Lessons from a Layoff
September 2005

“Lessons from a Layoff,” Ensign, Sept. 2005, 30–33

Lessons from a Layoff

When financial disaster struck, our obedience to the prophet’s counsel kept us from drowning in debt.

A few years ago in mid-October, my husband came home early from work and told me that his job of 12 years was gone. The company was downsizing, and he was the first to be let go. James had a degree and years of experience in his field. He was a hard worker and took great pride in a job well done. This was a heavy blow.

He started looking for work right away. He applied for every job he could but was repeatedly told that the position was already filled or that he was overqualified. If he was willing to work, why couldn’t he find a job?

We worried whether we’d be able to pay the bills. We felt strongly that I should continue to stay home with our youngest child and babysit a friend’s baby for extra money. James received an unemployment allowance, but it certainly wasn’t equal to his previous income. We drew from our savings.

We knew we needed to rely on Heavenly Father. Our first priority was to continue paying a full tithe and a generous fast offering. We prayed with faith that we could make ends meet.

Not Room Enough

In the midst of our troubles, we made a trip to the grocery store to buy the month’s groceries. The total was $20.00 less than usual, and we felt we had bought the same things we always did—maybe even a little extra. Gratefully we began to fill our cupboards, only to find that they were overflowing! Weeks later we realized that our shelves were still almost full. We began to understand the promise in Malachi 3:10–11. Blessings were being poured upon us, and there was not room enough to receive them. It was beautiful to experience the reality of the law of tithing.

Soon afterward, a local grocery store was looking for a part-time freight clerk. My husband was thrilled when he was offered the job. It was a 4:00 a.m. shift and it was hard work, but he put his whole heart into it.

A few blisters later, James’s first paycheck came. We sat down and made a list of all the bills that were due. Tithing came first—not only for the blessings it would bring but as a demonstration of our faith and of our gratitude for this new job. To our amazement, there was money enough for all the bills and for groceries! We were getting by on much less than we had been used to. We were learning that the Lord’s “economics” are different than ours. As we paid tithing and relied on the Lord, somehow the money went much further.

We Were Prepared

Many years ago when my husband and I were newlyweds, we were counseled in a sacrament meeting talk to have at least three months’ worth of income saved in case of an emergency. James took the counsel to heart.

Like so many young couples, we were getting into debt with credit cards and student loans. We lived paycheck to paycheck and weren’t putting anything away in savings. We just figured there would always be another payday.

But after hearing that talk in sacrament meeting, James started putting away $10.00 from each paycheck he received. It didn’t seem like $20.00 a month would add up, but it did! We kept saving and started paying off the student loans.

We also had credit cards that were becoming too easy to use. One day after looking at our statement, we realized that our minimum payment wasn’t making any change in our balance. We would need to pay three times the minimum due in order to pay interest and principle. It seemed like it would take forever to pay them off. We put our cards away, only to be used for emergencies.

We implemented the plan in Elder Marvin J. Ashton’s pamphlet One for the Money (1992). (See the chart on page 32 of this article.) We started by paying off one bill completely, then putting that payment amount toward the next bill until that one was paid off, and so on. It was hard and required self-discipline, but we made steady progress.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton

The author’s family used a debt elimination calendar similar to this one to get out of debt. The calendar is found in One for the Money, a booklet based on a 1975 general conference talk by Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1915–94) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This booklet is available on www.ldscatalog.com.

James set up a weekly budget with set amounts for things such as groceries, gas, and medical expenses. We tried not to buy things we didn’t really need. Many times we had to tell ourselves, “Later.” When we did need to make a major purchase, we shopped around for a good price and then gave ourselves at least three days to think it over and make sure we could pay for it.

Bit by bit, we were becoming debt free. At the time of my husband’s layoff, all we had in bills were our house and car payments and our basic monthly expenses. Because of the steps we had taken, I was able to continue being a stay-at-home mom. And we were able to get by on a smaller income. How thankful we were for the counsel of prophets to get out of debt!

What about Christmas?

Although we knew the Lord was blessing us through our financial trials, we still struggled. It was hard to stay positive as we watched others spend money. And Christmas was approaching. How would we provide a good Christmas for our family?

