Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year Meanderings

I'm not the type to make new years resolutions. You won't find a list of my goals typed up in order with dates beside each for when I want them accomplished. I like to keep things simple, and I certainly don't want to disappoint myself when I fail to meet all those lofty goals.

This is the first new years eve I've ever had off. I only got the night off because there was a problem in the schedule for someone else and they needed me to swap for another day. It was nice to have off because I accomplished a lot around the house, although it would have been nice if my husband was off too. There's an old saying that what you do on new years is a reflection of what the next year will be like. If so, I will have a squeaky clean and clutter free home in no time.

Next year at some point, I want new jobs and new surroundings. Quite simple, it's all I need for now. I've already been working to reduce the debt, and save. We have a start, and as long as we keep earning as much as we can, we will meet out goals without going into further debt.

Happy New Year everyone! Whether you're a resolution maker or a resolution hater, I hope you have a wonderful time in 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

They Have Us Where They Want Us


We are now in an era where jobs are hard to come by including "pink collar" or "Joe jobs." Workers are holding onto their jobs in fast food, retail, restaurants, and the few remaining factories. Many of us are holding onto whatever jobs we have for dear life. We realize new jobs are hard to come by, especially for older workers.

It seems younger workers are favored by many corporations at this time. They can pay them less, and some may not ask as often for pay raises or more hours. Some will put up with unfair working conditions longer than an older person who may speak out against certain practices.

There are some terrific younger workers out there who deserve jobs. All I am referring to are the older workers who are still quick, hardworking, experienced and well...mature, who are being overlooked when companies hire.


In some jobs a bully makes the workplace very unpleasant. Under normal circumstances the bully is dealt with by management, written up, counseled, and eventually let go. When the bully becomes friends with the manager (also another bully) things become very stressful.

The bully I know of is a very strong former construction worker with a prison record. He lost employment with the building trade when the economy tanked and had to try restaurant work. He walks about with his chest puffed out and his arms flexed pushing others out of his way to prove he's alpha male.

His manager sometimes joins in the bullying. The two of them cornered a younger and smaller male worker in the walk in cooler and acting serious said they were going to "have fun with him" and they proceeded to unzip. Then they had a good laugh and joked about the young man's white face and shocked expression.

That walk in cooler is for more than storing food. On another occasion that same manager went into the cooler and dropped his pants so he could take a photo of his naked backside which he then showed to several of his employees both male and female.

The bully likes to corner other male workers against a wall, punching an arm or getting someone in a headlock. I know it is assault but there are so few jobs here they are afraid to rock the boat. One former employee is already on unemployment and hasn't found work yet.


The bully hated a former co-worker, the oldest one there. After a year of searching the man found another job so he could escape. He is now earning less money but isn't constantly harassed. It got to a point where the bully would chant, "Send him home, send him home, send him home." until the manager listened and sent him home early. So what if he only worked two hours and so what if they got busy and needed him later, at least the bully was happy and somewhat quieter. Now my husband is the oldest...

One of our money saving techniques is sharing a car. I went to the back door, a few day ago to see if my husband was ready to leave. He was walking between the oven and a work table when the bully stepped into his path. He pushed close to him and whispered something to him and then looked back at me and laughed. My husband didn't want to repeat what he said but I insisted. He said, "Do you want me to violate you in front of your wife?"

There are things going on at my place of work that shouldn't but it is nothing like this place. It's a nightmare.

You used to be able to leave one job, fill out three job applications, and have your choice between two new jobs four days later. Now it will take four months to a year of constant search to find a part time minimum wage job. It's discouraging and we the poor feel beaten down, tired, and defeated.


A friend works in a department store. They dropped her hours and moved her to a different department. She used to make thirty hours a week and now she makes three. This is how they force people to quit so they can't collect unemployment. This same company has a rule that jobs must be posted for a week before they fill a position. A male was moved up to fill a management position that was never posted. Several female workers had been asking to move up. Many of then had been there for years and the man had been there two months. One manager told several workers point blank that they had wanted a man for the job. My friend has a lawyer.

I've told my husband to document things, put notes on a calendar or something. He may need it one day. I wish I could afford a hidden camera. At the end of the day he just doesn't want to dwell on it. It's already affecting his health, mine as well, and I don't even work there. We are just holding on for now. Go in, collect your pay, come home and attempt to de-stress.

We will have changes. Even if the economy doesn't improve here, we will go elsewhere. Somewhere, they must be getting ready for an explosion of jobs. I could get back into retail management, and my husband could find another pizzeria or restaurant he would enjoy working in. I don't care if we are shoveling poop off the sidewalk for a living as long as we are happy and there are more job choices out there. I want travel, and fun, and peace. There is so much to see yet we always seem to feel trapped by poverty. Not for long, we will climb our way out. World, here we come.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays

This will be a shortened version of the post that should have been published on Thanksgiving. Life, once again, got in the way. I only have a few minutes before heading to work and many of you will be too busy to read anyway.

I've shortened it down to two links that I would like to call attention to.

April reminds us many are still facing the Great Recession

I know all too much about running late as I had to add this one after work.

Happy Holidays from the working poor.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Warm Welcome to MSN Money Smart Spending Readers

Hello everyone, thank you for stopping by and I hope your winter holiday has been a pleasant one. I'll be very brief today, I can't let those cookies burn!

Welcome too my regular readers, both new and old. I have a guest post today over at the Smart Spending Blog. If you head over be sure to check out the great articles by Karen Datko, Teresa Mears, and Donna Freedman. I sincerely apologize for the lack of a proper link tonight but I seem to be completely brain dead. Must be the fumes from several batches of various cookies. Boy do I need some sleep. Clunk.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Work Work Work

Sometimes I am too busy. I work my schedule and go in to work extra when anyone calls out. I'm paying down my remaining debt and saving every penny I can so I will be prepared for upcoming changes. I'm not even sure what the changes will be but I will be ready. I will either get a fabulous job offer, or I will seek work in another state and move, or I will just find a temporary spot to land in this state. I want changes and soon. I'm ready.

My husband and I are hemmed in by negative work environments and a stagnant job market. We are waiting for changes. I'm not talking political changes, I'm talking about the kind of life changing moves you make on your own that open up new opportunities. Different jobs, different surroundings, change.

