First of all, don’t panic. Okay, if you like, panic a little. Then make a plan so you can feel confident you are doing your best. Even if your best definitely isn’t what you would like to be doing. Make a plan. Make contingent plans. Make multiple budgets depending on what happens. This last time I had my regular budget continuing like nothing happened, a budget for finding something immediately (this budget had a lot of red in it), and a budget for if we were homeless for a while.
Use your local Facebook group to find real estate listings to budget for a new rental. Review your requirements, revise your expectations, and see how much it would cost to actually get a new place. This is typically your first month’s rent, plus the same amount as a security deposit (depending on your state). Sometimes there is a smaller pet deposit. It may be that you can’t pay for a moving truck to get your stuff out of storage until a later month, but getting into a place and living out of boxes is more fun than living in your car. Search all of the towns in your school district, and if that isn’t promising expand to area districts and towns where you have more family. You may find that one lovely town that has cheap rentals AND is a nice place to live. Be wary of moving to a larger city with cheap rentals, and scary neighborhoods. If you get trapped in a bad area you may be stuck, and your kids will be less likely to break the cycle of poverty.
There is a method of dealing with anxiety attacks (not that I get those) where you picture the absolute worst thing that could happen, in vivid detail. Confronting those fears helps diminish your anxiety. Collect all your problems and hurdles, and face them. Dig down to the very worst that could happen, follow all the ugly branches, and shift your Rubik’s Cube of Troubles until you have exhausted all the possibilities. When you are the Emperor of if/then situations and have considered the best responses in each case, you can make educated decisions and be smart about what you do. This also allows you to take the best advantage when things do go right.
Examine your lifestyle and budget for things that will be an adjustment to your expenses. Cut anything and everything you can. If you have no money coming in then it must stop going out. Call your utilities and see about getting on a payment plan, many companies will only do this before you are actually behind on the bill. Keep in contact with the people you owe money to, a lot of people are in trouble and if you explain what’s happening they will know what the company can do, if you do not contact them they will just send you to collections.
Also, try to be upfront with your landlord if you are renting. At one point we had a lease, but circumstances changed and my shoestring budget told me we couldn’t stay. I could contact my landlord, or wait until the money ran out and I didn’t have cash for a truck. The landlord released us from the lease without penalty. I used to help with apartment clean-outs. The filth that accumulates when you do not have electricity (and sometimes running water) is expensive for a landlord to pay someone to clean, they would much rather you move your stuff out and sweep up the place. Another time the house was foreclosed on and the new owners kicked us out despite our lease. We cooperated with them (without being pushovers, know your rights) as much as practical, and still got a good reference despite contesting eviction in court. We always paid our rent on time and worked with them, so I still had a decent reference when applying for the next place.
Anticipate an increase in costs, or something you won’t have to pay. We are on a plan for our electric bill that averages out our use and that’s our monthly payment. But if we find a place with electric included we have to pay the entire balance, which is $500. I am using almost all reusable/cloth items, so I have to buy lots of paper products, diapers, and wipes, since I won’t be able to wash the cloth products if we’re homeless. I will have to pay to go to the Laundromat, too. Also, when you move for the first month you should double your food budget to replace pantry items and perishables, and eat more expensive but quicker food as you unpack your kitchen equipment. I make my own cleaners, laundry and dishwasher detergent, and I know that I need to have the ingredients on hand to make a final batch before I pack it up, or budget the money to buy premade stuff when we need it. When staying in a transitional shelter we actually had less money than renting. We were required to save a portion of our income, plus storage, plus the laundromat, plus all those little expenses I had eliminated that I didn’t have my stuff to work around buying…