Unemployment Survival Kit: How to Cut Costs, Corners and Coupons

Lisa Casino-Schuetz

Many of our unemployed members at Neighbors-helping-Neighbors USA find it very difficult in today's job market, as it takes longer to find work and there are not enough jobs for those who want them and deserve them. The lack of action by our Congress to extend benefits since December 28, 2014 further adds to the national crisis, and the unemployed only have 26 weeks of unemployment now--and in some states less than that.

Lisa Casino-Schuetz is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, and one of our volunteer leaders withNeighbors-helping-Neighbors. She has assembled some helpful tips and suggestions about surviving in the midst of long-term unemployment.

How to Cut Costs, Corners and Coupons - By Lisa Casino-Schuetz

Many Americans have been issued pink slips and applied for unemployment, and then the unemployment runs out. This can be traumatizing because you are paralyzed with fear and anxiety, truly wondering where your next meal is coming from. Yes, it's a sad state of affairs, but it must be dealt with creatively in order to stay afloat. You have no choice but to give up the luxuries or even some of the necessities you have been used to. Who doesn't know someone who has been adversely affected by this economy?

I devised ways to conserve and cut back and keep what little money I had just to get by. Saving? Forget about that. If you're lucky and have extra money, then by all means save it. My helpful hints are for those who have no extra money, yet they still have bills to pay. Consider some of these helpful hints to help you conserve what little you do have.

Food is one of the largest expenses in your budget, so use this as a good time to eat better and lose weight if you need to.
  • Contact your local Department of Social Services to see if you qualify for assistance like food stamps.
  • Cut out fast food, there are better choices for you anyway and fast food is expensive. Cook at home. Great meals can be made quickly and inexpensively.
  • Drink water, not soda or juices which add dollars to your supermarket bill and calories to your waistline. Tap water can be stored in a large pitcher and put in the refrigerator.
  • Save water bottles and refill them so you don't have to buy new water bottles.
  • This might be a good time to give up alcohol. It's costly and it may send you down a path of destruction, especially since it exacerbates depression if you are prone to feeling that way during this time.
  • Buy private label brands and off brands like Basics or Basic Essentials that includes food. Brand name doesn't mean the best, and is most likely more expensive except when on sale. Then stock up but don't over-buy. Learn the sale patterns of your favorite stores, and switch brands and try to only buy what is on sale.
  • Plan meals ahead so you can make two or three meals from your purchases. Cook chicken breasts and have them for multiple meals served in different ways.
  • Grow your own fruits and vegetables. Home gardens can be cost-effective and grow herbs and items that are more costly in the store.
  • Go to farmers markets and other retailers that offer produce more inexpensive than supermarkets.
  • Occasionally have breakfast for dinner--the meal is cheaper
  • Eat leftovers.

  • Cut out unnecessary channels and premium services. Rent a movie with Red Box or Netflix.
  • Sell thing you do not need at garage sales and on Amazon and Ebay or Craigslist.
  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs.
  • Use energy-efficient settings on all appliances.
  • Use regular cloths instead of wasting paper towels.
  • Rent out spare rooms in your home.
  • Live with family or friends if you can until you get back on your feet.
  • Ask utility companies to work with you if you can, some have payment plans that might be more affordable for you at least temporarily.
  • Cut bills by shutting off all electric appliances when not in use, keep heat as low as you can possibly bear, don't let the water run when brushing your teeth, use cold water to wash clothes, take shorter showers,
  • Run big appliances like the dishwasher and washer late at night because the rates are cheaper.
  • Use disposable dishes, and cups and utensils to save on the water bill. You can find these in the dollar store too

  • Purchase the cheapest gas; only high end sports cars need premium.
  • Don't make any unnecessary trips, use cash rather than credit and shop the stations. There is a surprising amount of variation in price even in the same area, and the same gas brands.
  • Try not to speed. This uses gas up quicker than if you stuck to the speed limit.
  • Find a friend who is handy with cars to help you change your oil or give you other money-saving tips.
  • Shop around for cheaper car insurance. Trust me, it's out there. Check the online insurance services; Allstate owns Esurance, and there are many others that can save you money. You can cut your costs in half.

