The emotional state of the unemployed mindis the equivalent of Bill O’Reilly uncensored:highly petulant, often illogical and forever frustrating to the world at large.
Because while you stopped working, the creditors didn’t and apparently neither did the mailman. The bills keep flowing in from an open tap while the cash lies cremating in an expansive desert. And although the often insensitive people at the phone company may disagree, you still have to eat somehow.
By now you should be collecting unemployment benefits and notified and negotiated with your creditors. We talked about this before in Becoming Fearless. They’ve made adjustments to help you where possible and you’ve been juggling those payments best as you can. But there are things you learn only from experience, so here are a few things they didn’t tell you about managing the little money you do have, while you have it.
Pay your credit card first. Wait 24 hours so they record the payment. Then spend every cent you just deposited to pay the bills. This works best if you pay before the due date. You won’t have a late charge and there won’t be a non-payment fee. (Don’t quote me on this. Seriously. Don’t.)
Pay in full. If there is anything you can pay off fully, any small debts, clear them and get them out the way. The accomplishment will make you feel motivated and you’ll also have less to worry about.
Unsubscribe. Cable is not essential. Neither is your annual subscriptions to glossy magazines. None of them. For that matter, if you can get your local classifieds and top stories online, a daily newspaper is over rated. If you absolutely have to feel the paper in your hand, have a friend (who works) bring the extra newspaper home from their office. You’ll be a day behind but a few dollars richer a week. Then be sure to recycle the newspapers to make money on the recycling. You can get to your next eye appointment (once you are working again) a few hours early and read the glossies at your leisure there for free. Or again, ask a friend. (Assuming you have a friend who can still afford to buy magazines). But go ahead and cancel all the extra stuff you don’t need.
Wash the paper-towels. It’s the little things on the grocery list that add up pretty quickly so cut wherever you can. Some are pretty obvious, (replace expensive brands with cheaper ones), some take good old-fashioned street sense. Don’t cut toilet paper off your shopping list entirely (really, don’t) but re-think how much you use if you’re buying it weekly. If two squares will do, why use four? (Don’t answer). And you just need a pea sized amount of toothpaste, not a strip. Stop buying shaving cream and use your hair conditioner. Your legs will even look better for it. Do the little things. Easy does it. Use less, buy less, save more.
Savour the bitter taste of mauby. (Moo who?). You don’t need fresh juice or soda. Yes. I heard you gasp, sputter and moan. But you still don’t need it. I am not unreasonable so I won’t say just drink water forever. (Tap of course). But to be honest, soda is unnecessary. (I am sorry Pepsi. Apologies Coke). Get your caffeine fix from coffee if you have to. Canned juices can be just as refreshing as fresh. Plus they don’t expire and can be stretched with water. If you’re worried about the nutritional content, do your online research online before hitting the supermarket. But otherwise, a dash of mauby syrup, add water, stir and sip your way to savings.
Along that line, I recently read that frozen and canned fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh. While fresh is still preferred, if it’s a difference of more than a dollar, frozen or canned will do the trick. Not to mention, you have a longer expiration date to play with so your dollar literally lasts longer.
Pinch the pennies. Remember all that loose change you have been keeping in that old mayonnaise jar? You said it was for a rainy day. Guess what? It’s raining! You’ll have to be brave about this, all cashiers will eyeball you and the bold ones will suck their teeth for you to hear and roll their eyes for you to see. But take your loose change shopping. It’s money and there’s no shame in it. (Well, not much). Don’t overdo this though, not everyone with take you on, especially if there’s a long line, so some bills are necessary. I am yet to find someone willing to count along with me past $28.73 with nothing higher than a quarter.
I’d love to hear what your record is. And if you have another way to save, please, do tell.