Friday, July 4, 2014

How to Survive Being Jobless

Photo By Kamil Lehmann
Being jobless can feel a lot like driving down the above road. It looks barren. No gas station around for miles and your gas gauge is leaning towards empty. The road just goes on and on. Unless you brought along a few good friends for company, you might start to feel like you are all alone. You may not even be able to get radio reception out here, let alone a cell phone signal.

Stop. Pull over the car. There is beauty in the barrenness. The road does lead somewhere. And you can survive. Reach your arms to the heavens, close your eyes, and breath the fresh cool air. Then, get your ass back in that car and drive with purpose and passion, because, honey, you are going to need that fire lit full force inside you!

This is my story, how I survived one of the hardest years of my life. It was my first year as a single parent. When little one's dad moved out I had to quit my job at a local dry cleaners, the only job I could find after being out of the workforce to care for little one. I had no child care and even if I did, I couldn't afford it on my meager earnings. I managed to sneak him to work with me for a couple weeks, but then the boss found out. I was getting no child support and had no idea how I was going to keep a roof over our heads. It was scary and stressful. In fact, I didn't see child support from little one's dad until court ordered during the divorce proceedings the following year.

I am stubborn, however. I wasn't about to let this ship sink. I needed to be resourceful and creative. I needed, above all else, to care for my boys. I look back in amazement now, shaking my head in wonder at how I managed to keep a roof over our heads, the lights on, and food in our stomachs. My earned income from standard employment that year totaled a whopping $7,000. Yep, you read that right. $7,000.

So on this day of independence I share my story. How did I do it?


Garage Sales

Facebook is a wonderful thing these days. It can allow you to have contact with a large number of people. I knew most people were probably like me when it came to cleaning out their homes of unwanted possessions. They piled them in a box in the garage. The box collected cobwebs. So I posted to Facebook that I was looking for garage sale donations and that I would gladly pick up.My hunch was correct. I was able to earn over $500 with that first sale, making up the difference I needed to pay rent. I have since held three more money making yard sales to supplement our income. Each one has made nearly $300. 

Craigslist

Anything donated to us that I knew was of some value was listed on Craigslist. I also scoured the house and listed anything of value I knew I could live without. As I am hoping to one day move into a small cottage or build my own tiny home, I was eager to begin downsizing anyway. I don't know how much I've made selling stuff off of Craigslist. I haven't kept a record of it. But it has made a difference. There were times I didn't know if I was going to afford gas for the car when someone made a purchase and I was able to fill the tank. 

ODesk

If you are unfamiliar with ODesk, it is a place to find legitimate freelance work from home. While the work is legit, the pay varies greatly and isn't really the best way to earn a living, especially starting out. The biggest drawback is that you are competing internationally, meaning that workers in less developed parts of the globe can underbid you on jobs. However, I did find temporary blog writing assignments and worked for a shoe catalog company out of the UK posting to their Facebook and Pinterest pages. The best part was that I enjoyed doing it.

Got a Roommate

I learned a few things from this one. While it was a mutual gain at first for both of us, I did not have a written agreement in place to avoid certain conflicts. If you are going to rent out a room, have them sign an agreement and put down a small deposit. Even, or perhaps especially, if you are friends. I currently don't have a roommate, though I could use the extra money. I confess I am quite the introvert and like my space. Besides, now the little one has taken over the spare room as his playroom. But if I hadn't had a roommate during that first year, things would have been a lot tougher financially.

Asked For Help

And do so with a grateful heart. It can be hard to ask. Especially when it seems like you are doing a lot of asking. I needed to set aside my pride and care for my children. So I got on food stamps, had help through an agency with catching up my utility bills, had a family member help one month with rent, and I continue to be blessed with help as we get back on our feet. There is no shame in asking for help. We all need it from time to time. Just make sure to say thank you. Again and again, thank you. 

Used my Talents

Use a talent or hobby to bring in money. Mine just happens to be photography. Perhaps you could teach piano lessons to kids in your neighborhood. Maybe you like to make candles. You could sell them locally at craft fairs, through you Facebook page, or through a site like Etsy. Get along great with dogs? Offer to dog sit. Look at what gives you joy and think about how you might be able to earn money from it. Who knows, maybe it will become a successful venture and you won't have to return to work for someone else.

Became Obsessively Frugal

I stopped buying paper towels, foods with no nutritional value, anything I could honestly say was just a want. I hung the clothes out on the line more often, became fanatical about turning off unused lights and avoided running the air conditioning and heating as much as possible. We didn't eat out. We didn't go to the movies. We didn't buy our clothing new. And yet, we weren't miserable. In fact, we enjoyed a certain amount freedom that year.

I am still working to get us to a point where we are comfortable financially, but rebuilding takes time and we are only just on our third year out. When I think back over that first year, I am quite frankly amazed. But, like I said, I am stubborn. A full blooded, hard headed Taurus. I have also been blessed with generous help from friends and strangers. Their help was the tipping point that allowed us to survive. For that I don't know if I can ever say thank you enough. You see, though at times I felt lonely, I have never been traveling that road alone.

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