Healthy Living
  • Get health insurance. Go to your local Department of Social Services and see if you qualify for Medicare.
  • If you smoke, try to stop. This is a major expense and not good for your health.
  • If you can't afford a gym, you can always find exercises online to do in your home or at parks around your neighborhood, when weather permits.

  • As the saying goes, "everything old is new again." This should prompt you to go into your closet and see if there are any clothes that you use instead of buying clothes. With the right ensemble, you can still dress to impress. This requires a little creativity and input. Have fun with it.
  • Use whatever beauty products you have and squeeze them out until you can't anymore.

Other Ideas to help
  • Save your pennies or other change; it adds up quickly.
  • Cut coupons and organize the by date.
  • Buy stuff in the dollar store--some places even sell food.
  • Be aware of impulse buying. Make a list and stick to it. Put off purchases until you actually need to make them.
  • Offer to do odd jobs like house-siting, taking care of someone's pet, babysitting, or tutoring.
  • Try calling a temp agency to bring in quick income.
  • Redo your resume inexpensively by using discount programs run by high-caliber professionals like Groupon or Living Social.
  • Find free entertainment for you and your family; search internet, check local papers

It is important to track your expenses more closely, so here are some free tools to try out:

If you have any other ideas to add that you have used and want to share them please
email them to me at LCasino4@gmail.com

Reader Comments and Suggestions:

Dear Lisa,

I just finished reading your article and used those very tips yesterday. I'm a single woman and lost my job 5 weeks ago. I'm a renter with wonderful landlords and was very worried how I would make the rent payments.

I made calls to the utility companies and had my payments lowered. I had long distance disconnected on my home phone and downsized the TV channels to local only.

My auto and health insurance were also lowered and other expenses are manageable amounts. I'm fortunate that we have well water - no bill there. The sewer and trash are part of my rent.

I use a pre-paid cell, again no monthly bill. All I have to do is buy minutes when I need them. That is something other unemployed people might think about doing. Get rid of expensive cell phones and plans with the apps and gadgets.

I am receiving food assistance, which is my "emergency" help. I also decided to purchase foods that can be multiple meals to last until the next unemployment payment.

Finally, I outlined all my cost cutting measures, included the payment dates for unemployment and gave it to my landlords. I told them the payment dates do not coincide with the rent due date. I let them know that I'll have to pay the rent 1/2 at a time until the lowered rates start.

I also let them know I'll do my very best to keep the rent current and hopefully establish a new budget that allows me to once again pay all the rent at one time.

In doing this, they know I'm trying very hard to get them paid. I made the choices so the small amount I receive will work for me, not against me! My landlords waived the late fee for this month's rent. They knew it would cause more financial hardship on me and I don't know if they will continue to do that while I'm still unemployed. They haven't mentioned it yet.

I'm their first tenant who became unemployed and they are trying to work with me so we all win. I suggest that other unemployed people keep in touch with landlords or mortgage companies. If they are upfront and honest, the company will likely work with them. Burying your head in the sand doesn't make the problem go away.

Thanks for a great article and funny that I read it the day after I already made the changes! I hope the couple of suggestions I have will help someone else.



Thank you for your support and encouragement. I have good days and bad days; trying to stay positive and have faith is trying at times. Since I sent my email to you, I gave my landlords the letter detailing my efforts to make the rent payments.

My landlady brought me some food (very touching) and her husband was over later to bring my mail. They both acknowledged reading the letter and thanked me for information. No mention was made of late fees for the rent in the upcoming months.

Again, keeping the communication open goes a long way toward having people help in a tough and uncontrollable situation.

You asked the type of work I'm seeking. I enjoy Administrative work and have strong organizational skills. My customer service skills through the years included owning my own business, hospitality in a restaurant and hotel. I have 30+ years of office experience in a variety of settings. I also have life skills to contribute for the position. The trick is getting my foot in the door!

Thanks for the tip on the website and I will check it out!

Once again, thank you for your kind words and encouragement. One day at a time and faith will get me through this temporary setback.

Warm regards,


Lisa Casino-Schuetz web page
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