What to Do When You’re Suddenly the Breadwinner of the Family

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The truth is, it can happen to anyone at any point in time for a number of different reasons. You might be sharing household expenses with your parents or your significant other one day only to find yourself the sole breadwinner the next. It’s terribly blindsiding, but you don’t have to go at it alone. While your friends and family rally around you, here are some tips that might help you manage the coming days.

Take a deep breath.

Different people react differently to bad news. Some throw themselves into the most mundane things such as their chores. Others feel physically weakened and may have a hard time finding the energy to do anything. Regardless of which end of the spectrum you belong to, allow yourself to have a moment to absorb everything. Just take it all in sans the distractions. If you need to cry or let out a little bit of steam, this is the time to do it.

Assess the situation.

Once you have allowed it to sink in, the next step is to examine where you’re at with an objective lens. List down all your monthly expenses (weekly if the situation is dire) and existing liabilities and stack it against how much you’re making. While your spending power has obviously diminished, listing everything down makes it more concrete and, therefore, actionable. Take a look at how much you have in your savings and your investments as well. While you’re at it, make sure to discuss if the situation is likely to be temporary or permanent. If it’s the former, how long do you think it will take before things go back to normal. If it’s the latter, is there another way to supplement your income or have you exhausted all your options? Be as honest as you can. While everyone hopes for the best, you want to make sure that all your bases are at least covered.

Make the necessary adjustments.

Looking at your list, determine what expenses you can live without. Now isn’t the time to let your emotions cloud your judgment. In fact, we encourage you to be as ruthless as possible. You can also consider downgrading certain memberships and plans. For example, do you really need a post-paid mobile plan that’s worth P1,000? Do you really need more than one user in your Netflix account? How else can you save on groceries and other expenses? If you have big-ticket items that you’re paying for, such as a car or a condo, come up with a Plan A and Plan B with whomever you’re sharing the expenses with. 

For example, Plan A can be to keep paying for the car or condo, while balancing all your other expenses. Arrange a meeting with your agent or bank to see if they can help you work out a reasonable payment plan considering the circumstances. They might be more amenable to waiving fees or extending deadlines if it means keeping you on as a client.

Plan B can be to put a threshold on Plan A. How long will you keep paying for something before you decide that it’s not sustainable? Give yourself a reasonable deadline, say, six months to a year—whatever you’re most comfortable with—before you cut your losses and move on.

Change your mindset. 

Changing your state of mind doesn’t mean accepting that this is your fate, but accepting that this is the situation for now. It’s not meant to be a defeatist act, but rather, a choice to make the best of things, so that you can do what you need to do. Put it this way, the sooner you accept that things have changed, the sooner you’ll be able to transition to a new way of life, and the sooner you can work your way forward.

Don’t forget to practice self-care.

The pressure of keeping everyone fed, clothed, sheltered, among others, over an uncertain period of time is no small matter. To keep yourself from being too overwhelmed, take measures to protect your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. Exercise at home, get enough sleep, pat yourself on the back for getting through a day, talk to a friend, talk to your loved ones, meditate, read inspiring stories—there are so many ways you can take care of yourself without having to spend a dime.

At the end of the day, only you can really decide what is best for you and your loved ones. If it turns out that you’ll have to give certain things up or your lifestyle has to change drastically, don’t be too disheartened. You can always rebuild your life. The only way to do that, however, is to make sure that you have a life to rebuild in the first place. Keep on keeping on!

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