Budgeting through a tough season: How to deal with income loss

Budgeting by values

Having the right tools can help you deal with a loss of income with more confidence. This worksheet can help you stay resilient.

Staying focused on what you can control can help you weather tough times financially. If you’re facing a loss of income, remember that many others have been in your situation before—and you can bounce back.

A first step that can help is to have a detailed plan for how to best use your limited funds. This budgeting tool can serve as a starting point. 

Instead of accounting for everyday expenses, you’ll need to determine the minimum you need to make it through. It may also help to find out if you qualify for any relief from certain expenses—like mortgage or rent payment relief—or pick up a temporary gig to help make ends meet.

The highlights:

  • Consider using this budgeting worksheet to help you plan and manage your expenses when dealing with a loss of income.
  • Prioritize your must-haves, like food, housing, and debt payments. Look to temporarily reduce or cut nonessential spending.
  • Remember that everyone has setbacks—but this is a setback you can solve by focusing on the things you can control, like reducing expenses and rebuilding your income. 
“Remember that most people go through something like this. It happens, and it’s common. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. It just means that you’re having a problem. In many cases, you can fix that problem in many different ways.”
–Bright Dickson, positive psychology expert and co-host of the Money and Mindset podcast

Tips for using the worksheet

This budget planner has three tabs: one for your budget, one for any income sources you still have, and one for cutting costs. Each tab of the worksheet also contains its own tips for using the section within. Like a regular budget, you’ll enter your expenses for each line item (customizing them to fit your situation), which can help you figure out how much you need to get by.

If you don’t have any income at all, but have an emergency fund, you can use it to help you get by until you regain income. (This is why you have an emergency fund, so don’t be afraid to use it in a situation like this!) If you still have some income, use it to cover what basic necessities you can.

Breaking down the budget

This budget is split into four sections:

  • Must-have fixed costs
  • Must-have variable costs
  • Debt payments
  • Self-care expenses

Must-have fixed costs: These are any predictable expenses you absolutely need, like housing and insurance. “Some types of insurance are mandated by law, like car insurance. But insurance that may not be legally mandated, like health (depending on your state) or life insurance, is just as important,” says Brian Ford, Truist’s head of financial wellness.

You may be able to reduce some of your fixed costs. Auto insurance, phone plans, and internet plans can often be negotiated—or you can shop around for a better deal from a different provider. And if you have multiple entertainment subscriptions, like streaming services, consider cutting down to just your favorite until your income recovers.

Must-have variable costs: These include your groceries and utilities, which should be pared down as much as possible. Consider dividing groceries into weekly amounts and using cash to avoid overspending. You can also look for practical ways to reduce your utility bills.

Debt payments: Minimum payments for loans and lines of credit still need to be covered, but you should call your lenders or banks to see if they have any payment relief options. If you have student loans, for example, you may be eligible for an income-driven repayment plan, which could lower your monthly payments.

Self-care expenses: Set a little aside for your mental health. A little break can actually make a huge difference, even if it just means getting some ice cream. Consider free options for fun, too, like a hike or a visit to the library. Finding affordable ways to allow yourself some joy can help you through this time.

“When we feel positive emotion, it has this effect on our brain where we actually start seeing more of what’s out there, like potential opportunities. Then, we build resources to capitalize on those opportunities,” says positive psychology expert Bright Dickson, referencing the broaden-and-build theory.

Inspiration for income sources

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(Visual Description: Boost your confidence for a job interview

Money and Mindset

Truist title and logo)

Here are seven ways to boost your confidence before a job interview.

Sitting down for an interview is a big moment that can lead to major life changes, so it's normal to feel some nerves.

In fact, ninety three percent of people experience anxiety before an interview.

(Visual description: Source: “How Americans Prepare for Interviews”, JDP, 2020)

We've got a few tips to help you shake those jitters and feel more confident going into your interview. Remember, you've got this.

The first tip is to do your research.

What information can you find out about the company and the role you're interviewing for?

Doing that homework can help you anticipate potential questions, plan out your answers, and come up with some good questions of your own.

Next, give yourself plenty of time the day of the interview.

Showing up early means you can find parking and get ready without feeling rushed or anxious.

For virtual interviews, make sure your software is updated, your internet is reliable, and your surroundings aren’t distracting.  

