If you recently lost your job or are worried about losing your job, don’t feel alone.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of unemployed people in the United States reached 13.5 million in January, and while the unemployment rate has been going down, many workers remain concerned about losing their jobs, given the current economic realities.

Whether you’ve recently been laid off or are simply worried about being laid off, there are a number of steps you can take to lessen the financial damage caused by unemployment:

Learning the details: If you are currently working and are concerned about losing your job, take time to find out about your rights if you do lose your job.

You should consider learning about the scope of potential unemployment benefits and your employer’s policy on severance and paying for unused time – sick, personal and vacation.

Knowing what’s available is vital for planning a survival budget. To learn more about unemployment compensation in Maine, visit www.maine.gov/labor/unemployment/benefits.html.

Now is also a good time to review a partner’s employee benefits. For example, is there an option for health benefits under his or her plan if you lose your job and benefits?

Establishing a survival budget: When you lose a job, immediate measures need to be taken. One of the biggest problems is that many people aren’t really aware of their expenses.

In most cases, job loss means that your current spending exceeds your income. Typically, people who don’t have a handle on their expenses take too long to realize the realities, resulting in depleted savings, debt and bad credit.

The first step is to prepare a survival budget, consisting of just the essentials. Every expense should be challenged – cellphones, cable, dining, etc.

The best method I have found to develop a budget is to track every penny, every day, for at least 30 days. This exercise serves two purposes: It provides an accurate picture of expenses, and it builds financial awareness.

The goal is to determine where every dollar is going. From there, you can determine what the bare minimum is that you need to survive on. Even if you’re still employed, try living on your survival budget for a few weeks to see if it is feasible and to make any necessary tweaks.

Generating income and avoiding debt: During a period of joblessness, you will be challenged by the need to generate income. Finding a job that replaces lost income can be a time-consuming process.

There are, however, quick ways to generate some cash flow while you look for work. Taking inventory of possessions that you can reasonably expect to sell is a good idea. Even a yard sale can generate a few hundred dollars quickly.

Working for a temporary employment agency may also be a way to generate some income fairly quickly and may even lead to more lucrative opportunities. Many companies hire permanently from the pool of temps they see.

You also can consider tapping into your home equity line of credit, an IRA or retirement fund. These are somewhat drastic steps, however, and you should seek professional advice before taking active steps here. Tapping into retirement funds may come with a penalty, on top of the taxing of those dollars.

A major concern for you during this period is debt. Work with creditors to see if you can reduce payment levels or even defer your payments temporarily (do this before you start missing payments).

Finally, don’t underestimate the emotional impact this situation can have on you and your family. Take the time to talk with your family.

If you’ve made the effort to build a network of friends and professional acquaintances, you’ll have a platform of support that you can draw from. These are people who can also steer you toward new opportunities.