Originally published on MySpace on March 27, 2009
Being unemployed alters your world. I was constantly chasing the next
contract job when I was a consultant, and there were many times over
the past two years when I didn’t know where my next job was going to
come from. This was all fine and good when the economy was booming,
because I knew there would always be someone who needed a contract
writer. However, life changed when the economy crashed and the world
did a total reset.
All of a sudden I was fighting 125 other people for a single job, and
everyone was underbidding me because they were hungrier than I was. My
hourly rate was cut in half in a matter of months, and I started to
wonder how I was going to live on half of what I was making before.
Survival Skills 101
Reduce your Expenses
Stop eating out. Period. When I was looking for expenses to cut, eating
out was the first to go. I literally cut my Visa bill in half when I
stopped eating out.
Brew your own! Just think about how many cups of coffee you can get
from a 1-pound bag of beans. If you must have a latte from a coffee
shop, cut it down to once a week as a treat.
Get your utility company to average your gas and/or electric bills.
That way you know exactly what you have to pay every month. I got a
$358 gas bill after the winter storm we had in December, and that’s
when I decided to average my bill.
Avoid the Mall
If you’re a person who can’t walk out of Nordstrom or Macy’s without
being tempted to buy something, don’t go to the mall! I spent so much
less money by just staying away from the temptation.
Use the Library
Did you know that you can get DVDs and CDs at the library? If you are
cutting expenses, cut the rental fees and the late fees completely by
using the library.
Cut the Cable
When I was cutting expenses I cut my TV cable down to the basic
channels, which was about $10 a month. The unexpected bonus was we
didn’t get the Disney Channel anymore. The overacting and laugh tracks
on those kid shows is enough to drive a mom to drink. However, my kids
quickly discovered that they could watch most of their favorite TV
shows on the Internet whenever they wanted to anyway, so Hannah Montana
didn’t disappear completely. Sigh.
Find Free (or cheap) Fun
I am one of those people who is really good at being frugal. My
expenses are really low, and I can live on almost nothing. However, I
will not deprive myself of fun. Even when I was being really frugal I
would take my kids to the movies once a month (always to the cheaper
matinee of course). We always brought our own snacks, and asked for
cups for water at the concession stand.
Geocaching is free and fun for kids. We did it without the aid of a GPS
and still found caches. Good for an entire day of adventure.
Have Happy Hour at Home
Remember when you were in college, or even just living out on your own
for the first time, and you used to know where all of the best happy
hours were? You knew which bars had cheap drinks and free food, right?
Well, my girlfriends and I have organized happy hours in our homes.
Wine, cheese, crackers. Cheap, easy and fun. There are also plenty of
free wine tastings around town if you want to get out.
Needs Vs. Wants
Do you really need another pair of shoes, or do you just want them? Don’t buy anything that’s not an absolute necessity.
I have three children. They grow out of clothes constantly. There is no
way I’m going to spend $40 on a pair of jeans for an 8-year old who
will grow out of them in three months. I have plenty of friends with
kids, and I asked them for hand-me-downs. I would get the clothes from
my friends and then just hang them up in my kids’ closets as if I had
bought them new. They never knew the difference, and they got some
really cool clothes!
You don’t realize how much of your emotional stability is tied to money
until you don’t have it anymore. There are many things that money can’t
buy, but it certainly buys you stability. I remember being consumed by
fear on a daily basis when I was between jobs. Fear, panic,
helplessness, hopelessness, depression, anxiety, are all emotions that
come to mind.
Which leads me to…
I would allow myself the freedom to have a complete emotional meltdown
(when my kids weren’t around) a few times a month. It was cathartic for
me to just cry and shout out loud whatever came to mind. Once I
released all of my fear and anxiety I knew I could find the strength to
pick myself up and keep rowing forward. It was my way of doing an
If you’re going to wallow in self pity you might as well go all out and
throw yourself a party. Allow yourself to have the occasional pity
party, but put a time limit on it. Say, “Okay, I’m going to pity myself
for the next 30 minutes, and then I’m going to pick myself back up and
be done with that.” I even made myself a pity party cake once, because
it made me laugh, and humor really helps in these hard times.
Phone a Friend
I can’t tell you how many times I called friends just to ask for some
emotional support. Sometimes I just needed someone to tell me it was
going to be okay.
This economy is going to suck for a while. Just wrap your head around
that and accept it. Once you accept that you can be the river instead
of the rock.
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