How To Survive Financial Survival Mode

Financial survival mode is not like living on a budget and quite frankly feels like it’s one step away from complete financial ruin.

I haven’t previously talked about that time in our lives because I’m not a financial advisor. However, I have looked through loads of different blog posts and recommendations only to find that none of them really apply to survival mode.

So I’ve decided to write about living in financial survival mode and how you can survive it.

What Is Survival Mode

Survival mode in regards to finances is when you don’t actually know if you can afford food, a roof over your head, or if you’ll be able to actually pay your bills that month.

Typically survival mode comes on unexpectedly and a lot of times through no fault of the person or people who enter it. Trust me, I beat myself up with would’ve, could’ve, should’ve speak for years. Honestly, none of them would have actually changed things.

I didn’t make bad decisions, I made decisions I thought were right, plans didn’t pan out, risks were taken, and the downfall happened. I accept that and you will need to as well.

Couple paying bills looking stressed

Because once you hit financial survival mode, it’s time to get your hustle on.

Financial survival mode is counting cents to pay for food, putting items back, eating ramen for weeks because you can’t afford anything else and your kid needs their protein over you.

What Causes Financial Survival Mode

Financial survival mode typically follows a job loss. However, there are other things that can cause you to fall into financial survival mode.

  • Illness
  • Accident
  • Weather Related Disasters
  • Fire
  • Etc.

You can prepare for some things, but sometimes you can’t stay prepared.

In my case our financial survival mode was brought on due to job loss. Job loss at 10 weeks pregnant, just 5 days after informing my work that I was pregnant.

While I did get another temporary job, shortly after I was let go, it was temporary and I ended up spending the majority of my pregnancy jobless.

We could not afford to live on one income and we had to learn to survive and figure out a plan for after our son was born. We made it through and you will too.

But let me perfectly honest here, we quickly fell into financial survival mode and it took us years to finally come out of it.

Why Typical Financial Planning Doesn’t Work In Survival Mode

Typically budget blogs are geared towards people who have a little bit of money. When you are in survival mode you don’t even have that.

Typically in survival mode you are already behind on bills and struggling to keep up with everything. This isn’t bad planning, when an emergency hits or a plan doesn’t pan out this is what happens.

For us, I was working as a waitress while we were in survival mode. After the corporation screwed me I wasn’t interested in going back to corporate desk job life.

Especially because I could make the same amount or close to the same amount of money working as a waitress and have a bit more flexibility in my schedule.

The downfall to this was, you never knew what business was going to be like. A slow day at work could throw off your entire months budget.

This is why you absolutely can not budget and plan the same as others when you are in survival mode.

Survival Mode Budgets

Survival mode budgets are a little different and typically don’t have the option to pay down debt or put money into savings. At least not until you are able to increase your income. A little more on how to do that later.

Paying Bills

When we knew that we were going into survival mode I knew we would need to really study our bills and plans to pay them.

We found out what the late charges on all of our bills were, the date they would need to be paid by, how long till services would be shut off, and we prioritized our bills.

Woman doing calculations for a budget

Since we were living week to week and day to day, if I had a slow week I knew we could hold off on paying one bill to pay another. This helped us to avoid higher late fees on certain bills by making sure we weren’t falling behind on those bills.

Food Shopping

We clipped as many coupons as we could, but to be honest, shopping generic was still the cheapest route to go. But you had to shop generic at the right times and check around with different stores.

While Aldi always has the best deals you can sometimes find things for cheaper at the other stores during massive sales.

The stock up game needs to be strong too. When you find amazing deals on items stock up on that item if you can for 3-4 months. Finding spaghetti for $0.50 meant stocking with at least 1 box a week for 3-4 months worth, add a couple extra for more as needed.

By the time you run out, that same store will probably have that item back on sale at that lower price.

This post here features frugal foods to keep stocked in your kitchen.

Cooking On A Budget

Go vegetarian or vegan 3 nights a week. Chickpeas, black beans, and red kidney beans are excellent sources of protein that mix in great with chilis, soups, casseroles, curries, and rice dishes. This will help minimize the amount of meat you need to buy.

Make the meat you have go further by embracing casserole dishes like chicken and rice. Use only one chicken breast shredded or chopped up in the dish to really maximize how far the dish goes.

The Mental Health Struggle Of Survival Mode

Financial survival mode can be absolute hell on your mental health.

Between not knowing exactly when you’ll have enough money to pay rent, or pay bills, and the inability to afford little luxuries can leave you feeling broken.