I have a lot to do at home. I have bookcases to empty out, and closets to clear out. I want to be ready.

I must make sure my children are fully independent and doing well so I will not worry if I am living a bit further away from them. My youngest daughter needs a license and a car. My eldest daughter needs employment. My son needs to build an emergency fund now that he has a car and a job. All three need to be careful in their relationship selections, their decisions. They are grown, it's my time now. I need to be ready.

I have tomorrow off, but it is cookie baking day. I had a baking day with my brother but we didn't get as many completed recipes. I have a lot to do with only one day to do it. I work several days straight after that with no time for extra baking. I love baking, so it's not a chore but it will take all day and night. Perhaps I will have time, ten minutes at a time, as each batch cooks to daydream a little, and plan for a new future.

I am glad I started this blog. It boggles my mind how many people stop in to read this stuff. If you've ever stopped to comment or just read and never said a word, I am grateful for you. Thank you for joining me on my journey. I'm wishing everyone a happy holiday and a pleasant winter. I hope you'll still be around for new chapters yet to come.

Monday, December 20, 2010

If It's All You've Got Take Care of It

I drove a new car once. My old one broke down and I got a good deal on a rental with unlimited mileage so I could continue going to school and complete moving to my new rental. The car had point six miles on it when I picked it up so I'm quite certain I was the first person to rent it. It was quite a luxury for a young college student and mother even though I've never been much of a car person. Get me from point A to point B as cheaply and quietly as possible please. I've never purchased a new car even when I made a decent salary. What's the point?

My first car cost fifty dollars. No it wasn't a Model T, I'm not that old, but it was junk and I had a friend of a friend take pity on me when I really needed wheels and give me a super discount. It burst into flames when I was taking my sister to the mall. I know what it feels like to have flames licking the side of your boots while you toss your children car seats and all into the grass on the side of the road. But that's another story. I'm getting off topic.

I've had more cars since then, some good some bad but I have learned the single most important lesson. MAINTENANCE! Being poor, this is the main expense my emergency fund has fed. In a rural, or semi-rural area you must have a car for independence, to get to work and or school, and to transport any number of things. You cannot always rely on someone else. Not having transportation really limits a family.

It's always a good idea to shop around and try out a few mechanics until you find one you trust and feel comfortable with. Once you find a good one show loyalty. They will appreciate it and treat you well. Most will be honest and let you know when something can wait for repair, and some will explain how to repair something easy yourself if money is an issue.

When I buy a used car I also buy a used Haynes or Chilton's manual for that exact car. Even if you have zero skills when it comes to mechanics, your mechanic may find the specialized manual useful when doing major repairs. I've used every manual I've bought more than once.

I wouldn't trade my car for anything right now. We drive a 1994 Honda, a gift from my husbands' aunt when she upgraded. We get oil changes regularly, repairs like timing belts and tuneups when suggested. Sometimes we go a bit longer before we get routine maintenance but that is only because we are saving up to pay cash. We treat this car right and don't make it wait.

I see other used cars with black thickened oil that has probably never been changed, transmission fluid leaks, and old windshield wipers that have worn away and scratched the windshield. I've heard cars with clearly bad brakes screaming on the road. It makes me sad because these cars will probably die and hopefully we will still be driving our beloved Honda decades from now. A used vehicle is so much better than new when it has been well maintained. They depreciate so quickly why buy new?

We've recently passed 200,000 miles. I'll make sure to have an update post one day and let you know what it's like at 250,000.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Power Company is my Secret Santa?

While I haven't always enjoyed the ever increasing electric rates, I was quite pleased when I opened the electric bill this month. They had a note saying they appreciated me as a valued customer and because of my excellent payment history they were crediting my deposit back to me. After they said that they said they had asked for and had been approved for a rate change starting in January. I thought "Oh great they soften us up with a deposit refund and then raise the rates again." I continued reading and it is a rate reduction not an increase.

What does a deposit refund mean to a person who has not used the heat yet, turns off lights when not in use, and unplugs appliances when they aren't needed? It means that the money I had waiting in the account for this months bill can stay there. The bill is at zero. But wait, there's more. I still have enough credit to cover next months bill, and possibly take a few dollars off of the February bill as well.

The extra money will go towards the final vet bill we are paying and the remaining credit card bill. DEBT FREE is so close I can almost taste it! Years ago I never would have believed my income could be reduced to a third of what it was and I could manage to pay off my debt on the reduced income better than I was doing before.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Is This What We're Reduced To?" or A Conversation Overheard

I'm still not seeing this recovery we are supposed to be in. None of my customers are feeling it either. I haven't once had someone come through my line and say, "I'm buying extra for a party to celebrate my promotion. My company can't find enough people to hire for all the work that needs to be done." Nope, that's not going to happen.

I have a regular customer, probably in her late fifties to early sixties, who used to work at a store in the next shopping plaza. I think they went through some management changes and the entire crew lost their jobs for new hires at one point. This is something that some companies will do occasionally instead of letting new management work with the group already employed to see who their good employees are. The last time she was in she told me her unemployment ran out and she was desperate. She said she qualifies for some program that will give her $325.00 per month. Can you live on $325.00 per month?

A cook from a restaurant spoke with me yesterday. He said he was grateful for a job in food service because people are still eating. Several of his friends and family are about to lose their unemployment benefits.

Two women, most likely in their mid fifties, stopped in front of my counter to converse a few days ago. They told each other where they had applied, how many interviews they had been on, and how many resumes they had sent out. Each was involved with a very extensive job search. They were professional and they definitely were not slackers. One told a story of how after the interview she was offered a position helping to unload a truck when needed. She was told that she would only be called in when there was a need for extra help and she would only get two to five hours if they needed her at minimum wage. She said, "Is this what we're reduced to? Are we just occasional stock boys to them?"

Tonight I overheard a loud conversation by the exit door. One young man who I know has been on unemployment was almost pleading with another man. "I don't care, it's a job." he said, "I'll do anything. I'll work for five dollars an hour."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Not Entirely Friendless

I must thank everyone who dropped in with condolences. It has been a rough time for my family. Add to the mix a six day work week, extra holiday baking on the one day off, the household chores building up, and drama stories from the grown children and whew...I haven't even had the energy at the end of the day to turn on the computer.

