Okay, now let’s say that you have woken up with that sinking feeling that you have just been had by your government’s economic warfare on the middle class strategy. Don’t expect a kiss or a cup of coffee. When you realize the money is gone and most likely not coming back, I could say don’t panic, but let’s face it, that is simply not reasonable. So after you’ve had a good panic attack, set it aside and clear your mind. Remember, now is not the time to whine. It is self-destructive and no one wants to hear it. Focus instead.

It is time to break through the delusions of what you think you need, and what you actually do need. Take stock of your assets such as your abilities, the material possessions you have that you actually need, and the things you don’t really use that you can sell. It is also time to connect with others who may be willing to barter. Now is the time when you find out who your true friends are. If they disappear at the first sign of distress, and most will, they were never your friends to begin with. Get over it.

Hopefully, you still have some money coming in, or have some stashed. If you don’t, be prepared to accept a job that pays considerably less than you are use to, if one is available. EBay is a good resource for an online garage sale to get some extra money while you sort things out. If you do have some money left, use it wisely. In either case, it is time to set your priorities and draft a budget. This budget should be realistic, and not include any income you think might be coming in, just what is on hand. Remember, the best budget in the world will not be helpful if you do not stick to it.

The first step in drafting a workable budget is to set your priorities. Food, shelter, and heat should be on the top of the list. If you have not already gotten rid of your credit card debt, be prepared for harassing phone calls. Remember, once you give the collections agencies written notice that you do not want to hear from them, they are legally obligated to stop calling you. They may use written communication methods, but cannot constantly call you to make your life miserable once they have received written notice to cease and desist. If you don’t know how to cook from scratch, learn quickly. Make payment arrangements with the power company if necessary, turn your thermostat down, and bundle up.

When the money you are use to having come in stops or is drastically reduced, it is easy to succumb to depression and just give up. Don’t do it! If you’ve ever needed to dig into your reserves of inner strength and character, now is the time. Others are experiencing the same things that you are. Hold your head up high, vow to overcome, and look at the bright side. If you are a bit chunky, count your blessings. When you lose weight because you cannot afford the junk food, your friends will tell you that you look wonderful. You can smile and thank them for the compliment.

In the next column, we will talk about making the most of what you have, with some solid tips about doing things inexpensively.