Friday, February 27, 2009


OK. So, you have no job. You live in New york. Expenses are high. It just can't be helped. And you're living off of an unemployment check. And no matter how underpaid you were at your previous place of employment, that unemployment check is undoubtedly way less than you were making. WAAAAAAAAY less.

So you need to be frugal.
You need to count your pennies. You need to cut back on things. You need to mooch off your still employed friends.
And it sucks.

It's hard to go out in New York, anywhere, without spending money. Yes, you need to get out of the house (this is something that you should do every day, even if it's just to the 99¢ store to pick up garbage bags or kitchen sponges or ... something ...). But where to? Take your laptop to a coffee shop and sit for a couple of hours? But this adds up.

I have been cutting corners. I promise I have.
Like most of America, I enjoy buying things. I enjoying having things. I enjoy new shoes in the spring and overpriced jeans. And I'm not doing that now.
Unlike most of America, I have not had a credit card in 8 years, so, I don't have any of that crazy-high-interest-rate-debt that all the radio commentators are speaking of. I have always gotten along by know what was in my bank account and just spending that.

But here's the thing. There was always a paycheck coming. A rent-paying, shoe-buying, cocktail-permitting paycheck.

There are things worth buying. There are times it is OK to go a little over budget.
For me, to stay in check, I make a list. A grocery list, a pharmacy list - a list of the things I need to buy. And I do not stray from this list. I do not buy the new shade of nail polish. I have enough. I do not buy the pint of Ben & Jerry's just because I want some ice cream. But. I do buy two boxes of the good trash bags if they're on sale, instead of the cheaper, crappy ones that leak all over the floor. I do buy the pint of Breyer's chocolate ice cream, under $2, it fulfills my ice cream craving - maybe not so decadent as the B&J, but who needs decadent anyway? I do buy the large box of condoms instead of the three-pack, but I buy the store brand cold medicine.

Sure, I'm counting pennies. But here's the thing. Pennies add up. I promise you they do.

Listening to NPR the other day, I heard a finance expert speaking about some things you can do to stay on track and be in control of your finances. One that sounded really good to me is actually the way I used to live my life right out of college - be cash only.

So, right out of school, I was working retail at a shoe store in Cambridge, MA. We got paid and hourly wage in check form (not bad for the time, but you'd laugh now if I told you how little it was!) and commission, paid cash. Every week, I would deposit my paycheck and use that commission as the money that I would spend throughout the week - to get groceries, to go dancing, to go shopping, to have dinner or buy beer. If the week before had been a slow week, and the commission was low, I would get a little cash from the ATM, but I wouldn't go to the ATM several times during the week. I would go once. If the commission check was big, that's when I'd get to buy myself something nice - clothing, jewelry, fancy dinner with the boyfriend ...

So now I am on unemployment. And I have a fixed income. I don't have the luxury of that fluctuating commission. But I think cash only is a great idea, especially in this economy, to take out a fixed amount of money every week and put it aside - for bills, for groceries, for a social life.

Let's see how it goes ...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The 'Net

Ok. So I spend a lot of time on the internet these days.
And sometimes I learn stuff. And sometimes I find jobs to apply for. And sometimes I find ways to spend my time. Here are two things I have recently discovered - the first I found through a group on LinkedIn and the second, a friend sent to me.

The first is a quick list on Mashable of the thirty best websites for the unemployed . I looked through it and it's pretty good. There are some links to job sites you might not think about and there are some links to ways to spend your day. The worst thing about unemployment is not having something to consistently do with yourself during the days. If you are also unemployed, I think this little website will be a pretty good resource.

My friend S sent me this link to Dessert Corps, which is a volunteer opportunity in my neighborhood. If you're familiar with my other blog know that I like to bake, so this is right up my alley. And, unemployed or not, I think it's important to remember that there are always those who are worse off than you. I'm not sure if this is something that I will be able to do weekly, but I think I am going to try and make something for tomorrow and the next week. It's something that I enjoy doing and also something that other people will really enjoy. I'm also going to post this on my Facebook page, as I think it's a great idea.