We are not planning on getting another dog at this time. One day another dog, cat, rat, or snake may find us and join our family but until then we are going to spend some time saving, planning some changes, and recovering financially. It has been a very expensive few years. Veterinary care doesn't come cheap.

We do have another dog in the house, courtesy of the youngest daughter. When she graduated from high school she went on a long vacation with her friend. She was planning on sharing an apartment with her and moving. It didn't work out but while she was gone she bought a dog from a man in a parking lot. When she didn't have a place to stay daughter and dog came home. Now she shares an apartment with her cousin and brother and there is no room for the dog. We have her for now until she rents a better place where the dog can move. She says she is taking her when the lease is up on the current place...

She named her dog Sasha but my husband and I call her Snugly Snugs Snug. I know it sounds silly but she is an extreme cuddler. She sits right next to you, and leans against you all day long. She's a sixty pound dog but she still likes to sit in your lap for a car ride, climb on top of you in the recliner, or nap with you in the love seat. We took her to the vets to see Chloe after she passed because I didn't want her to wonder what happened to her. It seems as if she understands. I wonder how long her scent lasted in all the places we used to walk together. It seemed as if one day, that Sasha was walking in the same spots Chloe had been, looking for her scent. Collecting memories in her own way I suppose.

Friday, December 3, 2010

In Deepest Sorrow

Another silence has fallen over my mind, my blog, my life. My husband and I cry ourselves to sleep and then cry ourselves awake too early in the morning, for our beloved Chloe died in the hospital Sunday morning after Thanksgiving. I can't put into words how we miss her.

She was our best friend, our family, our life. It is so hard to go on. She had the biggest personality, I am glad we shared our lives for a while. I am also so glad I went to the trouble to cook a turkey this year because she was able to have one last turkey dinner before she went to the hospital. She was a big fan of my cooking and I always felt as if I had my own Food Network cooking show because she would stand a few feet away in the kitchen and watch me work with a smile on her face and interest in her eyes.

Chloe had a special connection with my husband. I noticed early on when he had a restaurant job and would get sent home whenever it slowed down that she knew when he got off work somehow. Twenty or thirty minutes before he came home she would get up and sit in front of the door and stare at the doorknob. He did not have a steady schedule, sometimes he would get off at eight, sometimes nine, or sometimes even midnight. I would note what time she started staring at the door and ask him if he got off at that time and it was spot on even though he was eight miles away.

One of the things I will miss most is holding hands with her. Chloe would give you her paw and then pull your hand towards her and hold it next to her heart. She learned to shake from us and the heart portion was what she taught us. She also taught us the importance of a good stretch before walking and to enjoy the small moments in life. She often stopped to smell flowers when we walked and she seemed quite pleased when I bought a bouquet of flowers and put the vase on the floor beside her food bowl. Yes, she was that important.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The 411 for 444

Today I broke one of my personal rules. It just worked out that way and I had to do it. My youngest daughter and son are coming to my house for Thanksgiving dinner. I usually work and don't bother to cook. I've worked most of the time leading up to now and I simply had to venture out for groceries. After all, I had to get that turkey today and my husband needed the car for work tonight.

Usually I avoid shopping during busy times. I do not shop during Thanksgiving week and I avoid large department stores completely November through January. There are people that come out for holiday shopping that you just don't see at other times of the year. Some are quite scary. I hate the crowds and the attitudes, so I simply stock up on anything I may need and avoid shopping altogether.

A few weeks ago a reader asked me about coupons in their comment. The details of my shopping trip are for you 444express. I hope this helps you with your decision. I clip coupons that I may use if the price is right and save the coupons in envelopes until I need them. People use many different systems but this is what works for me. I never buy a product I will not use, even if it ends up being free. If an item will keep and I can use them before they expire I buy several.

A note about coupons, it's true most of them are for processed foods. I don't bother to clip the ones for frozen pizzas, or canned soups for instance, because I make my own. I do clip the ones for crackers, cereal, sugar, tuna, shampoo, toothbrushes, butter, coffee, spices, etc. When I need to go shopping I read the sales fliers from my local grocery stores. I know what the prices usually are and I look for the lowest price when I start to run out of something.

Today's shopping trip would have cost me $139.65 if I bought everything when it wasn't on sale. The sale prices saved me $51.79, and my coupons saved me an additional $13.10. I bought everything for $74.76, a big shopping trip for me. Part of my spending was $37.48 for everything I would need for Thursdays meal and the other $37.28 was just random pantry items that were on sale plus I had matching coupons.

I need lots of butter for my upcoming baking extravaganza. This year I am planning a baking day with my brother so we can whip up several batches of a wide assortment of cookies. I can't wait, I love baking. Anyway, store brand butter was $3.39 and Land of Lakes butter was on sale two for five or $2.50 each. I had coupons for $1.00 off of two so that made the big brand $2.00 each. I bought four of those for the massive baking day.

The last time I shopped there was a sale on tuna. The five ounce pouches normally $1.49 each were BOGO (buy one get one free) but the shelf was empty. I had 5 coupons for 55 cents off so I asked for a raincheck for six pouches. I picked those up today and the raincheck with my coupons made them 29 cents each. They keep and they'll come in real handy for a last minute lunch when I'm out of time and on the run.

Just because you have a coupon doesn't always mean it will be a good deal. I had a coupon for $4.00 off a butterball turkey. The store brand was cheaper but I thought the coupon would even them out or make the bigger brand a better deal. I picked two turkeys of the same size and compared them. The Butterball was $15.00 and the store brand was $6.00. I picked out a store brand and gave my coupon to the customer beside me who was choosing a Butterball.

I work in retail so it's pretty easy for me to remember what the usual price is for an item. Some people prefer to carry a price book to help them keep track of the prices. It seems like too much work for me and I'm not that organized. Find a system that works for you but doesn't stress you out. Some people are just driven crazy by coupons, so if they don't work for you don't stress over it.

Luckily for me the grocery stores in my area do not double the regular price of an item the week it goes on sale for BOGO. I can't say the same for the drug stores here. I ran into the store late one night for a gallon of milk and noticed a display of Russell Stover chocolates for $4.59. The next day the new sale started and I saw the same item on sale BOGO and the regular price was listed as $8.99. I found another store that did the same dirty trick. They had make-up on sale BOGO. The night before the sale they removed all the regular price labels from the shelf so they could double the price. I didn't fall for it, shame on you dirty companies.

