Articles, Inspiration, Musings, Rambliings, Uncategorized

How to Make the Most of Unemployment


Back at the end of 2007 I lost my job and the rest of the country followed me in 2008. When it came time to renew my Massage License and Insurance in March of 2008 I didn’t have the money so I had to start looking for work outside my comfort zone. I found temporary and part-time work briefly but from that time until Feb 29th, 2012, I have been unemployed. Yesterday, I finally had my first two interviews since 2008  and was hired by a grocery store on a part-time basis. I am very grateful now and thrilled to be employed again. It’s been a very emotionally and frightening three and a half years. So here are some tips on how to live the best you can and how to find services to help you survive unemployment.

1. Send your clothes to a consignment shop and have a garage sale for household items.

You will most likely get better money for your clothes from a consignment shop than you would from a garage sale. At garage sales people are looking for deep discounts. A consignment shop will take a percentage but you stand a better chance of getting back a reasonable amount of money by selling them during peak season than you would if you sold them yourself. If you are fortunate, you can also use the money you earn to buy clothing from the shop that is still in season and gently used, so you don’t look like you are unemployed if a job interview pops up. For household items or furniture you may stand a better chance if you sell them yourself. You can also set a price cap you wont go below and you wont have to move the heavier items back and forth from a consignment shop if you sell them from your own home.

2. Recycle.

If you are on food stamps, it’s a shame to let all those soda cans go to waste. Save them! You may only earn a dollar or two but that dollar or two will allow you to treat yourself to a burger from the dollar menu at any fast food place so you have an opportunity to get out of the house.

3. Roll Your Own

If you are a smoker, now is the time to quit if you can but definitely switch to rolling your own cigarettes. They have rollers and filters and papers along with cigarette and pipe tobacco that will allow you to not lose your mind from withdrawals and upset your emotional balance while dealing with how you are going to pay your rent and utilities at the same time. To save money I switched to pipe tobacco and have found that it works just as well once it’s dried out.

4. Take the Bus or Walk

Gas prices keep going up and if you can, find a bus route and use it. Walk if you can. Walking will keep you from gaining extra pounds from sitting around waiting for the phone to ring and keep you in good health. You can’t afford a doctors visit so get used to looking out for your own health interests. A guy who lived in my building used to walk to Wall Mart for his groceries and would ferry the shopping cart back and forth along with him. This was a total eight mile round trip!

5. Don’t be afraid to use public assistance.

If you don’t live in section eight or HUD housing good for you but if you need too, look around and find the safest place you think you can live in that offers either section 8 or HUD assistance. You have paid for these services with your tax dollars and these services are a social safety net for a reason. Life is a journey and not a destination. This too shall pass in time. I had zero rent from mid 2009 till the present and wouldn’t have survived without it. Having been a full-time college student when I lost my job allowed me to get an apartment in HUD housing to begin with and my apartment manager was kind enough to get my rent reduced to zero. I also had to go on food stamps and even though I have just been hired it’s still a part-time job and I will continue to need my food stamps to get by. Many of the people who live in section 8 or HUD housing are the lower end of the social spectrum so YOU WILL encounter some sketchy people and situations. But many are also older retirees who paid their dues but don’t bring in enough on their retirement to be able to afford to live anywhere else.

6. Volunteer if you can

Doing volunteer work can help you keep your wits about you. If you have a neighbor who is elderly and needs some cleaning done or a local library that needs volunteers put yourself out there. Meeting new people can keep you insulated from depression and socially active at the same time. Also get to know your neighbors if they aren’t too strange or beyond the pale socially. Living in HUD housing, not all of my neighbors were people I wanted to get to know but having at least one friend who knows how bad things are and how much better they could be will help you keep your sanity.

7. Look into mental health resources

There is a center for mental health in my area that was able to keep me on the straight and narrow while working on a sliding scale. Contact DHR to find one near you. I did go thru a period of debilitating depression that left me in need of medication during the three and a half years I was unemployed and this center was able to get me the medication I needed to survive this period without having to spend a dime. Many big pharma drug companies have assistance programs for medications and if you don’t know of a mental health provider near you who works on a sliding scale, often these companies can point you in the right direction if you contact them directly.

8. Look for health providers that work on a sliding scale.

Many health care clinics that work on a sliding scale can be found by contacting DHR or your local Food Stamp office. Find them and use them. Especially if your on food stamps or take medications, you need to have someone keeping an eye on your physical and mental health.

9. Make a committment to staying in the best physical shape you can.

Don’t allow yourself to become a food stamp statistic. Often, when people first go on food stamps they tend to gain weight and begin eating crap foods and empty calories. Dont do this. Buy healthy foods and start an exercise program at home. You wont be able to afford a doctors visit even if the doctor works on a sliding scale so do your best not to have to go in the first place.

10. Shop the local thrift stores

I was lucky to have a Salvation Army only one block away from where I live and they kept me in household items and even some decent gently used clothing. As I was among the long-term unemployed, I had the time to shop regularly and was quick to find the newer items they put out on a regular basis. This allowed me to stay abreast of fashion and household items that would have cost me an arm and a leg under other circumstances. I got a great leather jacket and two Vera Bradley purses. Both purses I was able to sell at the consignment shop and got 20 bucks a piece for each one.

11. Make the most of your free time if you can

One of the stereotypes of being unemployed is that unemployed people are lazy. Don’t fall for that crap but don’t become a statistic! Use your free time to really refine your search for a job. Revamp your resume and don’t give up! Search thrift stores for used canvases and paint using water based acrylics that are only a dollar or so on average. It’s therapeutic and will keep you occupied. Do a SWOT analysis of your career up till now. A SWOT analysis is made up of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Be honest with yourself and do what you can to make the most of any positives that emerge.

12. Look into free cell phones

Safelink.com and Assurance Wireless offer free cell phones with 250 minutes a month to those who qualify. Without them, I would have not had a way to look for a job without using a neighbor’s phone. They are safe and will provide you with a link to the outside world that you desperately need.

13. Use Library computers for social networking and join Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

I found my current part-time job thru Facebook. I connected with a friend I played softball with when I was in the third grade, who’s older brother I became good friends with in high school. I reached out and Lori, who is a manager at Food World was able to get me a job within a week. Talk about grateful and humble? That is now my middle name. Working in high-end Resort and Convention Hotel Spas had me working with mostly middle and upper middle class clientele on a daily basis and the service setting being luxury oriented left me looking down on other kinds of service work. Not anymore. Now that I am back in school and have switched my degree to Interdisciplinary work with a focus on Health and Management, I am using this as an opportunity to take a different view of service, management and luxury that I hope will allow me to learn new things and grow into my new degree professionally.

I hope these tips help the rest of the long-term unemployed keep their spirits up and their noses to the grindstone. Change will happen and not all of it will be bad.

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