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How to prepare for a recession and survive in 2024 — 9 things to do now

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We've been hearing economists' warnings of an impending recession for a few years now — yet the job market, stock market and real estate markets remain strong. What's the deal?

I just Googled on January 6, 2024, “recession?” into Google News, and these headlines came up top:

“S&P to crash 30%, recession underway, no rate cuts soon: Gary Shilling” [Markets Insider]1

“These 8%+ Dividends Are The Key To Sailing Through A Recession In 2024” [Forbes]2

“U.S. recession a threat; China growth stalls, and other 2024 investing risks” [MarketWatch]3

In short: Mixed predictions, but most likely there will be no or a mild recession. In any case, many people are still very worried about an economic downturn, which will be inevitable, at some point (if history is a predictor).

This post will address two major issues:

  • How do you prepare for a recession, and
  • How to survive a recession

The goal is to help you prepare for a higher chance of unemployment, investment losses and general financial instability, help you if you are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and have trouble paying your bills.

Rules for weathering a recession are good to follow no matter the economy, and come down to these points:

Spend less, save, and earn more money.

Keep reading for specifics:

What is a recession?

The definition of a recession is a downturn in the economy. On a broader scale, this means that businesses lose money and industry produces less product for two quarters — or six months — in a row.

What does a recession mean for everyday people? Recessions are typically marked by:

  • High unemployment rate
  • Wages that do not go up
  • Lower housing prices
  • Downturn in stock market equities and other investments

There have been 10 official U.S. recessions since the S&P 500 was established in 1957.

The worst S&P 500 decline was in 2010 during the Great Recession, when the index plunged 55% below its previous peak in March 2009. However, the average S&P 500 decline during post-World War II recessions is 29%.

What does a recession mean for the average person?

Here is what happens during a recession, how a recession affects you, and what you can do today to prepare for a recession, including securing your finances and career:

1. Prices increase

Consumer prices and inflation can increase for any number of reasons, and typically a combination of natural resources scarcity, supply chain issues, and typically interest rate increases.

The U.S. Federal Reserve (and its counterparts globally) intentionally increase prime interest rates when they believe that consumer spending is getting out of hand — a way to reign in overzealous purchases large and small.

2. Individuals spend less

Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the U.S. economy, leading policymakers and economists to keep a close eye on any signs that people are shopping less, or shopping differently.

Common sense dictates that when individuals are worried about their jobs and investments, they spend less on everything from food, to new homes and cars, and discretionary items like travel, gifts, home furnishings, electronics and clothing.

23 sites like Craigslist to buy or sell stuff

3. Businesses cut back spending in an effort to increase or maintain profits

During a recession, the lower consumer spending means that businesses of all sizes have to find profit by lowering costs — and they already are, according to a survey by business finance software firm Ramp, released in July.

Lower business spending can impact your own company or employer if you sell to businesses. It also means that payroll expenses are at risk …

4. Hiring stops or slows, raises and bonuses are tightened

When businesses suffer lower revenues and profits, worker pay is often the first to be scrutinized. Layoffs become more common and severe, and new hires earn less than before, and raises and bonuses tighten up.

5. Governments have less tax revenue to invest in their communities

Local, state and federal governments coffers depend on income, sales, business and real estate taxes. When individuals and businesses suffer, so, too, do their governments — and the community programs they support.

6. Stock market suffers

The stock market, government debt, and home prices all continue to suffer under these economic pressures. Consumer and investor confidence waivers and the stock market goes into a dive.

You may have noticed that your retirement or investment portfolio has been up and down dramatically over the last year. If you have a large stash of cash, you may consider waiting until a drop to buy equities, or at least spread your purchases over several months to reap the benefits of cost-averaging.

How long do recessions usually last?

Molly Ward, a certified financial planner with Equitable Advisors in Houston, says there isn’t really a “typical” recession because no two are identical. 

For example, there was a two-month recession during COVID, while the longest recession since 1960 — which occurred from 2007 to 2009 — lasted about 18 months.

How to prepare for a recession: All the things you can do right now

1. Create a financial plan now

Money impacts nearly every part of our lives. When we’re stressed about finances, our families, our relationships, and even our physical wellbeing suffers. If you get on top of your finances before a recession, you can maintain power over your life. This includes:

  • Budget
  • Savings + investing plan
  • Goals for earning more

Read: 9 ways single moms can make money and build wealth in 2023

2. Live frugally always

If you want to achieve and maintain financial stability, spending frugally is a big part of the equation. Start by tracking your usual expenses, then figure out where you can cut spending. Commit to meal planning instead of dining out, cancel recurring subscriptions you no longer use, and curb unnecessary shopping. 