Grocery and household shopping is an easy part of your budget to trim. Coupons help but there are other hints to consider. The first step is to be aware of the regular price and always try to find the lowest price. I don't drive around all day bargain hunting, and I don't stockpile freebies in my garage. I buy what I need and will use at the best price I can find. I shop the sales and make a list. I read the paper and after it's in the recycle bin I clip coupons throughout the week while I watch TV. Don't make it a dreaded chore, or it won't help at all.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Hurrah

I've never been a traditionalist. There are a millions of winter holiday traditions from many countries, regions, faiths, and families. I've read and heard so many different stories about how families expect their holidays to be. Many have very high expectations. If they don't have the right color candles, and the right brand of mincemeat, and the perfect weather they complain. At work, if we run out of the brand of stuffing they always use they will slap the counter with their fist and yell, "Now what am I supposed to do?"

Long ago, even when the kids were little I decided not to join the madness. I still bought toys for them each year. I never shopped on Black Friday, and never bought into the hype surrounding the newest toys which ended up being available the following season for half the price.

Working retail for two decades can suck the holiday spirit out of you. I've worked a department store on Black Friday and witnessed people fighting over junk and hitting one another with shopping carts, and screaming at clerks. I've worked in mall stores during the holidays that weren't quite as bad, but gave me a ringside seat to the "merriment" at the larger stores with the big four hour only specials and at the toy stores which thank goodness I never had the misfortune to work at. Crazed parents actually hid out behind the trash bins in the alley behind the toy store at three in the morning. They thought that by waiting there they could be first somehow to get a Furby when the shipment arrived. If I opened my back door to find a mob of Furby crazed parents limping out from behind the dumpsters like zombies in a horror movie I'd be scared, I'd turn the fire hose on them.

If you're trying to lead a frugal life and the holidays are stressing you out, opt out of the big to do. If the environmentalist in you cringes at the thought of all that tinsel and wrapping paper ending up in the landfill, opt out of the fancy expectations. If you hate cooking and cleaning and would rather sleep in a box full of spiders than spend another holiday with Uncle Frank and Aunt Edna, opt out and go on a mini-vacation instead (or at least pretend to.)

I used to stress over being poor during the holidays. I wanted the children to be happy and have a magical season. I wanted the meal to be perfect and the gifts to be packaged beautifully and well received. I also worked full time hours through the holiday season. I worked open to close often on holidays themselves, so often we would just have it on a different day. One year, when the kids were of middle school age I decided the wrapping paper is thrown away anyway, why am I spending this money on something that goes straight to the garbage? The recycle bins always say that wrapping paper is non-recyclable too. The kids were upset for a few moments when they saw a black plastic garbage bag with their name on it in the morning but after they opened it they quickly forgot their resentment.

Do you need six different types of pie, or a turkey as big as Manhattan? Do you have to make the cranberry souffle you make every year just because you always have it? Do you have to risk life and limb to hang a bunch of lights on your house? Save yourself the frostbite and the high electric bills, opt out.

Take what traditions you want, and drop the rest. Have a wonderful holiday season, whichever holiday you follow if any. Just remember not to stress yourself trying to keep up with the Jones', or worse the Kringle's.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It Still Smells Here

I'm still completely exhausted. I was off today and after reading the paper and taking care of the dog I used most of the rest of my time for sleeping.

Chloe seems to be doing a little better but progress is very slow for her. Yesterday I moved all the furniture and mopped the floors in the kitchen and back room. First she decided she had waited long enough and laid down on the wet floor. Shortly after that she peed and made a giant puddle on the clean floor. When I'm not at work I am the dogs servant, opening the door for her every twenty minutes so she can pee again. She does seem to be peeing less, and has a bit more energy, and she is eating a little more. It's just going so slow I am still worried.

UPDATE: When I turned on the computer my husband had just come back from walking the dog. While I was writing this she went into the living room (the carpeted living room) and peed. Aaargh!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Still Standing

I was doing so good with this blogging thing, and then I had a bad week, or um week and a half actually. I was called in last week for one of my days off and stayed late for a few others. After giving most of my energy to the job, the housework is piling up. I'm just too deeply exhausted at the end of the day to come up with anything interesting or positive to write about. I haven't even logged on at all most days. Hope everyone is still out there.

I did pop in to read my e-mails this week-end and found that Connie had picked my blog to receive a (giggle) Stylish Award. Now in addition to all my catch up posts I have to write a post about this and find (narrow down to) fifteen other blogs to pass this on to. Gee thanks for the extra work, Connie. Just kidding, I am truly honored. Just forgive me if I officially accept in a few more days.

Mother Connie Sez

I helped my son purchase a car so he could receive his promotion. He is now third key in the pet food store where he has been working. They held the position for him until he had a car because they didn't want him riding to the bank at night with deposits on his bicycle. I didn't want him doing that either. He's catching up financially, and I think he'll do much better.

A few days ago I picked up insulin for Chloe. We do this every week and a half. The very next day she stared refusing to eat, and she started drinking a lot, and peeing uncontrollably all over...everywhere. Today we took her to the vet. Every time she gets sick like this I cry and worry and bring her in thinking it might be the last visit, then the vet does something miraculous and she comes home. She had an x-ray and a shot. She has so much going wrong, but she is very tough and still finds joy in her life. I don't think it's time yet.

The doctor needed pee to check while were there. He asked if we could collect it for him. I thought since my home now smells like a public urinal in a busy city bus station it would be easy to get but of course my husband had just walked her. We gave her a bowl of water and then took her out. The theory was we were supposed to walk her and when she squatted to pee one of us had to hold a clear plastic tray under her to catch the drippings. Guess who got to hold the pee tray? So my husband walked her and I followed behind with my little tray poised and ready. She would start to squat and then change her mind, or worse she would start to squat and the my husband would say "Nope it's poop!" and I would jump back and try to hold the pee tray steady so I didn't spill what little I had collected so far on myself. Well I can add that experience onto the list of things I never imagined myself doing. I can put a check next to followed blind dog in busy parking lot with pee tray.

