Thursday, April 16, 2009

What I'm Giving Up

Unemployment is a time to consider what's essential. Last year when I was laid off, I had a really generous severance package and with lots of job prospects, I felt pretty secure with moderate adjustments. I reduced my gym membership to a restricted hours plan. I cut my allowance in half. We ate out less.

This time around, I'm not quite as confident. For starters, it's possible I'll be out of work longer than the 3 months it took me last time. And without severance, things get real pretty fast. I'm erring on the side of caution and giving up as many non-essentials as I can stomach. In particular, my entire allowance and entire gym membership. If you read my entry about working out for less then you know giving up the gym is not a big deal. I'll run and lift weights at my house for free.

Allowance is the real sacrifice. When my husband and I first got married, we opened a joint checking & savings account, but also opted to each keep a private checking account. All individual purchases come out of this account: clothes, shoes, haircuts, makeup, dining out, classes, entertainment, gum, magazines, books, music, etc.

Luckily, I had a bit of reserve saved up before becoming unemployed, which should get me through the next couple of months if I'm frugal. In the meantime, it's a fascinating study in what is and isn't essential to spend money on in the short run.
  • Clothes: I shouldn't need to buy new clothes. I have enough suits for interviews and jeans and t-shirts to wear around the house. Nonessential
  • Hair: My hair is really short right now, but no job = no bob. I'll need one last trip to the salon to get things evened out and ready to grow. Semi-essential
  • Makeup: I don't wear very much, but I stockpiled the expensive stuff at a Christmas sale. All the rest, I buy at the beauty bodega down the street for less than $6 a piece. Semi-essential
  • Entertainment: First, DC's full of free museums and many lovely parks. Second, my bedside drawer is stacked with books I haven't read. Third, we've got NetFlix, TiVo and various online viewing options. Nonessential
  • Eating out: This is both an easy & hard one. It's extremely easy for me to eat what's in the house. On the other hand, one expense that's always worth it (especially in unemployment) is connecting with people over lunch and drinks. Essential
All told, this is a pretty lush life. And while I guarantee there will be times when I am lusting after some it shoes, clothes, or gadgetry...I'm going to try very hard to keep things in perspective and wait. I know what it's like to have credit card debt, and I don't want to experience that again.


  1. But I am so sick of pouring tea to these buttheads just to get a "job." I don't want a job. I want a career. And I don't want to work FOR someone. I want to work WITH someone.

    Maybe we could get together with other unemployed folks, screw the rat race and live off the land somewhere. Sort of like a modern version of the hippie commune, but without the hippie. :) We could all share costs and if we don't have any money, we could work around the house or in the garden.

    This economy ain't going nowhere but down. All of this "modern economy" was built on debt, not real wealth. Inflation-adjusted wages have remained stagnant since 1975. The cost of living needs to be deflated to 1975 levels. This way we won't need credit cards, loans, stimulus or tax cuts to make up the difference anymore. Deflation may be just what the doctor ordered.

  2. Excellent post, as usual!

    I have no doubt that we'll all help each get through this, and with so much love, support and community, we'll quickly learn what real wealth feels like.

    That said, I totally love "No job = no bob." As you know, I am totally loyal to my hairdresser (Jackie, Urban Style Lab)... so I went nearly a year w/o a hair cut after I left my job to finish school full time! Silly, I know... but I couldn't swing the hair cut, but couldnt bear to let anyone else let those sharp objects w/ in 6 inches of my head!

    Needless to say, gone were the days of $350 + haircut and color (written off, because of dance!).

    Funny thing is, I'm happier now than ever... I eventually saved up and made it back to Jackie a couple of months ago, save the color.

  3. John, I hear you and really like your point about working "with" vs. "for" someone. One of the great advantages to being unemployed is the opportunity to contemplate alternative ways to live. Hope you find your way to something you feel a stronger connection to. Fight the good fight!

    Alexis, love what you're saying about "real wealth" and I hear you on hairdressers!

  4. Check this out...

    The mobile homeless home, manufactured specifically for homelessness.

    See you out on the parking lot, Katie! :)

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