While I recommend keeping additional expenditures to a minimum, sometimes you need a mental health break.

The Things That Help Get You Through

Self care is important, however, certain luxuries may not be affordable anymore. Find alternatives, natural solutions, things that can still allow you to still take part in your self care at a cheaper cost.

Every person who speaks about budget planning always talks about how you should eat at home and avoid eating out. I’m going to tell you to give yourself goals and rewards.

Eat at home for a month then celebrate and enjoy not needing to cook for a night. We would like to do $5 sushi deals, $5 pizza from Little Caesars, or dollar menu dinners.

It was a small thing, that gave us a bit of joy. Just because you are in survival mode doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have some joy in your life.

How To Get Out Of Survival Mode

Getting out of survival mode is not quick and not easy. You can choose to take on second jobs to get caught up while you look for a better paying one job. You can take on the art of the side hustle to business. Or you can downsize.

Calculator sitting on money

Any option can work, but no matter what they are hard. How much effort you put in can help you to succeed in what you are looking to do.

The Second Job

If your first job isn’t paying enough for you to make it, consider taking on a part time second job to help get you through for a time being.

While the second job option is never ideal it helps you keep your head above water for the short term. Keep improving and sending out resumes to get a better job that covers all your expenses with money left over.

Use custom cover letters, custom emails, research the companies you are applying to, and keep trying. Eventually you will land the interviews and land the job you want.

The Side Hustle To Business

I’m a big believer in having a decent side hustle. First, a side hustle – even if you aren’t in survival mode – allows you to put money into some savings and help pay off debt.

Side hustles can range from starting an Etsy shop, starting a service business, or starting a blog. All three options require some skill sets so do your research to see if there is a business option that is right for you.

Turning a side hustle into a business is not easy but it is worth it, especially when you end up turning your side hustle into your main income generator and possibly make more than you ever have.

But not everyone wants to run a business, so you can take your side hustle, or your business, as far as you actually want to.

Downsize Your Life

Downsizing is not an easy choice to make but, saving over $100-$200 a month in rent means you have money to make your bills or get food.

It often means selling furniture and additional items you no longer need. You can downsize to a cheaper apartment, or you can downsize to live with family for a short period.

We did it all. It started with a cheaper apartment for a while and got back on our feet. Then when family needed us, our expenses were lowered even more when we moved in with them.

Downsizing can help you to get back to a more normal lifestyle faster. But it’s often a big sacrifice.

What To Do When You Get Through It

When you finally get past survival mode and you are able to pay your bills on time and possibly have a bit of money left over, it’s time to make some changes.

The first thing you should do is celebrate your survival with a dinner out. Don’t go overboard but get some enjoyment and embrace the moment.

Then pay your bills on time, keep to a tight budget, then put any extra money you have at the end of the month into a savings account. Start building a safety net for tight months and emergencies.

Keep up with your side hustle or growing your business or choice. If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that even when things feel secure, we are one disaster away from financial insecurity and survival mode.

Always keep a side hustle going to continue to grow your wealth so if a disaster does happen, you and your family will be ok.

Finding Ways To Prevent Financial Survival Mode In The Future

If you’ve been lucky enough to avoid unemployment during this current climate there are some things you should do to prepare for a future that is currently uncertain.

Get a side hustle going now, the money you make from a side hustle should go into a savings account for now.

If a side hustle is out of the question right now, go on a tight budget. Any money you can save while on this budget will help if things go south.

Make sure you keep your resume updated and your ears open at your job. If things are looking bad, be prepared to hit the job market. You and your family come before any job.

Final Thoughts

Financial survival mode is one of the most trying periods of your life. It takes a lot out of you, causes gray hairs, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone for any reason.

However, you can come out of it and when you do you will have a new skill set. This skill set gives you the knowledge on how to prevent financial survival mode in the future.

It also gives you the peace of mind in knowing that if things fall apart again, you will get through and survive it.

What tips do you have for surviving financial survival mode? Let me know in the comments below. Follow me on Pinterest for more like this and pin this to your favorite save money boards.

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    Crystal Lynn

    Crystal is the founder & CEO of MommyThrives and also full-time mom to a very active little guy. She’s passionate about cooking, cleaning, and organizing and turns her experiences into actionable systems to make mom-life simpler. When she’s not busy, you can find her reading, painting, or even on occasion indulging herself shooting bandits in Borderlands on her PC.

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