She is on medications to fight several infections, and we have to give her more insulin now. She was used to the shots but now she seems to be frustrated with the whole ordeal and wiggles and complains every morning and night when it is time for a shot.

When my husbands income dropped to one third we made the difficult decision not to have cancer surgery for her. She has breast cancer and cancer polyps in her ears. My son told me several of his customers had elderly dogs with the same health issues and they died within months of the trauma of surgery so I feel a bit better about that decision. The doctor today said at her age it is an understandable decision and that could very well be the case if we did opt for surgery. It was good to hear because I was feeling all sorts of guilt for not having surgery. She had surgery for cancer on her arm several years ago so it is probably incurable with surgery anyway. If she makes it to February she will be thirteen. I hope she does well, I just don't want her to suffer.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Winner is Declared

Short post tonight. Just wanted to say my husband drew a name out of the hat. Congratulations Natalia, email me with your address and your books will go out on Tuesday.

Thanks to everyone that entered and spread the word for my first contest.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Doing the One Step Forward Two Steps Back Dance

My son interviewed for a management position at work and received the new position immediately. He just has to get a car in the next few weeks. He's been riding a bicycle to work but since this is a third key position he will have to drive deposits to the bank at night. You can't really ride up to the deposit drop with a bag of money on a bicycle.

Of course it can't be roses all the time. My youngest daughters hours were cut down to thirteen. She only has two days this week. If this continues I won't have my empty nest anymore, and I really like my empty nest!

My eldest daughter is still waiting to see if she can find a job where she's at before she decides to come to Florida. Things aren't going well for her but she dreads paring everything down to just a few boxes to ship down. A bus or train ride with a baby will be quite an experience too. It's a big decision either way, I just hope she finds a peaceful solution.

As long as the children are settled and self sufficient my husband and I do have some plans in the works. March is our target month. We want everything pared down, new jobs, and a new state. I'm not sure where we are going yet. I research different areas, get rid of clutter, and save like mad. Daily. I can't wait until we can make some changes!

I had a chance encounter the other day with a business owner who was having problems with an employee. She vented, and I asked what she did. She mentioned she may be hiring in March. Our month for a change. March. I expressed an interest. She asked for my number. I will tell no more in fear of jinxing it. I just really hope I hear back from her soon because it sounds like it would be an absolute dream job for my husband and I. Did I mention she sometimes hires couples? Sigh, I just hope I didn't jinx it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Organics Out of Reach

I've known all along that organic foods cost more. I've seen the prices where I work. You can buy cucumbers on sale two for one dollar or you can buy one organic cucumber for two or three dollars. Some people choose to purchase some organic products for those items which contain the most pesticides. Many others cannot afford the extra cost. Gardening is one option for those with the skill, space, and time.

I just found an advertisement for a local produce stand that has an organics club. You pay a fee, and order a large or small package each week. It's a good idea but it is on the other side of the county and the cost is very high. When you are at the bottom of the pay scale it is hard to pay the extra cost for safer food.

The price of meat is even higher. Turkeys will soon be going on sale. Last year they were around .99 cants a pound. I saw an organic turkey advertised today for $4.99 a pound. I can't imagine paying $150.00 for a thirty pound turkey.

Being poor, you have to be careful with every penny. Careful grocery spending is the easiest way to trim the budget. It is too bad that organic produce is out of reach for so many.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Welcome MSN Money Smart Spending Readers

If you've followed a link from the MSN Money Smart Spending blog to read more, thank you for stopping by. If you'll be coming back please feel free to subscribe to posts via RSS feed (link at bottom of page.) While you are here take a chance and enter my giveaway.

If you are one of my regular readers and you haven't been to the MSN Smart Spending blog check it out. It's chock full of information, some of which is bound to benefit your wallet.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Game of What If (Including My First Ever Shout Outs)

What if did not exist as a blog? What it it was a community resource center instead? What would you see at The Working Poor Resource Center?

First of all there would be a building with several rooms for all the many subjects or uses. There would be meetings, classes, childcare for those attending, and help available for those facing severe poverty, others climbing their way out of debt, and newly poor people unsure of how to make ends meet.

I would invite people like Connie to teach a few basic cooking classes so people wouldn't feel the need to eat out so often on a small budget. When they had a few cooking skills under their belt I would introduce them to The 99 Cent Chef so they could search for new recipes to suit their tastes and budgets.

When they expressed a need to tame their spending and craft a budget I would introduce them to Monroe on a Budget for all sorts of tips. If they were stuck on spending and collecting more stuff and couldn't even fathom another way of life I would send them here for a valuable lesson.

If they were feeling deprived while trying to get their budget under control and save I would call upon Adam at The Magical Penny to give them a pep-talk.

When they were ready and had saved some cash and were healing financially speaking I would send them here, and here for lessons on how to start investing for the future.

There are many more people out their doing wonderful things on the Internet. This is by no means a complete list. I have wanted a chance to introduce readers to some of the blogs I have enjoyed. I don't follow or Facebook or anything of that nature because as I said it would just make me feel guilty for not keeping up with it all. I am out there reading and I've enjoyed making these introductions tonight so it's a feature I may use again. Life may be difficult at this time but remember to have fun out there!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Splendiforous Giveawayapalooza!

As you all know by now, today is my one year blogging anniversary. I wrote a brief post last night but feel I need to do something else to commemorate the occasion. I realize I have a small site, without a great deal of traffic yet I still want to try a giveaway. Please help spread the word. Nothing fancy here, as I am still a techno-moron. I will put every ones name into a hat and have my husband draw a winners name. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post.

The prizes: "Miserly Moms, Living on One Income in a Two Income Economy" and "Frugal Families, Making the Most of Your Hard Earned Money" by Jonni McCoy, and "Debt Proof Living, the Complete Guide to Living Financially Free" and "Debt Proof Your Marriage" by Mary Hunt. All are used books but the spines are in excellent shape, so they still seem practically new. They would be an excellent start to a frugal hints collection to help a recovering spendthrift change their outlook, or for a young couple just starting out.