These habits will serve you during any economy.

Read: Easy, affordable meal planning tips for single moms

3. Have a savings cushion and build up your emergency fund

A Federal Reserve report found that about 40 percent of Americans wouldn’t be able to cover an unexpected $400 expense. If you don't have one, start an emergency fund so you have extra money even if you get laid off. 

A stash of $1,000 is a good place to start, and aim for at least 3 months' regular income.

Start saving by earning 1% cash-back on all debit purchases with a Discover checking account.

4. Sell stuff you don't need 

Why let your unused stuff sit in a closet when you could turn it into money? Learn more about selling through pawnbrokers and consignment shops, and sell your gold, diamonds, jewelry and silver online.

Gold hit a 1-year high on April 5, 2023, and experts expect it to rise through the year.

As of , the spot gold value in the United States was trading at $ per ounce, or $ per gram. is our No. 1 recommendation for selling gold, silver, diamonds, pearls, coins, flatware and other precious metals and gemstones.

If you want to downsize to save money, you can also sell your house for cash.

5. Get a side gig to ensure multiple streams of income

If you lose your job during a recession (or any time), it pays — literally — to have a side gig or backup job for an additional stream of income.

Check out our lists of best at-home career-level jobs, best high-paying jobs that do not require a degree and 11 business ideas for moms.

6. Prioritize and pay down debt

If you have debt from credit cards, student loans, or other expenses, consider consolidating your balances onto a 0% balance transfer credit card.

Work to deal with your tax debt, too >>

7. Avoid or delay major purchases

During a recession, there’s a greater risk that you could lose your job. That’s why it’s not smart to make major purchases or accumulate new debt you might not be able to pay off.

Instead, repair appliances and your vehicle and attempt DIY home projects over financing new ones.

8. Invest in yourself by learning recession-proof skills

The very best way to build financial security is to make sure you have a job. Here is our list of best at-home, high-paying careers, which includes recession-friendly skills like:



Medical biller and coder

Coder / programmer

Already have a job? Ask for a pay raise.

9. Identify support systems/network

Devise a plan for what you’ll do and where you’ll go if you lose your job or find yourself without a place to live. 

Check out these posts for government resources and help for single moms.

Shore up your friendships and other social networks that can help you find work, resources, and share ideas for weathering the storm — not to mention get together and have fun!

How to survive a recession if you still have a job: 9 steps to take now

While in a recession, many people want to know, “What should I do during a recession?”

If you still have a job, here’s what you should do right now:

1. Have a financial plan — don’t just wing it!

Savvy Ladies is a free financial helpline that can answer questions about financial planning and connect you to financial resources.

2. Start or build an emergency fund

Make sure you have enough money saved to support yourself and your family for several months if you lose your job.

“A best practice in financial planning is to save 3 to 6 months’ worth of expenses in an emergency money account that is safe and accessible at a bank,” Ward says. 

3. Invest in training, education, networking and building your career 

Read our guides:

42 recession-proof jobs

7 recession-proof businesses 

4. Create a budget and otherwise double-down on frugality

Use an app like YNAB (You Need a Budget) — which is free for 34 days. YNAB allows you to connect all of your accounts, track your spending, and create goals to tackle debt and build savings.

You should also consider ways you can live more frugally and cut back on expenses. Check out our money-saving tips.

“Consider your fixed and necessary expenses and your fun and discretionary expenses,” Ward says. “Make a list of these so that you are prepared to cut back on the discretionary items if this recession causes a job loss.”

5. Manage your debt 

Read our advice on how to get out of debt, and consider refinancing your credit cards or refinance your car note — which can mean delaying auto payment for 90 days.

Can't afford your car payment? See if you qualify to refinance for a lower payment.

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Get a refi quote from Auto Credit Express in 30 seconds >>

6. Delay major purchases like a car or appliance 

While job security is less stable, you don’t want to put yourself at risk of not being able to pay your mortgage or car bill. Any extra money you have should be put into a savings account. 

Think you need to replace your old car? Check out these resources for low-cost car repairs.

7. Sell unwanted and unused items to make extra money

There are lots of items around your house that could be worth money — jewelry, furniture, clothing, old appliances. Check out this post for more ideas of things to sell. 

