When 34-year-old Tiffany Aliche lost her job as a pre-school teacher in 2009—the height of the towering U.S. recession—she was juggling a mortgage, student loans and other day-to-day living expenses.
In order to stay afloat, she acted quickly, renting out her condo and moving in with family within a week of finding out the bad news until she could get back on her feet.
To be sure, the loss was devastating. She had worked for seven years as a preschool teacher at a North New Jersey nonprofit school, which lost funding during the financial crisis. But unlike most people, who suddenly find themselves out of a job, Aliche, who is single and childless, had socked away about two years worth of savings. For a year, there had been clues that the school could possibly lose funding, so she began to double-down on savings. In addition to a healthy savings account, she also had a retirement investment plan.
But getting back on her feet was not easy. The $1,200 she received a month in rent for the condo was not enough to cover the mortgage of $1,660. She used some of her unemployment benefits to cover the rest and received a deferment on student loan payments after earning a Master’s degree at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J.
She slept in her childhood bedroom at her parent’s house for nine months and then moved to the sofa at her sister’s house. Her sister, however, asked her to leave after nine months because of the inconvenience of sharing a one-bedroom.
“It was painful and I was angry,” she said. “But I couldn’t see that I was an inconvenience to her. But within 30 days, I was able to get re-established in my career and found an apartment.”
Indeed, it was her knack for saving and budgeting that helped propel her to the next job. She founded her own business and became known as Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche and bestselling author of The One Week Budget.
“After that, I never went back to work,” said Aliche, who has a master’s in education supervision. “I’ve been “The Budgetnista” full-time.”
Saving is in some sense a perfect commitment mechanism to force us all to pay now and consume later. By forgoing some of the things we want right now, we set ourselves up to experience the joy of anticipation – while avoiding the pain of paying. So we should start thinking of saving as not just maximizing our happiness tomorrow, but also maximizing our happiness today. Making such changes now has the potential to increase the happiness Americans experience in their new “retirement decade.”
During her two year search, she learned that she had in fact been honing her business skills by helping parents develop budgeting skills at the pre-school before the crash, and then as a volunteer at various organizations, where she spent time while looking for new a job.
She landed a big contract with a nonprofit company after making connections with executives as a volunteer. She also trademarked her company name and established an LLC. She managed connections, contracts, and prospects from home on a Netbook, a small lightweight computer.
“I came up with my business through volunteer work,” Aliche said. “I served at the Boys and Girls Club and other nonprofits, where I was recruited to offer advice on how to save. It was easy for me because my dad was a chief financial officer so I learned how to save at a very young age.”
While the experience was difficult, it helped to pave the way for Aliche to learn about her strengths and weaknesses. She also learned to be resilient in life and work.
“Aside from the financial insecurity, the hardest part about the experience was my hurt pride,” she said. “It was hard for me because I had always been financially responsible and I wasn’t used to asking for help. I never had to depend on anyone until then. But for the first time in my life at the age of 30, I didn’t have job stability and I was sleeping in my childhood bed at my parent’s house. That was rock bottom. My pride took a big hit.”
Her wounded pride soon began to work in her favor. “I was like I didn’t go to college and get a master’s degree to live like this,” she recalled. “I began to take action. That’s when I learned that you have to take action, even if it means making a mistake. The process will teach you the way and help you fulfill your dreams. Knowing what I know now, I wish I had taken action sooner. But I let fear keep me in bondage. But I want people to know that it gets better.”
The Budgetnista offers four survival tips after a job loss:
1. Conduct a financial checkup and slash unnecessary expenses
Gather bills, including utilities, phone, groceries and entertainment—everything because you need a 30-day picture. Then you can decide what you can cut, including cable, magazine subscriptions, lattés and going out for dinner and drinks.
“It’s like going to a doctor for a checkup,” she said about the importance of mapping out expenses. “He can’t give you medicine unless he can determine what’s wrong.”
You can also find ways to save, like renting out your home or condo until you get back on feet and find a relative with whom you can temporarily stay, which is advice she followed and recommends to clients.
2. Begin your job search
Keep regular office hours or a schedule to cull listing from job sites, send out resumes and make calls. Be systematic about organizing lists and names. Be sure to network and don’t stop attending events simply because you are no longer employed. That’s when you need networking the most. Most of her successful job candidates follow this routine, she said.
3. The value of networking
As a volunteer, you never know whom you will meet. Top executives frequently attend volunteer events dressed in casual clothes while they mingle with staff and clients.
Inevitably people would ask how much Aliche would charge to come back, but she wasn’t charging. Now, she charges up to $1,500 for 2-hour workshops instead of offering advice for free.
4. Use social media
Make your Facebook and Twitter accounts work for you, including LinkedIn for job hunting. Put it out there that you are looking for work. “Eighty percent of my business comes from social media,” she said, citing a personal example that has worked for her and her clients. “You never know who is listening or watching.”
At the same time, it’s important to not allow social media to work against you. “Don’t post drinking pictures and then say you are looking for a job,” she said.
In the end, people can recover from a job loss by finding a new one or starting their own business, but it takes hard work and an unrelenting attitude.
“Conduct your job search as if it’s your job,” Aliche said. Good luck!