As I said I am a techno-moron, I don't Facebook, or Myspace, or Tweet, and I don't even own a cell phone. It took me almost a year to figure out how to make a link to another site on my blog. My kids have to set up any electronic crap around the house. It's embarrassing really, however, work takes a lot out of me and I have a tremendous amount of work to do at home with Chloe's medical care among other things. If I did Tweet and Facebook and Youtube and all of those modern things it would just create more things that I could feel guilty about. I feel bad enough when I miss several days on my blog, I would be just a complete mess if I had other electronic obligations. How do you more connected bloggers manage it all?

Back on topic, do you want to win four books? Just leave a comment here. Want to help a sad technically challenged blogger not be embarrassed when there are only two entries for her contest? Send your friends here so they can have a chance to win as well. Come back Saturday, November 6th to see who won.

Thank you all for reading, and joining me on this journey. It has been quite a year. I'm not sure if I have accomplished any of my goals from the first post long ago, but I do know I am working towards some changes. Things are getting steadily better, and anything I learn along the way I will share with you.

One Year of Working Poor

Hey everyone, it's my one year blogging anniversary. If you haven't read the very first post feel free to follow the link and have a peek.

10-29-2009 A look Back

I've enjoyed the community I've found here, the feedback from readers, and the lessons learned from other bloggers. Still not sure what I expect from the whole thing, but I do plan to continue and hopefully get better as I go along.

This anniversary post is much shorter than what I had planned but I closed tonight and open tomorrow. I am feeling old, tired, and completely worn out so sleep will take precedence over writing. There will always be other nights. Have a great week-end out there!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mindful Spending

I had a post in mind and I was ready to write this morning. First I visited Donna Freedman's blog Surviving and Thriving and what she wrote made me forget all about my plans. She wrote about being frugal on purpose so that you could spend on those few items that are really important to you when you are able. She wrote about cherries but I was thinking about my purses.

Choosing What and Whether to Buy

I have been poor to various degrees all my life. Frugal living has been a necessity not a conscious decision. When the children were little, everything was about them. I was just the mom. I spent very little on myself. I would buy a cheap black pocketbook because it would go with anything. I would spend no more that ten dollars and keep it until the straps broke and it fell apart at which time I would venture into a department store and purchase another ten dollar black purse.

Near the time of the empty nest I decided that I was worth a few extra purchases and I was really tired of the one black purse. I went online and found a nice green purse (my favorite color, how did you guess) and spent gulp twenty four dollars. A few months later I was shopping for work clothes and shoes. Yes, I was using a credit card because it was an emergency need, but I paid it off in three months. As I was walking quickly through the store just getting what I needed I came to a halt in front of the expensive purse display. They were on sale 60% off but still, remember I never used to spend more than ten dollars.

With the discounts the purse I fell in love with was still over fifty dollars. I walked around with it, sure that I would feel silly about spending that much on a second green purse. I wasn't a label fiend either and this had the designers name right on it, which I usually hate. However, the color was beautiful and shiny, the design was unique. I felt like I had one of Monet's water lilies on my arm. I made the purchase thinking I was buying a quality item I would have for a long time. Surely it would last much longer than those ten dollar purses of long ago.

The edges of the corners and zipper pulls peeled and the lining ripped within three months. Meanwhile I use my twenty four dollar Internet bag every day and it still looks new. I can't imagine buying a $3000.00 bag. I feel bad enough over $50.00.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"All That We See or Seem is but a Dream Within a Dream" Edgar Allan Poe

I think my subconscious was trying to teach me a lesson the other day. At work I went to the break room for my lunch. A brief word about our break room and then I'll continue. Our break room is about the size of a walk-in closet, it is filthy and ant infested, and they shove spare furnishings and shelf fixtures in there so we have even less room. There is no sink to wash our hands and we are not allowed a refrigerator to keep our food in because they say corporate said if we had one it would encourage theft. We are however allowed one old microwave and we also have a bulletin board with a notice warning us to never attempt to gather and form a union.

Now back to the story, I entered the break room and it was already crowded with a few people from other departments. I took a seat and pulled my book and my sandwich out of my bag and proceeded to grumble silently in my head as they continued with their loud conversations. Usually I look forward to as quiet a break as possible to unwind a bit from the sales floor with the constant beeping of the machines, the piped in music, and the cacophony of conversation. I ignored them as best as possible and read a bit of my book. There was one woman who spoke loudly and excitedly about her life and two others kept asking her questions. I ate my lunch quietly and then left, end of story or so I thought.

The next morning I woke from a dream. In this dream the woman I sat near during lunch and I shared a ride to a class our company was sponsoring. We drove in her SUV to an elementary school in the evening. They had rented rooms after hours at the school to hold their classes. We left the class (I can't remember what it was about.) and we were driving home when it started to snow and we had to go very slow. That's about it, I woke up and wondered why I had that very odd dream. I thought about it all day. I hate having work dreams, because the work I do now isn't particularly pleasant but it brings in a much needed paycheck. I go to work collect my pay and come home and don't like to think of work all the time. It bothers me a bit when it invades my dreams.

A day later I figured the dream actually had meaning. I was ignoring my fellow humans at lunch and seeking my solitude in a book. I should have joined in and reached out instead of always being so reclusive. What about you? Has your subconscious ever taught you a lesson?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dispatches from the Land of Negativity

Working with the public is always an adventure. You never know what the attitude of the day will be. Large corporations usually work hard to please all of their customers to keep a steady customer base. Some companies become overzealous in trying to make all customers happy at any cost. I work for an overzealous company.

Remember this slogan, "The Customer is Always Right?" That is an untrue sentence. It cannot be at all times. Yes, products are shelved wrong, tags are missing, or something is damaged. Mistakes are made, everyday and several times. However, there are also cranky people with personality disorders who come in looking for a fight. They shout, spit, and throw things. Some feel that every store clerk is out to cheat them. Some want every rule bent just for them. They will swear that everyone else allows them to use a starter check, or that the other clerk took a Dannon coupon for a Yoplait product.