Tomorrow, I am helping a friend out with his thesis film at will be in New Jersey all day, so I'll be off the 'net and have my phone off for most of the day ... but I think one day away from that, in an unemployed state, is maybe not such a bad thing!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Time Is On My Side

So one thing about being unemployed is that you have a lot of time on your hands. Loads of time. Tons of time. Oodles of freaking time.

Your employed friends will say that you are so lucky, that they wish they had time. Of course. You probably said the same thing when you were working 50/60 hours a week - I know that I did. And at first, once you get out of that unemployment depression, it's awesome. You can run errands that everyone else has to do on the weekend in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, when the shops are empty and the lines are short. You can read, you can watch TV, you can sleep late ... these things are all great. Amazing. Don't get me wrong, as I really enjoy these "perks" of unemployment as well.

But there is a lot of down time. You can only spend so many hours a day looking for a job on Craigslist, especially these days, when there are only a handful of postings a day. You can only spend so much time competing against your employed-killing-time-at-the-office friends on any of the varied Facebook word games. You can only watch reruns of 80s sitcoms/forensics shows/Law&Order for so many hours a day before your mind wanders.

For me, in this time of unemployment, I am also starting to date. I decided, as I had a lot of time on my hands these days, that it would be the perfect time to try something new, to do something new - internet dating. I put up a profile. I got some e-mails. I responded and I've made a couple of dates. I decided to do this type of dating because it's hard to meet people in New York. It's hard to meet new people when you have little reason to leave your neighborhood. And, what's it hurt? You meet a few people, you kiss a few frogs and maybe something good comes of it. But here's the thing, the evening before my first of the lined up internet dates, I met a guy. In an old-fashioned way, at a party, through a friend. And he was great. Sweet and smart and cute and we hung out for hours upon hours ...

And now is the waiting.
He gave me his number. I texted him, so he could have mine. And now is the waiting.

If I was still working, I would be too busy for it to take over too much of my mind - the when am I going to hear from him thought. Maybe I would hear my cell ring and would wonder if it was him, but I would be busy and my mind would be on a million other things. Today, not so much. I have it on good authority that I think too much and there are a lot of things my mind wonders to on these long, lazy unemployed days ... when will I get a job, how will I pay for the hotel room at my friend's wedding, whatever will I do when unemployment runs out and the economy is still in a "recession"? These things are total bummers to think about. But they are, somehow, a lot less stressful than wondering if this boy is going to text/call me back ...

Do I sound like a high school girl? Probably. But I have a lot of time on my hands and not a lot to think about right now ...

Is this a post more about dating than the pitfalls of being jobless? Maybe. But all I promise is to document what my life is like, living in Brooklyn and being unemployed. And, this is one of those things I'm experiencing.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

One Is The Loneliest Number

For a lot of my working life, I worked retail - different people everyday, and loads of them - and then, when I moved into an office job, I was still dealing with people, freelancers and contractors and staff and clients. So, waking up every day and seeing ... no one ... is a big change.

For me, it's probably the worst part of unemployment (yes, besides the money, or lack thereof) is the lack of human interaction. I feel like I need to get out more, to chat with the Polish girls at the grocery, or to order a cup of coffee or, jeez, maybe I should just go and wait in line at the post office just to complain with others about how there is always a crazy line at the Greenpoint post office. I spend a lot of the day on the internet - job hunting, man hunting, iming with friends, but it's just not the same as talking to people. I feel starved for human contact.

That's been the hardest part of it these past few months. I'm a social person and having this complete lack of socialization on a daily basis is beyond tough on me.

Should Have ...

I should have started this blog a long time ago.
I was laid off in November - from a job which was perfect for me. A hard job. A job where I was completely underpaid and overworked and totally stressed out 90% of the time ... but a job that was perfect for me, nonetheless.

And as the months have passed, and more and more people are getting laid off, and every time I turn on NPR, there is another story about the percentages of people in the country who have been laid off during this economic downturn, it seems like I might have a lot of time on my hands for a lot longer than I originally anticipated.

So here is my blog - about my search for a job, about what I do with my lazy days, about what I do to save a few pennies while living on the dole ...