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When you are down to one income
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Many families are getting an unpleasant shock when job loss forces them to suddenly live on one income. If this happens to you, don’t panic. Here’s what to do:
• Apply for unemployment benefits. Don’t wait to see if you get another job quickly.
• Do the math. Add up all your fixed monthly bills, such as credit cards, loans and mortgage. How much in the red will you actually be? Calculate savings and see how far it’s going to stretch.
• Cut your fixed expenses immediately, to the extent that you can. Is it time to consider refinancing your mortgage, perhaps increasing the length of the loan to 40 years? (Once you get on your feet again, you can make extra principal payments to reduce the life of the loan.) Will the credit-card companies lower your interest rate? Perhaps it’s time to cut back to basic cable service or raise the deductible on your auto insurance. If you have both cell and house phones, would it be cheaper to let the house phone go? Does it make sense to sell one of your vehicles to cut back on payments and insurance? Ask your utility company about going on a fixed monthly plan (a year’s use divided by 12.)
• Take a hard look at your flexible expenses, such as food and clothing and all those things that seem to fall under the heading of “miscellaneous.” Before you buy anything, look for a cheaper source. Need kid clothes or a bicycle or dishes? Sign up on Plan menus around the coupons in the weekly paper. Investigate “freebies” online. (It’s best to generate a throwaway e-mail address for this, as your level of spam will skyrocket.)
• Can the one of you who still has a job telecommute? Even working from home a few days a week will save on gas and dry-cleaning bills.
If you still have your job, start now to develop multiple streams of income. Then if the worst happens, you won’t be completely without income, and those side sources will have the potential of either keeping you afloat until another main job comes along, or they could be developed into your main job without the problems of getting started. Best bet in this economy: have one main and two side sources of income.

Uffington does not personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Write to him in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to
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