Some workplaces are incredibly positive. Management is polite, workers are encouraged and all is right in the world. Other places can be a tad on the negative side. When walking down the hall to the time clock at my workplace there are several bulletin boards. One side of the time clock has notices and reminders. "You must fill out this form correctly or else." "You must be in proper dress code at all times, or face termination." "Discussing pay rates with other employees is an automatic termination." "This is how our store is ranked according to our customer surveys. You must do better or we will hire new workers to replace you." On the other side of the time clock is a chart showing cashiering scan times among other things. They list the bottom performers here with their names. On the opposite wall is a bulletin board with a sign above it that says "Wall of Shame." On this they place mistakes cashiers have made with their name. They also have a list hanging next to this with workers names on it that says "Top Offenders." This list is for people that make more than one mistake.

There was an incident recently where an employee was almost terminated. A young employee noticed his name at the top, right under "The Wall of Shame" header. It amused him so he snapped a picture of it and posted it on his Facebook page. The office manager snooped about and saw it online, called corporate, hauled him into the office and made him remove remove the photo. He said corporate wanted him fired immediately but the manager said other than this he was a good worker and she wanted to give him another chance.

This company is striving to please every customer and build a loyal fan base. They make use of those surveys attached to random receipts. After shopping a customer can call in rate their service and then leave feedback on a machine. Some people call in with genuine compliments, and occasional complaints. Others just rant about some random weirdness. Of course corporate takes everything seriously. There is another list that makes it to the wall occasionally that is titled "It Had Better Not be Happening Here!" This list is the details of customers complaints. Several people have called to complain they were turned away from a ten item or less lane. Another complained that someone refused to take his four dollars in loose pennies. One complained that the air conditioner was too cold.

Working here makes me feel as if I am taking part in that old fable about the old man and his son taking the donkey to market. People complained the old man was walking while the young boy rode the donkey so they switched. Then others complained so he made his son walk. At one point he carried the donkey. The moral was you can't please everyone at the same time. When will this company realize this, make some rules and stick to them. As it stands now, the place is teeming with negativity. So many changes need to be made. As I put that uniform on I feel a cloak of dread wrapping about me. It doesn't need to be that way, but that is their corporate culture.

Hey big companies, treat your employees well. You know the ones your customers see every day, the ones that help you bring in lots of money. Make a positive environment for them, train them well, and don't let a few unruly customers mistreat them. Your sales will go up and you may be able to keep some of your workers longer. Just a thought. You can make a positive change or keep carrying your donkey as usual. Your choice.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Where Has She Been?

Working, and cooking, and catering to a demanding dog, that's it. I've worked several odd shifts and after chores about the house just haven't had enough energy to post. Finally, tonight as beans boil in a pot, and a homemade apple pie bakes in the oven I feel I can spend a few moments catching up. I always feel so guilty when I am away for long periods, but I realize I do need sleep and sanity.

There is cause for celebration in the working poor household. This month I made the final payment to Lowe's for our washer/dryer. If you need an appliance I highly recommend going to a store like this when there is a six or twelve month no interest special. The prices are much better than those rent to own places and if you pay enough each month there is no interest. It's well worth it not to cut into your savings, if you have any left, and not having to pay a credit card company extra fees.

Speaking of rent to own stores...have you done the math? Next time you get one of their flyer's in your mailbox notice what products they offer, and multiply those payment amounts by the number of payments. Look for similar products in a department store. The price once all the payments have been made is sometimes as much as twice what the product sells for elsewhere. In my opinion they take advantage of the poor and ill-informed.

That's it for my brief update and rant. I may be on a more even schedule this week and back on track.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Handy Hints for Communal Living

As the economy continues its downward spiral more and more people are moving in together out of necessity. I've been in similar situations myself. Some of them worked out and others did not. This is one of the ways that homeless people can find themselves completely homeless. When friends or family become completely aggravated with the close quarters or duelling personalities tempers flare and agreements erode.

Now I am older I have become the host. My youngest daughter stays with me occasionally and my son stayed for a while. I just learned that my eldest daughter is 99% sure that she want to move in for a while. It will be wonderful to have her and the grand baby here, still with that many in the house we will have to be very organized and tidy. Of course moving in as an adult will be completely different, hopefully, than when you were a child.

With thoughts of living arrangements changing, and extended family and friends bunking together to avoid complete homelessness I arranged a list of ideas to make the transition go smoother. I know I'll get comments with more ideas. You guys are good like that.

Handy Hints for Communal Living:

1) Tidiness. An extreme neat freak will have a difficult time sharing their home with anyone. For the rest of us, help keep the home picked up, vacuumed, smelling nice, etc... Take some spare time and mow the yard or dust the TV and polish the furniture. Tempers are less likely to flare if the home is even cleaner now that you are there. Believe me, it will be greatly appreciated.

2) Quiet times. Know the schedules of all family members. Even if your sisters husband, who has to leave at five AM for work, says your TV viewing until two AM doesn't bother him, he may just be trying to be polite. Some people may work all night and sleep through the afternoon. Respecting others schedules and being quiet when it is needed will go a long way towards keeping the peace. Just ask my insomniac husband who can hear a flea cough on a neighbors dog three streets away.

3) Special skills. One household member is a gourmet cook, while another can make the bathroom sparkle. One person may help out with dog walks, or litter box clean-up. One person may be a home energy expert and can switch out the light bulbs, or install weather stripping. Get it? Everyone has a special skill that they can contribute to the household.

4)Respect. Uncle Harvey may have odd bathroom habits. As much as you want to, don't do your impression of him gargling. Claudine may wear mismatched outfits but don't insert your opinion. Remember this is their house and try to make it as pleasant for them as possible.

5) Arguments. When problems do arise, do not deteriorate into shouting matches. Have a house meeting and deal with it. Compromise, and make a list of house rules if you have to, just don't fight. Shouting will not help anyone.

6) Privacy. Being cooped up for long periods with friends or family you used to just see occasionally may be fun at first and then become difficult. Before relationships become strained, give one another some space. Take a picnic and enjoy a day at the park. Give your family some time away from the house and give the homeowner some time alone in their own home as well.

7) Adult children. Treat adult children as adults. This is simple, Suzie may still be your daughter but she is also a grown woman. Remember this when she is making her own decisions. Also, if you are the child, remember you are grown and don't revert back to the sullen teen in tense times.

8) Cleaning. I know I mentioned this earlier but it is a big one. How much each person does will really depend on how much they work, how much the homeowner wants you to do and so on. If you are staying with someone and you have time though, clean a lot and show your appreciation. It will go far in smoothing a rocky road.

