Life in the trenches

Sad ladyCredit:

Being unemployed sucks, no two ways about it.  The most obvious downside is that you’ve lost your source of income, but there are all kinds of annoying things that creep up as you continue not working. Things like apathy, lack of motivation, feeling as though you’ll never get a job.  None of your friends seem to have time for you, since they all have jobs to go to.  You can’t give up and spend your days on the couch, watching all four (or is it six) seasons of Battlestar Galactic. Accept that your life has changed dramatically and you need to change too.  It takes some real effort to get through the doldrums, and a lot of discipline.


pennies to live onCredit:’s start with money.  Now you don’t have any.  Hopefully you’re receiving unemployment benefits, at least for a while, but eventually those will run out too.  You’ve got to live differently, and you’ve got to begin the day you lose your job, not the day you run out of money.  Take stock of your life and start dealing with the lowered income as soon as you know it’s coming.  Break it down into steps to make it all a little more palatable.

  • Prioritize.  Do you need those magazine subscriptions?  Don’t renew them. Do you need to eat out twice a week?  Stop doing that. Do you need prepackaged meals?  Learn to cook.  You get the picture.  Take a hard look at what has become convenience and cut those things out.  Not just back, out.  Buying new things usually falls into this ‘just stop’ category.
  • Cut down.  Turn the heat down (or the air conditioner up).  Hang heavy curtains over the windows to prevent heat exchange.  Drive less, walk more.  Eat less. Eat cheaper meat, or none.  Stop buying treats.  Plant a garden to grow some veggies and supplement your meals.  Repair your clothes instead of replacing them.  All these small things add up.
  • Make some cash.  Now that you have all this time on your hands, declutter your house and make a little money on it.  Go through closets and drawers to dig out all that stuff you’ve collected over the years and never use.  Try selling it on Ebay, Craigslist or a yard sale.  If no one will buy it, but it’s still useable, donate it and keep the receipt to take off on your taxes.  Don’t itemize?  See if you can sell your things for pennies to a friend for them to donate.  This is probably of questionable legality so just do a straight sale, nothing fancy.  Throw away everything that is just junk.
  • Make some more cash.  Do you have any talents?  Can you write? Sew? Tutor? Talk to friends about house sitting while they’re on vacation. Do some landscaping for neighbors.  A little here and there helps a lot.


Now you listen hereCredit:, about your attitude.  It’s hard to not just want to stay in bed under the covers, I know, I've been there, but that won’t get you anywhere.  You have to work at staying on top of things.  Notice I didn’t say “upbeat”, or "positive" or any other annoyingly cheerful synonyms; being unemployed sucks and while you may enjoy not getting up at 6:00 a.m. to get ready for work, the days are long if you don't structure them.  Even though you may not feel like it, you need to start thinking like a person with a lot to do so you can work through this.  Again, this will be easier to deal with if you break things down into smaller steps.

  • Make lists.  To-do lists, goal lists, savings lists.  It helps to keep track of what you want and how close you are to getting it.  Do these on paper, a spreadsheet, whatever works for you, just write down something to measure.
  • Set goals.  Expand on what you’ve written in your list and set deadlines. “Declutter” goes on a list, “Declutter the hall closet by removing all the old coats and boots and taking them to the donation station on Friday” is a goal.
  • Structure your day.  With so much free time the tendency is to think you’ll do everything ‘later’.  Well, I’m telling you, ‘later’ soon becomes ‘never’ unless you plan out your day, and stick to it.  Write down what you're going to do that day, and what time you'll do it.  And do it.
  • Make some money.  I know, I’m cheating, I already used this one, but it serves two purposes.  Generating even a little bit of cash not only provides, well, money, it’s good for your self esteem.  You feel like you’ve accomplished something and you’re still in control of your life.
  • Learn something new, or buff up on something you used to know.  High school Spanish has fallen by the wayside?  Find out if your library has language tapes you can check out to refresh your skills.  Want to know more about databases?  Look into MOOCs.  Curious about what it’s like to be a clown.  Load up your favorite search engine and start reading.  It’s fun, and again, learning makes you feel good about yourself.
  • Volunteer.  Not only does it feel good to be helping people, it’s fun to be around people that are having fun.  You can do some informal networking, make some contacts, and maybe pick up a few skills. I like to volunteer where lunch is included, but that’s just me.

Now, see how much you have to do?  You really don’t have time to lounge around eating potato chips, you have a life to remake, and you need to start today.  You will get through this, and be a better person when all is said and done.  Hey, it’s going to change you anyway, why not decide it’s going to be for the better?

Seriously though, there is nothing fun about being unemployed (well, sleeping in isn’t too bad) and I’m right here with you.  After a year without a job I’ve taken about every ride on that emotional roller-coaster and I’m still standing.  And yes, I really did watch almost all the seasons of Battlestar Galactica, just couldn’t quite make it through the last one.  Fortunately I can always head down to the library and check it out if I really want to follow up on Starbuck.  For free.