"The benefits definitely aren't adequate," Dixon said. "If your benefits are replacing 40% to 50% of what you used to make, or less, there are a lot of bills you won't be able to downsize quickly enough."

Indeed, some might argue that's the point. If you give the unemployed too much money for too long, it could theoretically take away their incentive to search for work. Instead, unemployment benefits are essentially intended to provide just enough money to keep jobless Americans -- and the economy as a whole -- temporarily afloat.

But as the term "temporary" has come to mean 99 weeks or longer, many Americans have had to find ways to get by, whether by cutting corners or occasionally supplementing their benefits whenever possible by taking odd jobs.

Shrinking your lifestyle to stay afloat

When Janet Raiffa lost her job as a director of recruiting at a New York City law firm in 2008, her salary dropped from more than $200,000 a year to the roughly $20,000 she was eligible to collect during her first year on unemployment benefits. Though Raiffa did have money in savings, her lifestyle quickly started to bleed her bank account dry.

"My mortgage and maintenance are more than $3,000 a month, not counting all the other necessities," Raiffa said.

This led Raiffa to make several immediate changes: She canceled her gym membership and stopped eating out, which is to some New York City residents a way of life. She was also forced to dip into her nest egg to improve her cash flow, including cashing in her 401k and selling off her stocks.

But Raiffa has found some creative ways to supplement her unemployment benefits since then, for example by renting out her room from time to time through Airbnb, selling some of her wardrobe and pawning off memorabilia that had belonged to her father, including a set of Canadian coins from the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

She also jumped at random small jobs, ranging from being an extra on shows like "Law & Order" to writing a column for the 405 club, a popular website devoted to the unemployed. Today, Raiffa is essentially a full time freelancer -- a "permalancer" -- who no longer relies on unemployment payments at all.

Nicholas Carroll, who had previously worked in the world of e-commerce, followed the same path and took a number of odd jobs while unemployed, including trimming trees for $18 an hour. But even with these odd jobs, Carroll still had to change his lifestyle, particularly in terms of the food he ate. Rather than eat out with friends, he would suggest a potluck dinner instead, where everyone prepares a dish.

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"The potluck food was nearly as good, a quarter the price, and the parties are a lot more fun," Carroll said.

Along the same lines, Marc Levy, one of the Voices of MainStreet, notes that some coffee shops offer day-old bread and bagels for next to nothing, options that can prove essential for someone on a tight budget.

For many others, though, the lifestyle changes brought on by unemployment have been more severe. According to Dixon, the policy analyst at NELP, plenty of unemployed Americans have little choice but to rely on food assistance and welfare programs to supplement their benefits. Indeed, the number of Americans who rely on food stamps has skyrocketed as the unemployment level remains near 10%.

Likewise, Raiffa notes that while most unemployed people may start cutting costs by canceling their cable TV and gym memberships, she knows some who have canceled health insurance plans as well, and others who have no choice but to move in with family and friends to save on rent.

"I think we're all grateful for the unemployment benefits we have," Raiffa said. "But it's nowhere near enough."

This article was reported by Seth Fiegerman for MainStreet.