The dreary theme that kept running through my head once I joined the ranks of the unemployed was that my standard of living would have to change. For the last 4 years, I felt very financially secure. My salary was such that I felt I could buy what I wanted, when I wanted to, with very little worry about affordability. And now, that secure feeling is gone. I've had moments of sheer panic. I've had moments where I've cried over the loss of this change.
On the other hand, I've lived on a budget before; I can do it again.
I finally did a quick review of my standard monthly expenses to see how that measured up to what I would receive from unemployment. Turned out to be not as bad as I thought. The unemployment checks, even after taxes, will cover the basic monthly expenses -- utilities, mortgage, and what not. (although, I keep feeling that I haven't accounted for something and that the situation is actually WORSE than I think).
That's assuming, however, that my interpretation of the unemployment benefits is correct regarding subsidies for COBRA insurance payments. If I read it correctly, the state will cover the part of the premium that my former employer would have paid. My costs will be a bit higher than when I was employed because of the 2% administrative fee that gets added in. But still...I think I accounted for that.
Now, if I actually want to eat, put gas in the car, and have a bit of a life, that money will have to come from the emergency fund. If I'm reasonably careful, I can get the emergency fund to last at least a year, without living like a Depression-era child (yes, I'll be able to go out to dinner, buy clothing, keep my Neflix subscription, rent time at a glass studio, and so forth).
Of course, *saving* any money will be impossible. I'll be stopping all payments to IRAs and such. Unless I'm employed with a decent salary, it's unlikely that I'll be going to my favorite Arts and Crafts show this year. :-(. And discretionary spending will have to be prioritized very carefully.
As I reviewed my past spending habits, I can see that I was leaving within my means (and enjoying it heartily), but I was living at the border of my means. I was saving about 15% of my salary in IRAs and 401Ks...which are sadly depleted now and then spending the rest. I now regret that I didn't save more in my cash accounts.
Well, for now, no more throwing money out the window like there's no tomorrow.
Because tomorrow came.