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Spending a string of painful months on the job hunt can be demoralizing, but it’s no reason to slash your personal budget beyond recognition. Why? Because the necessities you need for a fully functional life are likely to help your chances of finding work.
While compromises like living at home with the parents are fine (don’t feel alone; lots of people are doing it), these five expenses should never be cut when you’re searching for a job:
1. Professional (and casual) clothing
Nice threads can seem like a luxury when you’re unemployed, but prioritize proper interview attire. It’s worth paying for casual clothing, too; you never know when informal moments (cocktail hours, etc.) might lead to a business card or interview. Make sure your pants aren’t ragged and your button-down has some pop left in the collar.
2. Cell phone and Internet service
They can be expensive, and that sucks, but your means of connecting can never be sacrificed in the name of cost-cutting. After all, if you can’t download a job posting, conduct research or chat with a contact on Skype, you might end up missing your shot at a job offer.
Stay on the grid in all formats, including mobile broadband for your laptop, high-speed Internet at home and 4G on your smartphone. If you want to downgrade from the unlimited plans, that’s a reasonable austerity measure. Compensate by cutting back on things like video games and movie downloads.
3. Social life
Whether you hit tango class every week or engage in a renegade roller derby club, your social activities should not be trimmed down to recessionary levels. People you share interests with are great contacts for your next job opportunity. Seeing a friend in need is often enough for someone to pass on your contact info and/or resume. Let people know you’re looking for work without being a downer about your prospects. Downer-mode is tempting (and understandable), but projecting calmness is important.
4. Health care
View this not-to-be-slashed expense in a couple ways: continue to eat healthy foods, get your prescriptions filled and find a way to relieve stress. If that includes the cost of going to the gym or talking to a therapist as you have always done, make sure you continue those habits as well.
Staying in good health—both mentally and physically—is essential as you look for work. Healthy candidates radiate an aura that is attractive to recruiters. If you’ve considered giving up your health insurance, that’s another big no-no. The good news: new healthcare laws allow you to stay on your parents’ plan until the age of 26.
Nothing says “I’ve been nowhere near a job” like someone who shows up at an interview with sideburns of Victorian proportions. Even though the appearance standards in the workplace have relaxed in recent years, you’ll want to err on the side of caution at a job interview, especially when you aren’t intimately familiar with the company.
If you have long hair, figure out how to present it neatly. The same goes for sideburns, eyebrows and any other hair from the neck up. The best way to handle this is to pay a hair stylist to do the job. It can be pricey, but it will make sense when you exude confidence at an interview.
Expenses can bring you down every month when the bills come due, but consider these five items immune to even the most severe budget cuts. When you exploit them for their full job-hunting potential, you’ll find they’re well worth the cost.
Eric Michaels is a freelance writer specializing in employment topics. He suggests www.matchrelevant.com for both job seekers and employers.