Saturday, October 18

Who'd have thought being poor was the way to go?

It strikes me, strangely, that Tim and I are pretty recession-proof.

I guess the one benefit of being so far down on the financial food chain is that we don't have far to fall. After all, Tim's unemployment is more or less guaranteed until April. A friend has gotten him an interview with Target as part-time security, which would help him stretch out the funds even longer.

As far as actual careers go, now that he's working with the Dept of Vocational Rehab, I am thinking his odds of getting a job will actually be higher. And, of course, there's a chance that he'll have to get some training/schooling for his work -- so some of the economy may have settled by the time of his actual job hunt.

Meanwhile, my contract work is guaranteed for close to a year, and my disability payments will keep coming until I have done this work for 9 months.

Yes, there is the danger of lowered credit lines; but so far we've steered clear of that.

So the only real recession problems become:

  1. Higher food prices. It's just a matter of time before food costs creep back up.
  2. Inflation. Our dollars simply won't go as far.
  3. Job market. Okay, I do think that with the state on our side, Tim's chances of a job are better. But there is always the chance that the sector he ends up in will be cutting back, or will simply have a lot of other job seekers.

But still, I'm pretty hopeful. Why? Because none of these are huge deals for us.

Higher food prices. We're already shopping stores like Grocery Outlet and supplementing our groceries by going to the food bank. So while food prices have gone up noticeably since even this time last year, I'm still able to pay relatively affordable prices for most items. And Tim and I are trying to cut out foods that are pricey luxuries.

Tim has his cereal. I am a total healthy-cereal convert since discovering Kashi GoLean Crunch. But Tim loves his Reese's Puffs/Fruit Loops/Cocoa Puffs or whatever the cereal of the day is.

And cereal doesn't tend to go on sale for more than a week or two at a time. Often, the sales aren't all that great, either. Save 50 cents on $4 cereal? Hey, savings are savings -- but that's still too much to pay (in my less-than-humble opinion) for something that doesn't even fill him up for two hours.

Add to that the fact that he tends to eat only one cereal for around two months at a time, and it's a huge grocery item. Luckily, we found that at least a couple of the cereals he likes are at Grocery Outlet for $2/box. Currently, he's into Fruit Loops. And one or two of the other cereals are at Sam's Club, for when we can't find a better deal elsewhere.

Beyond cereal, Tim's been reining in his expensive tastes. Generally, when we're shopping, I try to find one or two small treats that are on sale and offer those up. This way, he doesn't feel completely deprived, but we're not spending a ton of money.

GO is especially good for these things. It even has a good selection of expensive cheeses: We got gouda for $3-4 instead of $6-10. If GO doesn't have the cheese he wants, the next-best option is Sam's Club. He felt like he was getting a luxury, but our wallet didn't.

As for me, I have my junk food to cut down on. This week, I only bought candy once -- after two straight days of craving Red Vines. I did, however, snack on some of Tim's Fruit Loops, which means we'll run out sooner. So I have to keep paring down my sweet tooth.

One way I'm going to do this is to stock up on canned fruit next time there's a good sale. Also, I try to keep myself busy when I'm craving sugar. If I'm playing a game online or working on the blog, it's hard to eat. Most of the last week, I was able to stave off candy cravings this way.

Inflation. There's really nothing we can do about this, except to spend more carefully. You use more coupons, scout more sales. It's easier said than done, of course. Working people have time issues; I have fatigue that sometimes makes shopping not an option. But Tim has agreed to start walking, biking or taking the bus up to the stores as needed. This will also help cut down on frozen and junk food, since they would melt on the trip back.

As for the rest of mundane expenses, well we just have to keep scheming. So far the new owners of the building haven't mentioned raising rents. If they do, I have a plan to dissuade them. And Tim and I are both trying to avoid unnecessary spending, whenever we can get away with it. In addition, we're slowly moving to a cash-based system. That will help keep our debt steadily declining.

Job market. Okay, as I said before, I think having the DVR helping us will actually make Tim's job search easier. Not only will Tim have advocacy to back him up, the department (as I understand it) works with at least a few specific employers to keep some more flexible positions available. Additionally, it obviously has in-roads with the state government for jobs.

But there is the possibility that Tim's desired career field -- whatever that ends up being -- will turn out to be chock full of desperate job seekers. In that case, we still have until the end of April before his unemployment checks would run out. And three of Tim's friends work at Target, which means it's plausible he could get a position there while continually applying for a job in his chosen profession.

He's also considering the possibility that, since he has supervisory experience from his last job, he could try to rise through the ranks at Target. Certainly it would be decent career potential, but I did remind him that there is the possibility his skin will start rashing up again. He agreed to not to put all his eggs in that particular basket -- at least before seeing what DVR can do for him.

So, really, we should weather this economic storm pretty well. When you get right down to it, this whole economic "crisis" is only one for people who have something to lose: investments, real estate, jobs.

I'm not saying that life will be easier for the rest of us -- except for those in the collections biz. But I think that, for the vast majority of the working poor, life will continue on more or less unchanged. Food money won't go quite as far. Rent may go up a bit.

But it's also a lot less likely now that they'll get kicked out of their building because someone wants to make it into condos or townhomes. And their jobs aren't much in danger. There will always be a plethora of jobs that don't pay well and have little to no health insurance.

Really, who'd have thought poor was the way to go?



Blogger Sara said...

Do you have to worry about funding for disability payments being cut?

October 19, 2008 at 7:32 AM

Blogger Abby said...


No, as long as employers and employees pay into Social Security now, my disability is guaranteed. Of course, I'm hoping to figure out a way to get off disability within the next couple years. So for now I'm fine.

When they talk about changes to Social Security, they are talking about changes for people not yet on it. Usually, for people in my generation, when they retire.

There's the common misnomer that you're paying into a fund that is somehow being kept for you. The essential problem with Social Security, though, is that your money now goes to people who are retired now. Hence the problem when the Boomers retire: More retirees drawing on Social Security than people paying in.

And if Bush had had his way, I would, in fact, be in trouble. If he had privatized Social Security, it would have had the same fate as most people's stock. So I'm relieved that never passed. It sounded like a terrible idea at the time; and apparently I was right on that score.

October 19, 2008 at 10:05 AM

Blogger oldwhiteandpoor said...

I was temporarily disabled and Voc Rehab had training to become an office drone (which isn't what I want to do) and I couldn't get my typing speed above 30 wpm (I have some fine motor problems). They also didn't have any educational training so I couldn't go back to school.

October 21, 2008 at 10:03 PM

Blogger oldwhiteandpoor said...

p.s. I never understood ed Vines cravings. Of course, those people probably don't understand my Twizzlers cravings.

October 21, 2008 at 10:06 PM


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