8. Consider starting a side gig for extra income

There are lots of ways to make money on the side and even earn passive income. 

If you know your industry might be negatively impacted by a recession, Ward recommends sharpening your skills in a different field to give yourself additional options for employment.

“This could mean taking online, night or weekend education programs or pursuing extra certifications,” Ward says. Check out these quick job certifications

9. Create a network — personal and professional

Download an app to make friends, attend local conferences and business meetups, and try to expand your personal and professional circles. It never hurts to have more people in your corner..
If you’re a professional single mom looking for a group of like-minded women, consider joining our Millionaire Single Mom Facebook group.

Also, check out these advice from people on Reddit:

How to survive a recession if you lost your job

If you have lost your job and don't have a financial cushion, here is what you can do now:

  • Focus on the basics: Rent, utilities, food and frugal living. Apply immediately for unemployment and other public programs. A budget is critical. Sell things you don't need. Gold and jewelry, cars you can do without, clothes and appliances. You could also use consignment shops or pawn shops to get quick cash.
  • Maintain your credit score — a low score means higher interest rates and digging yourself deeper in debt. Take steps to improve your credit: How to build your credit fast
  • While you look for work, keep your skills current with online courses, a side gig.
  • Take advantage of all the resources available and apply for my Single Mom Grant.

Economic recession FAQs

What happens during a recession?

This post elaborates on what you can expect to see during a recession, including that prices increase, people and businesses spend less, which leads to higher unemployment while wages stay steady. Local and federal governments have less tax revenue, so they spend less on programs and projects — and the stock market tends to decline.  

What is the difference between recession and depression?

In general, during a recession there is less economic activity. Typically, the financial pinch follows the following flow when the stock market tanks and home prices dip.

A depression is a severe and prolonged downturn in economic activity, typically defined as lasting three or more years and/or a decline in real gross domestic product (GDP) of at least 10%.

An economic depression is characterized by:

  • High unemployment rate
  • Low inflation — or even deflation (when the price of items goes down)
  • Bear market for stock market
  • Credit defaults for individuals, companies and governments
  • Bankruptcies
  • Less available credit
  • The affluent tend to save more during a depression

While inflation does not directly cause a recession, steps taken to combat inflation can lead to a recession. 

Inflation is a measure of the rising cost of goods in the economy, and it is often fueled by high production costs and increased product demand. When inflation surges too quickly, the Federal Reserve might hike interest rates to slow buyer demand.

As spending decreases following a rate hike, companies respond by dropping prices and slowing production, which could lead to layoffs or salary reductions. This decline in economic activity over several months is known as a recession. 

Who does a recession impact the most?

Educate yourself about what a recession means for you — if you are affluent, have cash to invest in real estate, the stock market or faltering business, a recession can be a great opportunity to buy low, and hopefully later sell high.

For most people, a recession is a time of anxiety as they worry about losing their jobs — or face unemployment, which lasts longer than average during a recession. Prices on everyday items tend to go up, while real estate markets go down. 

Who benefits in a recession?

A recession is part of a natural, healthy cycle of an economy. Some human behavior shows improvement, including:

  • People tend to save more money during a recession.
  • People shop less during a recession — which is good for the environment.
  • Interest rates are cut, which is great if you need to borrow money, including for a mortgage.
  • Floundering businesses close, which means that stronger businesses are more likely to thrive.
  • There are many financial opportunities from lower prices overall — including the opportunity to buy stocks, real estate and businesses at discounted prices.

Negative effects of a recession

Of course, there are negative effects of a recession, the most common being: 

  • Higher unemployment rates
  • Lower wages and salaries
  • Decreased home and stock prices
  • Increased government spending

How to survive a recession FAQs

Is it good to have cash in a recession?

It is always great to have cash on hand, at least a three-month emergency fund. Low interest rates on savings and money-market accounts during recessions mean that big stores of cash may be unattractive compared with other tools.

Things to buy before a recession?

Stockpiling items in a recession is a good way to save money in the long run. In general, these are some things to buy before a recession:

  • Canned goods like fruits, veggies, beans, soups, broths, and meats
  • Foods that can be frozen like meat and breads
  • Dry goods like rice, noodles, pasta, rolled oats, and seeds (kept in a cool, dry place)
  • Baking supplies like honey, flour, sugar, vanilla
  • Nut butters
  • Spices 
  • Oils
  • Paper products
  • Water

Some financial advisors suggest stockpiling cash while the real estate and stock markets are in wild fluctuation. Then you can buy when markets are low. 

