How to survive being unemployed or being married to someone who’s unemployed

Between Becky and I, we’ve spent most of our relationship together with one of us either:

  • Unemployed
  • Underemployed

This binary sort of life was enough to drive us nuts enough to think blogging about it would be a good idea.

More than that, we survived unemployment, getting married and moving all in one year, which we think speaks to the importance of finding free shit to do that reminds you why you love life and want to keep on trekking through the bat shit loco together.

What follows are some things we do to keep sane without breaking or sometimes even stressing the budget.

Our local library had free tickets to local places at the time I was unemployed (on a tip from the fantastic Frugaler herself). This literally saved my sanity – to be able to bring Becky to the Minnesota Zoo to look at penguins (her favorite) or to go to the Walker Art Center and write about the experience, which got me noticed and a few paying gigs that got us through the hard times near the end of my unemployment.

Becky has a nose for finding free events – city fireworks, art fairs, museums that had a free day here or there. Art festivals like Northern Spark and Art-A-Whirl were fun, and the MN opera held a free concert at the Lake Harriet Bandshell last summer. Some nights we just walked over to the marshy area across the street to watch fireflies light up under the stars. Most of these events are listed in free publications – the city magazine that comes in the mail, or free magazines at grocery stores.

We loaned books and videos from the library. Becky became a library fiend – with up to 8 books littering the floor at home. She gives each book about 5 pages to hook her. I’m the opposite and usually get halfway through books before petering out if I don’t like them.

We also cut down on typical expenses for cheaper versions – bought a Roku and cut cable in favor of Netflix and Hulu, which saved more than 70 dollars from our entertainment expenses PER MONTH!

Tip for you: You can call your internet provider and tell them about your unemployment and you may get a better deal. We got $10 a month off one year, and half off another year by doing this. Needless to say, they’ve got us for life now – because we really appreciate that level of understanding and service. You never know unless you ask.

Another example of this was going to beauty schools for hair cuts – which takes three times as long, but can cost pennies.

We also became coupon mavens, saving up to 30 percent a week on groceries. The sucky thing is it takes time (Becky and I deal with it by having her find the coupons and me get the groceries. It’s a fair trade in my book. I HATE shopping, but I hate having to go through magazines, mailings, newspapers and websites for coupons even more, and you need to have an insane memory to match coupons to sale items for bigger savings). The money we save there can alleviate the pocketbook enough to get gas or the occasional trip to actual events like a Red Sox game.

People are going to look down on you for wasting money like this when you are unable to pay basic bills, but here’s the thing: If you don’t spend a modicum of time or effort on reminding yourself why life is worth fighting the daily grind of job applying and rejection, you will lose your way.

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