How to Prepare for a Recession: 9 Tips

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Contributor, Benzinga
August 22, 2023

A recession is a period of economic decline, usually lasting at least six months. During this time, businesses and consumers slash spending, resulting in lower income, higher unemployment and decreased demand for goods and services. A recession can significantly affect your finances, impacting your income, savings, investments and debt.

But with some careful planning and preparation, you can weather the storm and emerge stronger and more resilient. This article provides nine tips on how to prepare for a recession and safeguard your finances against the negative consequences of an economic downturn.

Understanding How a Recession Can Affect Your Finances

Here are some of the common ways that a recession can affect your financial situation: 

  • Income loss or reduction: Recession-induced job losses, pay cuts or reduced hours may lead to an unstable income that may not cover your expenses or allow you to save or invest.
  • Savings depletion: A lower income may force you to use your savings to cover expenses or emergencies, reducing your financial cushion and making it harder to recover from unexpected events or achieve your long-term goals.
  • Investment volatility: A recession can cause stock prices to drop, resulting in lower returns or losses on your investments. This drop can affect your net worth, retirement savings or future income streams.
  • Debt accumulation: A lower income makes it challenging to pay off your debts, which can increase your interest payments, lower your credit score and limit your borrowing options.
  • Expense increase: A recession can also result in higher living costs because of inflation, taxes or other factors. This situation can reduce your purchasing power and make it harder to afford your essential or discretionary expenses.

9 Tips to Prepare for a Recession

Now that you know how a recession can affect your finances, here are some tips to help you prepare for a recession and minimize its impact.

Create a Lean Budget

Preparing for a recession requires creating a lean budget that reflects your spending habits, prioritizes essential expenses and reduces nonessential items. To create a lean budget, track expenses for at least one month and categorize them into essential and nonessential items. Analyze your spending and spot areas where you can reduce unnecessary expenses. Set realistic financial objectives based on your income and expenses. Create a plan that outlines how much money you need to allocate to each expense category and how much money you need to save or invest each month. Use the 50/30/20 rule: Spend 50% on essentials, 30% on nonessentials and 20% on savings or investments. Monitor your progress regularly and tweak your budget based on changes in your income or expenses. 

Boost Your Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is a savings account for unplanned expenses or emergencies. Most experts recommend at least three to six months of living expenses saved. These funds can help you cover your essential expenses without relying on loans or credit cards at high-interest rates. You can boost your emergency fund by setting a target amount, automating your savings and earning extra income. 

Work on Diversifying Income Streams

Diversifying your income sources can help reduce the risk of losing your primary income, increase your cash flow and reach your financial goals more quickly. You can offer online services like writing, graphic design or tutoring and find clients on Upwork or Fiverr. You can also sell products online through platforms like Etsy, eBay or or even create a blog or podcast, monetizing it through ads or sponsorships. You can rent out unused space through platforms like Airbnb or Neighbor or invest in dividend-paying stocks or funds that offer passive income.

Invest Wisely

Investing wisely means putting your money to work by buying assets that appreciate over time or generate income. But investing during a recession can be risky because of market volatility and uncertainty. You must review and adjust your investment portfolio to invest wisely during a downturn. 

Diversify your portfolio by spreading your money across different types of assets and sectors. This way, you can reduce the impact of market fluctuations and take advantage of opportunities in different areas. 

Assess how much risk you are willing and able to take with your investments to protect your capital and avoid losses you cannot afford. Focus on your long-term goals by holding onto your investments for years or decades. This approach can help you benefit from compound interest and avoid emotional decisions.

Manage Debt

Though debt can be beneficial when used wisely, it can be costly and stressful when used unwisely. This reality is particularly true during a recession when income may drop or expenses may rise. To manage and reduce high-interest debts, prioritizing debt repayment is an effective strategy. This approach entails allocating a portion of your income or savings to pay off debts each month. You can use the debt avalanche or debt snowball method to decide which ones to pay off first.

Negotiate with lenders for lower interest rates or better terms. Avoid new debt by sticking to a budget, using cash or debit cards instead of credit cards and only borrowing money for essential expenses or emergencies. 

Enhance Your Skills

Skills are acquired abilities or knowledge that enable you to perform specific tasks or activities. They can help you advance your career, boost your earning potential and adapt to a changing job market. During a recession, specific skills may become more or less in demand depending on the industry, sector or occupation. 

Identify in-demand skills by researching trends and opportunities in your industry. Online tools such as LinkedIn, Indeed or Glassdoor can help you determine what skills employers seek. Learn new skills that suit your needs and goals. Coursera Inc., Udemy Inc. or edX offer quality and affordable learning resources. Practice and apply your skills by volunteering, freelancing, mentoring or creating a portfolio that showcases your projects and skills. 

Become Self-Sufficient

Preparing for a recession requires becoming self-sufficient, which means being able to provide for yourself without relying on external sources. While homesteading is one option to achieve this, it may not be feasible for everyone. Instead, you can try to become more self-sufficient in other practical ways. Starting a small garden can help you save money on groceries, eat fresher organic produce and gain a hobby. Learning cooking skills can help you save money on dining out, eat healthier and tastier food and have fun in the kitchen. You can also save money on products or services, learn new skills and express creativity by exploring do-it-yourself (DIY) projects.  

Negotiate Bills and Contracts

Negotiate your bills and contracts with service providers, landlords or creditors. Before making any calls, research current market rates for the service or product you're paying for. Also, check bills or contracts for errors, fees or terms you can challenge. Based on your research, prepare a realistic and reasonable proposal highlighting why you deserve a lower rate or better terms. 

Consider alternative options to offer or accept in case of a counteroffer or rejection. Be polite, confident and assertive when ready to make the call. Explain your situation, state your proposal and ask for what you want. Listen carefully, respond calmly and negotiate until a satisfactory agreement is reached. Negotiating your bills and contracts can reduce monthly expenses and avoid late fees or penalties, ultimately improving your financial stability during difficult economic times.

Rethink Housing

Housing expenses typically make up a significant portion of most people’s budgets, but several options are available to help reduce costs. Downsizing to a smaller or more affordable home is one option that can lower expenses related to rent or mortgage, utilities and maintenance. 

Renting out an unused room, basement, garage or backyard can provide income through rent and other fees. Exploring alternative living arrangements, such as coliving, cohousing, tiny houses, house sitting or van life, can also be an option to save on housing costs, travel more or experience different lifestyles. 

Your financial preparedness becomes your most valuable asset as the economic landscape shifts. By creating a lean budget, bolstering your emergency fund, diversifying income sources, making wise investment decisions, managing debt, enhancing your skills, embracing self-sufficiency, negotiating bills and reevaluating housing choices, you can lay a strong foundation for enduring a recession.

Frequently Asked Questions


What are the signs of an impending recession? 


Signs of an impending recession include declining gross domestic product (GDP) growth, rising unemployment rates, reduced consumer spending and market volatility.



How can I protect my finances during a recession?


You can protect your finances during a recession by creating a budget, building an emergency fund, diversifying income, managing debt and making calculated investment choices.



Should I continue investing during a recession?


Yes, continuing to invest during a recession can present opportunities, but it’s essential to review and adjust your investment strategy based on the changing economic conditions.