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So that’s it then. No weapons, no friends, no hope. Take all that away, and what’s left?
Damn, Buffy is empowering! She teaches you what you can rely on when you have nothing, because in reality, we never have nothing. We always have one thing, that one, special, unique thing that only death can take away. We have ourselves. And that’s what we need to rely on when we have nothing.
What to do When You Have Nothing
Where to Turn?
I’m writing this post because my ex boyfriend’s daughter asked a very important question. She’s was just starting to understand life and finances, and I wanted her to feel comfortable asking me anything on those topics. So she asked me what someone should do if they have nothing – If they lost their job and have no friends or family to turn to for help.
I think that was an extremely insightful question for such a young child to ask. Even at eight years old, she recognized that not everyone has a safety net. Some people have no families, while other’s have families that are in even worse positions and unable to help. Others still come from extremely toxic families that wouldn’t help even if they could, and would generally make the situation worse. The point is, some people really don’t have anyone to turn to. So what do you have when you have nothing?
You Always Have Yourself
I know that’s dire, but it’s reality. It’s also not the end of the story though. There’s still one thing you have, one person that you can always rely on no matter what. And that’s yourself. You have options. As long as you have strength left, you can keep fighting and make it through any adversity. And in reality, you don’t have to go through it alone.
What Can You Do?
The first thing you need to do when you are in this position is start cutting back, if you can. I understand that there are tons of people out there who don’t have anything to cut, and unfortunately this section won’t be that helpful to you. But lots of people do have things they can cut, even if it’s painful. Let’s start there.
If you haven’t already, now is a great time to give up cable. I don’t even miss it! You can also give up your Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and any other subscription services you might have. Yeah, it sucks to not have entertainment, but it’s better than not eating.
You can also cut back on groceries. Reduce the amount of meat you purchase every month, buy more rice and lentils, and cut out the pop and junk food. I know food is amazing, but at this point we are just trying to stay alive.
Lastly, check out you phone plan and see if there is anything that you can cut out to make it cheaper. Maybe you have unlimited data and can switch to a limited plan. Or maybe you can cancel your current plan and go to a pre-paid plan.
Go over your entire budget with a fine-tooth comb to see if there are any other non-essentials that you can cut. You might find something surprising.
We all know that debt repayment is the first thing that people stop paying when they aren’t getting paid anymore, and this negatively affects your credit. Instead of just stopping payment, try calling the debt servicing company and ask for a deferment or forbearance. You also may be able to negotiate a lower interest rate to make the payments more manageable. It never hurts to ask, even if the answer is no. Sometimes the company will surprise you, and you will have one less thing to worry about for a few months.
It is harder to negotiate on essentials or to stop paying them all together, but it isn’t impossible. Many utility companies offer lower rates to people with low incomes. Call yours and ask! If you are renting, you might be able to negotiate a lower rent for a short time frame, or you might be able to barter some services in exchange for rent. These are all things you have to ask for, but when you are in a position where you don’t have anything else, what are you going to lose by asking?
Getting Back on Your Feet
Now that you’ve cut some things back and having some breathing room, it’s time to get back on your feet. The first priority is finding some income. The best part of this is that you aren’t really alone!
There Actually is Help
Although the US government isn’t the greatest, it still has safety nets in place to help people get through tough times. I’ve heard so many people say that they don’t want handouts, they don’t want to go to the government because they should be able to take care of themselves and all that. That’s just pride getting in the way. It’s ok to accept government assistance. That’s what it’s there for! That’s what you’ve been paying taxes for!
Find out which government programs are available to you and apply for them. If you just lost your job, the first thing you should do is go to the unemployment office and file. It won’t match the pay you lost, but it will give you some breathing room. It will get you some money coming in while you look for a new job.
There are other programs that can assist you as well. If you are facing homelessness, check into HUD’s rapid rehousing program. If you are food insecure, you can look into your state’s food stamp program. Those who need additional assistance can also apply for their state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, commonly known as Welfare. These programs are all designed to help people get back on their feet if they lose everything. I know that there is a stigma attached to accepting this help, but really that’s what it is there for. There is no shame in asking for help when you need it.
Government assistance is a much needed band-aid. Once you have it and have some breathing room, it’s time to pick yourself up and fix your situation. The best way to do that is to get a new job. I know it’s much easier said than done, but it’s a necessity. Go to temp agencies in your area, scour websites like indeed and craigslist, and even check Facebook. If you don’t have access to a computer or the internet, you can use one at your local library. You will also want to ensure that your resume is up-to-date and error free.
You may also just need to head to local small businesses in your area and see if they are hiring. Although I know it’s not the ideal work environment, many fast food restaurants have open interviews weekly. A job is a job, and you aren’t a lesser person for taking whatever job is available (honestly, this is something I hate about the work culture in America – we have created a society where people are what they do for a living, and not only is it horrible, but its just not true!). My Life I Guess has a much more thorough resource on what to do if you can’t find a job, so if you’re still struggling, check that out.
Once you have a new job and have some income coming in, you can start looking for a more ideal work situation. You have bought yourself time to get back into the type of career that you are interested in. You should also start putting aside some money for emergency savings, so that you don’t have to panic if you ever find yourself in a similar situation. For more tips on helping yourself, checkout these 15 ways you can survive if you suddenly find yourself unemployed.
You Always Have You
I obviously don’t know everyone’s situation (and wouldn’t be able to address every possible situation in a single blog post!). The point of this post isn’t to tell you what will work for you in your specific situation, the point is to show you that there are always options. You may feel like things are hopeless, and I understand that feeling. But it’s really not. It may feel like you have nothing, but that’s not entirely true either. You always have you, and that’s enough.
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.