Once again, my husband was prepared. For several years, he had set aside a “change jar” to collect the family’s spare change. Each year we used the money to do fun things around Christmastime. This year the change jar had accumulated a couple hundred dollars. We did have money for Christmas after all!

Blessings from Obedience

The new year came but brought no new job offers. James continued working part-time at the store and looking for a job in his field. During this period of time, he was assigned to speak on self-reliance in the Saturday evening session of stake conference. He shared his story, focusing on getting out of debt, preparing for emergencies, and paying tithing.

It was difficult for him to share his experiences, but over the next few months we learned that many people had been blessed by his words.

In March James was offered a full-time manager position at the store. It was a challenging job with long hours and a lot of physical labor-so different from his former job at a computer. But he rose to the challenge with faith. Although the pay was still less than half of his former salary, he no longer claimed unemployment benefits.

As the expenses of Scout camp, doctor visits, prescriptions, and daily life added up, we had to be thrifty. We eliminated our long-distance calling plan and got a prepaid calling card. We shopped at a bakery thrift store. We worked out a menu and stuck to our weekly grocery budget. Our oldest son got a paper route on his own, and our daughter saved all her money.

Many times we wondered, “Why did this have to happen to us?” When we compared ourselves to others or to how things used to be, it all seemed so unfair. We struggled with discouragement. It was hard not to feel bitter, helpless, and beaten when we made these comparisons.

We knew we needed the Lord to soften our hearts and give us courage to continue on. We needed faith. We needed peace of mind and assurance that even if things weren’t exactly the way we thought they should be, they were still working out.

We had been counseled to attend the temple. We put it off, as James was working almost every Saturday. We made excuses that it was just too hard to get away. But then a sacrament meeting talk by a bishopric member made us think. He said that the Lord wants to bless us but that He can’t unless we are obedient, so we made plans and went. It was wonderful, peaceful, and calming.

About a week after our temple trip, things started to fall into place. James’s former employer called to offer him his old job with a raise. The blessings poured in! And though I had doubted at times, deep down inside I knew that the Lord had not forgotten us.

Looking Back

Through the experiences we have had since my husband’s layoff, we have learned that Heavenly Father is aware of each of us. We have learned that it takes much faith to trust Him and to be obedient. We now know firsthand the blessings of following the prophet, getting out of debt, and paying tithing. We have gained a strong testimony that the Lord is always there watching out for us. And because life has been hard, we have come to truly appreciate the simple blessings we enjoy.

We still don’t know why all of this happened to us, but we know that the things we have learned will surely be for our eternal benefit.

Being Prepared

Elder L. Tom Perry

“We have been instructed for years to follow at least four requirements in preparing for that which is to come.

“First, gain an adequate education. …

“Second, live strictly within your income and save something for a rainy day. …

“Third, avoid excessive debt. …

“Fourth, acquire and store a reserve of food and supplies that will sustain life. …

“On a daily basis we witness widely fluctuating inflation; wars; interpersonal conflicts; national disasters; variances in weather conditions; innumerable forces of immorality, crime, and violence; attacks and pressures on the family and individuals; technological advances that make occupations obsolete; and so on. … Being prepared gives us freedom from fear, as guaranteed to us by the Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants: ‘If ye are prepared ye shall not fear’ (D&C 38:30).”
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 36, 35.

Helps for Home Evening

Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions, personal reflection, or teaching the gospel in a variety of settings.

  1. Create an artificial hardship for your family by eliminating some normal conveniences. (For example, turn off the electricity, do not cook with the stove or oven, or turn off the water.) Tell your family that they must survive for the evening as though they were living through a time of trouble. What would they miss? Review Elder Perry’s four requirements and set goals as a family to be better prepared for misfortune.

  2. Read aloud the experiences in the article and identify what the family did to make it through hard financial times. Use these ideas to evaluate your own monthly budget and to make your own financial goals.

  • Kelly A. Peterson is a member of the Burley 10th Ward, Burley Idaho Stake.

Illustrated by Steve Kropp; photography by Craig Dimond