[Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by Elizabeth West. She's been recently unemployed and has agreed to share her experience with Lazy Man and Money readers. You can catch more of her writing at Graphomaniac and follow her on Twitter as DameWritesalot.]
At the end of January, I wrote a post on my blog, Graphomaniac, about losing my job, the day it happened. Still in shock at the time, I was pretty optimistic about getting another one soon.
I was wrong.
It's November, and I'm still unemployed. I've cut and cut but I still can't make ends meet on meager and rapidly-diminishing unemployment, or on the few part-time filler jobs out there. My small savings has been decimated.
Scaling back doesn't mean I have to live in a hovel and eat bread and water. But it does require making adjustments in the household budget.
Some things I got rid of:
DirecTV: My low-tier account is actually on suspension, and I extended it, just in case. If I don't find a decent job by the time it expires in May, or can't afford it on the one I do have, I think I may actually turn it off completely. I can always sign up again later and take advantage of specials. Most cable shows are available for free online the next day, or they eventually show up on Netflix. Delayed gratification is a beautiful thing. It gives you something to look forward to.
Car payment: My aging and frequently broken Buick had only one more (tiny) payment when I was laid off. My parents did me a HUGE favor and got me a nice little Chevy to replace it. Now when a potential employer asks me if I have reliable transportation, I don't have to lie. It's paid for, too, so I don't have that expense now. Thanks, Mom and Dad. I'm very lucky.
Amazon: Dear God, I love One-Click Ordering. Amazon has made it far too easy for me to buy things I don't need, now or anytime. It's better if I don't even look. So far, I've managed to stay away from it, except for buying a couple of songs for my skating rink's Christmas ice show. At 99 cents, they didn't break the bank.
This pretty much goes for all unnecessary shopping. Unless it breaks and I use it every day, I probably don't need it.
Travel: This was made much easier by the fact that my long-distance boyfriend broke up with me. So, no more flying. Talk about mixed blessings. Arrgh!
I try to keep car trips to a minimum, and if I have to run errands, I look for ways to cluster them. That means I don't drive as far or as long, thus saving gas. Out-of-town trips are a no for now.
Some things I kept:
Landline: I kept it for DSL. AT&T has a reputation for wrecking the Internet-only option, and I simply can't afford to be without it. Employers don't want you to apply in person. They want to screen you through online apps, or by email.
When I threatened to cancel the landline, they reduced my bill. Win!
Internet also means communication. I dropped all but local service on the phone, and now I make long-distance calls either by prepaid cell, or on the computer. Skype is $2.99 a month, and I can call anywhere, any phone, in the US and Canada.
Netflix: Since I no longer have satellite TV, Netflix provides the bulk of my entertainment. A $10 RCA digital antenna from Walmart provides me with OTA network channels. Disc and streaming is $16.99 a month, but that's way less than I was paying for DirecTV and is doable. I don't go out much on this budget, so this is it.
Skating: I'm an adult recreational figure skater. Our ice rink charges $8.00 for an hour of freestyle time. I've reduced practice time to one hour a week. I've cancelled my lessons, although my coach has been helping me out now and again with a discount when she can.
Skating keeps me sane, gives me something to do each week and encourages me to cross-train (walking, using DVDs I already have) instead of living on the couch. It's worth the little money I spend and if I have an extra ten bucks, I skate an extra hour that week. I stockpiled fabric, so if I need a costume, I can still sew my own.
Because of these measures, when I do get a job, I'll be used to making do with less. For most people, that usually means a spending spree. Not for me. I had some savings, and I want them again. Cutting back doesn't have to make you feel deprived.
[Editor's Note: If you enjoyed this article you can read more of Liz's "unemployment adventures": How I Could Have Been Prepared for a Layoff]
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