1. Call your credit card companies and other creditors
When you lose your job, all previous savings and debt repayment plans go out the window. But don't live in denial of your bills. Instead, contact your creditors to negotiate a lower interest rate, and see if you qualify for deferments on any outstanding loans. If you were paying more than the minimum on any debts, cut back for the time being.
Remember to be extremely careful not to be late on any payments. Late fees are an unnecessary expense and will make it harder for you to keep your accounts current -- and missed and late payments will hurt your credit rating, too.
2. Conserve your cash and create a budget
You have no idea how long your unemployment stint will last, so it goes without saying that you need to be as frugal as possible. Go through your budget and cut out anything that isn't a necessity. It might be hard at first, but stretching your money as far as it can go will keep you from relying on credit cards or loans to get you through until your next job.
3. Apply for Employment Insurance (EI)
When you qualify for EI, take advantage of it. Even if you received a severance package, or think you have the savings in your bank account to get you through until your next job, truthfully, you just don't know when that might be. EI ensures you will have at least some cash flow during your job search, and will relieve some of your stress.
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*Don't forget that the processing of your first EI payment can take weeks -- and sometimes even months -- so the sooner you apply for EI, the better.
4. Find a part-time job
If you don't qualify for EI, finding a part-time job just might be the ticket to helping you cope with unemployment. (If you do get EI, any earnings could be deducted from your payments, so extra work might not be worth it. Do the math first.) Depending on your line of work, you can try to make some extra money by taking on temporary work assignments through a placement agency, or freelance projects.
However, don't limit yourself to finding work within your industry. Some people assume that they have to find another career-related job. But when faced with unemployment, you can't always afford to be picky. Consider taking a part-time job at a local coffee shop, tutoring students in your spare time or even working at a retail store in the mall.
The worst thing you can do is apply for every job posting you see. It might seem counterintuitive, but by focusing on finding any new job as quickly as possible, you will end up wasting your time by interviewing for positions well below your qualification level, or for companies you have no desire to work for.
Use and extend your network and focus your efforts on the best jobs and you'll be more likely to find a new position that you'll be happy in -- and that pays you well, too. Be careful with your money while you look for work and you'll have the freedom to job-search well.
Krystal Yee is a marketing professional living in Vancouver. She writes about personal finance at Give Me Back My Five Bucks (www.givemebackmyfivebucks.com), and the Toronto Star's Moneyville.ca. You can reach her on Twitter (@krystalatwork)
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