Employed, but Earning Less

My dear friend recently went back to work after being unemployed for a time. She is grateful for the job, but this work earns her much less per hour than before. In fact, it offers both fewer hours and smaller per-hour pay.

Thus with a diminished earning power, she is understandably finding it hard to make ends meet. My friend seems to be in the same pickle as many people out there in today’s job market. Many jobs from the past just aren’t there anymore and can people either retrain to enter a new career – which costs money – or take a job that pays less. Many people, like my friend, are just happy to be working. A long layoff is bad enough in itself, and earning any money comes as a relief.

However, I naively would have guessed that people’s spending would have been tuned down already from trying to squeak by on unemployment. Rather, my friend had simply delayed purchasing several items she really needed while she was unemployed – tires for the car and new glasses. When those first few paychecks came, they were spent on catching up with bills. The next bought the tires, and finally, she sprung for the new glasses with another. While she is trying to be careful, she is understandably feeling a little deprived after months of scrimping. Her few pampering items have brought her finances close to the edge. “I know I shouldn’t, but it is so nice to have my nails done again!” she said only just last week.

Keeping in mind that “hindsight is 20/20”, my friend offered a few gems of advice to those heading back to work, but earning less money than before:

Plan the worst-case scenario: She wishes she had planned for a layoff well before it happened. “If I had been able to save more money instead of spending it, I could take it a little easier.” Even in the present tight situation, she is still trying to put a little away every month and not spend her entire paycheck. Re-evaluating what she spent before is a good way to keep it from leaking away in the present. In fact, she wished she would have eased up on the everyday expenses in the past, and would have purchased a cheaper car so the payments wouldn’t be so much.

Live like you have less than you’re making: It is totally understandable to feel deprived in times like these. When you can’t afford to do the fun things you used to be able to afford, it’s just a bummer. However, my friend is indulging in a more-affordable habit of late. As a craft-lover, she found a second-hand store that sells used craft materials. She has discovered half-completed cross-stitching, skeins of yarn and embroidery thread for insanely cheap prices.

She has also upgraded her shopping habits and now visits the rock-bottom grocery store in our town. Despite having to bag her own groceries, she is amazed at the savings she finds over her local supermarket. It’s been fun to see the creative ways she is finding to save money.

Keep looking for a better job: This job is good, but as mentioned the pay is lower than she would like, and perhaps worst for her, it is physically demanding. So, my friend is keeping her options open. She scans the classifieds, crafts her resume to a present her best points for each job she is qualified for, and keeps up contact with her past employers. Will this extra work result in a better job? Maybe not, but as she says, “I need to keep trying!”

It’s all right to go back to school: The thought of going back to school makes most people envision overwhelming student loans and mountains of homework. My friend is thinking about changing her life completely and studying nursing, a field that fascinates her. While investigating this option, she discovered there is more financial help available than before. It is worth applying for financial help with school… you may just get it. The counselors and support staff at the college is glad to help you, and it’s free to apply. If you don’t get a government-backed grant, you may qualify for a no-interest loan, which makes the debt-load less expensive in the long run. If your future schooling results in a better-paying, more in-demand job, the cost will certainly be worth it.

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2 Responses to Employed, but Earning Less

  1. Dana says:

    We are much more resilient than we give ourselves credits for. This too will pass, and in the meantime, we’ll have to buckle up and make the best of it. Good, sensible advice.

  2. China Brooks says:

    Great article Jennifer!
    Thank God I wised up and saved an emergency fund which came in handy when I got fired from one of my jobs. I didn’t freak out, and I have remained solidly on my feet all because I planned ahead of time. I am also free to pursue other income streams that I actually enjoy instead of having to take any job out of necessity. Planning makes all the difference in the world!

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