Life rarely goes according to plan, and nothing throws a wrench in those plans quite like being fired. Two years ago, I was working at what I thought was my dream job, paying down my debts, saving for emergencies and retirement, and generally thinking my finances were on track. And then, boom — instant unemployment.
For me, the timing could not have been worse. I had just moved into a fancy, new apartment with my boyfriend, which cost a little more than what I had been paying on my own, and my car was about to need some routine, but costly, repairs. I had also just started saving for my emergency fund.
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So, what did I do about it? Well, I cried a lot, I panicked a little, I made a financial priorities list and then I trimmed all the fat from my budget. I also learned a lot, which I will share here.
Know That You’re Not a Failure
You might lose your job because of some awful thing you did or maybe you did suck at the job, but it could also be because of an office culture where you didn’t fit in, your boss didn’t like you or it was political. Either way, I learned to take it in stride and not feel like a failure.
Learn the Lessons That Are There
Obvious lessons might be that if you actually didn’t do your job well, then there are some skills to work on. Same with office culture; if it didn’t work well for you, you now know what kind of environment to avoid in future jobs. Maybe you learned that you need to make your accomplishments more public so you don’t get overlooked. Whatever it is, take the good with the bad — and grow.
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Always Keep Your Résumé Updated
Because I had an updated résumé, I was able to apply for new jobs very quickly. I ended up only being unemployed for 1 1/2 weeks.
Have an Emergency Fund
I can’t stress this enough. I left that termination meeting in shock, yes, but not fearful. I wasn’t afraid I couldn’t pay my rent that month (just all the months after). I wasn’t concerned about food. I knew I had around one full month of living expenses already in the bank, and I knew I had the ability to at least get a part-time job to pay bills if needed.
Deal With the “Other Stuff”
Only after you’ve really thought about everything else on this list, start handling the “other stuff” you have to deal with after job loss. Check on your benefits/health insurance and set up new accounts if needed. Check out unemployment, if applicable. Redo your budget to accommodate a more austere lifestyle. Getting fired was a great motivator for me to cancel all those pesky subscription services and shop around for insurance.
Look for an Upgrade
After I got fired, my first job search included jobs I knew I could pretty easily get (part-time jobs where I had experience), but I also started looking for temporary jobs that would pay a little more to keep my bills paid each month. Through this, I ended up landing a job that pays significantly more than my old job. I had been complacent in my previous job and hadn’t kept up with looking for other opportunities. I know now to check and always make sure I’m putting my talents toward the people who will reward me the most — even before I find myself unemployed.
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For me, being fired ended up saving my finances. I had become a victim of lifestyle creep, and I would not have noticed if not for losing my job. Now, I know to prepare for income loss and to leave my wants for special occasions, like my birthday and holidays. I also know that I want to have more of an emergency fund saved than I had previously. Since being fired and subsequently getting my current job, I have paid down more student loans and debt because I started watching my finances more closely and am actually increasing my income — all thanks to getting fired.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: I Lost My Job and It Was Exactly What I Needed to Fix My Finances