If you’re a government worker or depend on the government in other ways for your livelihood, then you’re most certainly feeling the crunch of the ongoing government shutdown.  Here in the Washington DC metro area, many are affected by the shutdown in relation to their income or via their dependents on government services.

For example, many government workers were sent home and their contractor counterparts must use vacation days to compensate for the projected time off.  Beyond those vacation days the contractors will not be compensated.  Then there are the lucky contractors who will still be paid through the shut down, albeit this arrangement is rare.  Further, there are women and children who depend on services like WIC in order to provide food and formula in order to get through the week.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Saturday that a shutdown would hobble the $7 billion Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. The program, known as WIC, provides healthy-food vouchers, nutrition education and breastfeeding support to roughly 9 million poor women and their children……”In all likelihood in coming days, as states run out of money, vendors will be told they cannot accept those checks,” said Greenaway. – Huffington Post

But regardless of where you stand on who is responsible for our government shutdown, the painful lessons are clear:

Lessons From The Government Shutdown

Cash is King

Having cash available to you in the form of an emergency fund if your primary source of income is gone quite simply rules, especially if you live paycheck to paycheck.  If you’re one check away from foreclosure then you understand the need to pay the bank now rather than wait for the shutdown to conclude – whenever that may be.

Alternative Streams of Income

Now would be a good time to think about how you can make money outside of your primary source of income.  What are some other ways that you can start building alternative and even multiple streams of income?  Don’t wait for the next shut down to force you to think about this.  Plan for war during times of peace.

Contingency Plan

Do you have a contingency plan?  If you are indeed 1 check away from losing it all then what’s your plan B?  Can you borrow money from friends or the bank to get through the next few weeks or months?  Do you know where to get food just in case you don’t have money to buy any?  What’s the plan?

Survival Strategies

Cut Back on Essential and Eliminate Non-Essential Spending

You’re now officially in safe mode.  There is no spending money to go out and eat, random shopping sprees or even happy hour out with the girls.  All that stops, right now.  Take a look at everything you’re scheduled to spend and make decisions around whether they are essential.

Call Your Creditors Before They Call You

If you know that due to missing the next paycheck that you won’t be able to pay your creditors, then call them before they call you.  They might be amenable to cutting you a break in light of current circumstances with our government that lie beyond your control.

Visit The Local Food Bank

Don’t have money to buy groceries this weekend?  Start by looking up local food banks in your area.  This will enable you to stretch what you already have while waiting out the shutdown.

Communicate with Family

Talk with your family about how the shutdown has impacted your finances which now drives the need for you to operate in safe mode.  Making wide sweeping decisions without communicating the “why” will lead to confusion and hurt feelings.  Have a family meeting and lay out concretely what it will mean if you don’t receive a paycheck this week and for weeks to come.

The government shutdown while painful should motivate you to create a solid plan B.  Until then, hopefully the above-mentioned strategies will help you move through this difficult time.

How are you managing the shutdown?  Have you been affected? 

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