money do you need to live every month? If you have a spouse, do this together. The next part gets tricky: You need to look at your core bills: housing, electric, food and focus on only those right now. Naturally, all extracurricular spending stops now.

Make some calls: Call every single company you owe money to and tell them what has happened and ask for help. Cancel extras like cable and Internet service; you can use the free Internet at the library. Call the electric company, your mortgage holder(s), your insurance company, etc., and ask all of them for a temporary reduction. You need to make these calls today and work with them.

Gather the troops: After you've figured out what your basic core bills are and what you're cutting, gather the family and tell the kids. This does not need to be a doom and gloom conversation, but it does need to be factual. They want to know why ballet or soccer is being canceled and, yes, they will be upset, but this is your chance to pull the family together on a common goal. Give everyone the task of coming up with some creative solutions to the money crunch. Make it fun for the little ones and challenging for the older kids. Try out the new ideas and start a much-needed and healthy conversation about money and work.

Consider everything: Since many families are only one paycheck away from bankruptcy, it's important to brainstorm every idea that could help you. Be open to anything, including selling your second car, moving in with family or taking in a roommate and having the kids share a room. This is temporary and there is no reason you need to fall into a debt hole when you can make changes and avoid serious long-term issues.

Keep going: Now is not the time to feel bad for yourself and complain about your ex-boss. Get up and do something positive every day. Focus on finding money, with part-time work, like bartending, waiting tables or substitute teaching, or focus on finding ways to cut expenses, or selling things on eBay, or helping your neighbors with their computers. Every day needs to be active and moving toward your goal of staying afloat until you are working again.

Just laid off? Do this now 10/12/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 5:30am]

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