The third thing you can do is movement to calm your nerves. Try going for a walk or doing some yoga to get your blood flowing. A little bit of physical activity can help release tension and reduce stress. Plus, it'll help keep your mind off whatever might be causing you anxiety.

(Visual Description: Movement can help:

Release tension

Increase anti-anxiety neurochemicals

Improve focus

Source: “Can exercise help treat anxiety?” Harvard Health Publishing, 2019)

Tip number four is to get the good vibes going.

Before your interview, boost your mood and confidence by listening to upbeat music or an inspirational podcast, or by calling a friend or family member for encouragement.

This next piece of advice is an important one.

Have your personal pitch ready. The first question most interviewers will ask is, can you tell me about yourself? Think of an answer that's interesting and relevant, but also to the point. And don't be afraid to show some personality.

Now, you'll definitely want to take the time to prepare for common questions. It could help to write talking points and practice giving your answers.

Think of concrete examples that show off your biggest strengths and accomplishments. In this situation, you're supposed to brag a little bit.

Get ready to be asked questions, like, why do you wanna work for us?

How did you overcome a challenge at work? What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

And why are you leaving your current position?

Finally, remember to put the interview in perspective.

Every interview is a two way conversation.

You're also interviewing the company to see whether it's a good fit for you and your goals.

If you get an offer, amazing.

But even just getting an interview, preparing for it, and going through this process is an accomplishment to be proud of.

And if it doesn't work out, there may be a better opportunity around the corner. And this interview could just be practiced for that.

For more tips and inspiration, visit truist.com/moneyandmindset.

(Visual Description: Truist title and logo)


This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, investment, or mental health advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial, investment, or mental health professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

Truist Bank, Member FDIC. ©2023 Truist Financial Corporation. Truist, the Truist logo and Truist Purple are service marks of Truist Financial Corporation.

If you’ve lost a full-time job, the worksheet offers several ideas for finding income. The gig economy has made it easier to find part-time work like food delivery or seasonal retail jobs, which could help you make ends meet. You might also consider using this time to start a side hustle you care about, whether that’s selling handmade jewelry on Etsy, freelancing, or providing consulting services. You could even sell some belongings you no longer use, like clothes, books, decor, or electronics.

Dealing with a loss of income can show us how resourceful we can be. You might find out just how creative you are when you’re challenged to search for new sources of income.

Cost-cutting measures to consider

When you’re planning a budget on a reduced income, you’ve got to cut back on some of the things you’re used to. Focus on paying for your most important needs and basically cut out everything else. Here are a few ideas for where to start saving money:

  • Consider buying generic brands at the grocery store instead of pricier name brands. Small savings here and there can add up.
  • Temporarily reduce your retirement contributions, if necessary. Small contributions are better than nothing.
  • Look over your bank and credit card statements for any recurring hidden expenses that may be quietly draining your bank account.
  • If you’re a two-car family, consider selling one of them if you can make it work and really need the money. (You could potentially save on car maintenance costs that way, too.)

It’s OK to ask for help.

Everyone’s financial situation is unique, so when you’re dealing with a loss of income, it’s up to you to determine how significantly you should cut costs. But know that it’s OK to ask for help when you need it. If you feel overwhelmed financially, consider seeking expert advice by searching for a free financial counseling service. And keep in mind that even just talking about your situation with someone you trust, like a close friend or family member, can help lift some of your burden.

“For so many people, the tendency is to turn inward as a response to shame—but that doesn’t get you what you need in that moment. What you need is community. What you need is connection,” says Dickson.

Remind yourself that this is temporary—you won’t be in this situation forever. Think about what you’re learning from this experience and celebrate your resiliency. And finally, know that you’re not alone.

Next step suggestions:

  • If you need help paying your rent, mortgage, or utilities to stay in your home, call your local 211 for assistance. You should also try speaking with your landlord, property manager, or lender about your situation.
  • For debt payment relief, reach out to your lenders and credit card issuers to discuss possible solutions. Forbearance or income-driven repayment plans may be options that can help you through this time. If you have a Truist personal loan or HELOC, check out our payment relief guides.
  • If your bank account fees are affecting your finances, consider opening a new checking or savings account that can help you avoid monthly maintenance or overdraft fees.
  • Keep focusing on what you can control. To regain some income, consider picking up a temporary side gig and tap into your network for new career opportunities.


This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, investment, or mental health advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial, investment, or mental health professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.