What should you not do in a recession?

Wondering what you should avoid during a recession? In general, here are some no-nos (but common mistakes) during a recession:

  • Liquidate all your investments
  • Withdraw from your 401k or other retirement accounts
  • Co-sign for a loan or otherwise take on more debt than you have to
  • Avoid taking too many career risks
  • Business owners should avoid capital investments now

Where is the best place to put money during a recession?

Ward says there is no one best place to put money during a recession because each investment has a tradeoff. She says to ask yourself these questions: 

  • Do you have adequate emergency reserves? 
  • Do you have adequate insurance coverage — such as long-term care, life insurance, property and casualty, and disability insurance?  
  • Do you have income from a job or are you retired? 
  • What’s on the horizon — a new baby, an expensive tuition bill? 

“All of this and more must be factored in before deciding on where to put money during a recession,” Ward says. 

She says stocks have typically peaked seven months before the recession and then rebound before the recession officially ends. 

“This presents an opportunity to someone who has a financial plan that includes stocks, but it goes against what most people ‘feel’ when investing during a recession,” Ward says.

Bottom line: You can survive a recession and thrive afterward if you take action now

Most people fare OK during and after a recession. While professional opportunities are fewer, there are still ways to earn a living, grow your career and investments during a recession. An economic downturn is always an opportunity to reassess your values and align your money with your goals.


  1. “The S&P 500 could crash by 30%, a recession is likely underway, and interest rates might not fall before summer, market prophet says,” Jan 6, 2024. Fox Business.
  2. “These 8%+ dividends are the key to sailing through a recession in 2024,” Jan 6, 2024. Forbes.
  3. “U.S. recession a threat; China growth stalls, and other 2024 investing risks,” Jan. 3, 2024. MarketWatch.
What is a recession?

A recession is a downturn in the economy. On a broader scale, this means that businesses lose money and industry produces less product for two quarters or six months in a row.

What happens during a recession?

Prices increase, people and businesses spend less, which leads to higher unemployment while wages stay steady. Local and federal governments have less tax revenue, so they spend less on programs and projects — and the stock market tends to decline.  

Who does a recession impact the most?

For most people, a recession is a time of anxiety as they worry about losing their jobs — or face unemployment, which lasts longer than average during a recession. Prices on everyday items tend to go up, while real estate markets go down.

Is it good to have cash in a recession?

It is always great to have cash on hand, at least a three-month emergency fund.

What should you not do in a recession?

In general, here are some no-nos (but common mistakes) during a recession: liquidate all your investments; withdraw from your 401k or other retirement accounts; among others.


INTEREST Rates decrease during a recession? Historically with inflation I have not seen that happen. I lived through the 1981 recession and under Democratic President Jimmy Carter ( Whom I respect) the prime interest rate was 21%, and I remember exactly were is was when heard the info on WGN Radio. As a single young woman I pondered how will anyone ever purchase their own home? We all figured the single percent rate our parents knew of would never exist again! Second, Credit card rates; yikes! Even though the interest on credit at that time was tax deductible, the rates still sucked up our cash. I hear young people say inflation is good, and shake my head.

When coronavirus pandemic started company i work for said that they will pay only 1 / 2 of my salary and my wife lost her job. We had lots of bank debts. And it has become impossible to pay these debts. And we did not have anything valuable to sell.

So we had executed this financial plan :

1) First two months we did not pay rent and reserved this money as a budget pillow. ( We had to )
2) We stopped paying bank debts.
3) Always used cash money and stopped using credit card.
4) We spent money with this order : Food & Rent & Bills.
5) We planned to close home and move in my brothers home till crisis ends.

Later government gave 60 months termed credit and forced banks to postpone debt payments. Also starting to work home office decreased some expenses. And my company started to pay 3 / 4 of my salary.

So we got rid of living like a criminal. This is my experience.

Hi Emma,

What a useful post.

I’ve been a single Mom for several years now, and lucky enough to have worked from home almost all my life so lockdown hasn’t been detrimental to me – in fact it’s allowed me to spend more time on my online business.

On the financial side, again – lucky I know, I have saved so much money by not going out – especially shopping – that I’ve ended up better off than I was pre-lockdown!

Partly this has been because I’ve realized I can live a much simpler life, and still enjoy it.

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