DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Clovis Steib wishes he could relax and truly enjoy the time away from work but, as a furloughed federal employee, worry won’t let him.

“It’s your livelihood that’s being used as a bargaining chip,” says Steib, who has spent 17 years working for the government. “It’s always weighing in the back of your mind. How long will it last? Do we have enough to ride it out? ”

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Experts say his questions are like those being asked by many furloughed federal workers. Employees are left factoring in how long their bank accounts will carry them – if they have savings at all. Because the reality is, many workers don’t—regardless of the employer.

“They are at zero,” said Ginger Greenberg, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas. “They live paycheck to paycheck. They are creative and stretch their budget and pay what they can pay for and then they’re at zero.”

Shortened paychecks for the days worked prior to the shutdown are scheduled to deposit at midnight. But, workers worry when the next one will come. Lawmakers have discussed paying the furloughed workers back pay—but, most know there are no guarantees when politics are involved.

“I had co-workers thinking until the very last minute: ‘oh, they’ll come to an agreement, just like they did the last time at the 11th hour. We’ll be okay’,” says Steib. “But, here we are. It’s been trying. Luckily we have some savings.”

As workers begin to absorb the bank balance sticker shock of the shortened paychecks, some banks are encouraging customers impacted by the shutdown to contact them regarding possible payment arrangements—and experts say a proactive approach with all creditors is best.

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“Take stock of where you are,” recommends Greenberg, “see where you might need help.” Greenberg suggests paying the most essential bills first, such as mortgage, food and medical care and only turn to credit cards as a last resort.

Experts say the government shutdown is yet another example of the importance of building and maintaining emergency savings. “It can be $5 a week, or $10 a week, just start somewhere.”

“In this economy, it’s hard to save that cushion,” Steib, who calls the government shutdown a ‘manufactured crisis’, aid frankly. “We were fortunate. We live frugally. Now, we’ve kind of redefined what frugal is at this point and time because we want to pinch every penny.”

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