9) Common rooms. Preserve the original function of common rooms. If you are staying in the living room or den, tidy up each morning. Clear the couch, roll up your bedroll, and pack your clothes away. If Aunt Dolly can still sit in her favorite chair and watch her soaps she will be less stressed. No one wants to eat their breakfast while looking at your dirty underwear. Pick it up and keep the home stress free.

10) Budget. Your money situation will be strained, after all that's why your moving in together right? Be very careful with your money so you can get out of this situation as soon as possible. Don't rely on the homeowner to foot the bill for everything though, unless you have no choice. Buy some groceries, or cleaning products, or pay the light bill, whatever works for you. If you have special budgeting skills to share, do so. This is a team effort.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

10-10-10 Happy Birthday Dad!

Today would have been my Dad's 88th birthday. He loved a party and I know he would have had a great time celebrating on 10-10-10. He would have worn a paper party hat, played cards, and had a large serving of cake and ice cream (butter pecan was his favorite.)

I'm glad I was able to spend a small amount of time with my dad before he passed.

I'm grateful I was able to write my dad's obituary.

My dad was a coupon clipper and rebater. He stretched his money farther than anyone I've ever heard of. Without realizing it at the time, my after work shopping was sort of a tribute to him. I bought two large tuna pouches, and two Bumble Bee tuna sensations lunch packs for seventy one cents. Thanks Dad.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Six Degrees from Homeless

Many of the working poor are just a few paychecks away from homelessness. Those with savings can last a little longer. Have you given thought to how long you would last if you lost your income and had no other source of money? I would be able to survive about two months on my savings, and I have very few bills. If it was so bad and we had to dip into our retirement account we could go another three months maybe, if we really economized.

Now, take a moment to think of those on public assistance. Their children can get free lunch at school, some of them receive medicaid to help with doctor visits, a very few receive cash assistance or housing help. How far can they get before things turn bad?

So many people become homeless through no fault of their own, a dispute with a family member, the loss of a job, an illness... The reasons, or circumstances are endless.

Lately, there's been many mentions of the homeless in the news. With the recession still going strong, despite what our government is telling us, and homeowners still facing foreclosures it is a growing reality.

Once again, while working, the headlines came to greet me. A young girl approached the counter and asked if she could borrow my phone to call her daddy. As soon as she got that first sentence out she burst into tears. She said she was fourteen years old and her mother had just kicked her out and she was scared.

My heart broke, what could I do? I kept an eye on her and made sure it was her father that picked her up. Of course, I don't know the entire story. You actually see a lot when you work with the public.

So many people have lost the ability to imagine. They are unable to put themselves in another persons shoes. Keep your compassion well exercised and remember to daydream often so you can see another point of view.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Blame it on Bach, A Scatterered Mind and Life at the Bottom

I'm reading "The Salmon of Doubt" by Douglas Adams in little snippets on breaks and in the car when I am waiting on someone. I've saved this read until now because it is the last Douglas Adams I will be able to read. He died way too young. In this book are all of his brief writings, introductions to other books, magazine articles and such. One of these is his ode to Bach's Fifth Brandenburg Concerto and that is the tune that has been running through my head for several days. What does this have to do with my blog? Well nothing really, but it does describe the scattered state of my mind. Every time I start to have a thought, here comes Bach.

Paula at Monroe on a Budget had an article this morning that's been on my mind all day.
see story here
The article is about how stores are gearing their sales to coincide with the food stamp shoppers who seem to shop all at once when their benefits are placed on their cards. Some of the shoppers wait around in Walmart until midnight so they can make a purchase the very moment they get their money.

I work in a grocery store and I do notice people seem to come in all at once. I had one customer today who shopped with her two young daughters. She handed me the empty containers to scan first because they ate a bowl of fruit and drank a soda. One girl handed me a yogurt and asked me to hand it right back because she wanted it now, and her sister handed me half a block of cheese with teeth marks in it so I could scan it and hand it back. I laughed because I see children all the time acting like they are starving because they are in the store. My own kids did it and I bet yours did too. This afternoon this story was on my mind and I wondered if maybe they had gone a day or two without before their benefits kicked in.

I personally know what it it like. I received food stamps decades ago when they were paper. I never shopped all at once and went without at the end of the month because I have always cooked from scratch and had a pantry most of the time. I was on them because I had to at the time. I wasn't forever but it felt dreadful. It was very little and it had to be stretched very carefully.

You used to have to stand in a long line to pick up food stamps. There were no snazzy cards back in the dark ages. One time the line stretched out the door and along the side of the building facing the highway. There was an older man in front of me and in front of him was a woman leaning on her crutches with bandaged arms, wearing a neck brace, with a cast from foot to upper thigh. Someone leaned out of their small brown pickup truck and yelled "Get a Job!" The older man and several others murmured "I wish I had a Job." I'll never forget the look on the woman's face as she twisted painfully on her crutches to look at the vehicle.

Being poor may suck but being even poorer sucks worse. It's not so bad being a member of the working poor. I've been worse off in the past. Don't know if I can bring myself to write about the dark times, but I will say things can always improve and it won't always be like this. The hard times may pass but we must remember what they were like so we can remind ourselves to save and keep a frugal mindset so we can prosper in the future.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Empathy for the Rich

In addition to clipping the coupons I always enjoy reading the Sunday newspapers. This Sunday the following headline from the St Petersburg Times caught my eye:

No Longer King, Queen, of their Castle

This family made all their riches in the building trade when it was booming. The husband probably did a lot of the work on their staggering 7000 square-foot home with some help, but they still had a mortgage, RV, boat, pool table, golf cart, etc. They weren't keeping up with the Joneses. They were the Joneses. Anyone with half an an eye for furniture can see the pieces in the background of the video and know that money was no object when they were sprucing up their nest. Of course his business was bringing in three to five million in better times.

Now he gets to work every other week or so and they still own too much in property to qualify for food stamps. In order to try to keep their house, they retreated to just a few rooms, and rented as many rooms as they could. They still may not be able to keep their house.

They must have never heard the phrase, "Live simply so others may simply live." After all, she paid $14,000.00 for the front doors alone. Another $10,000.00 went towards curtains.

I can understand their pain. They are letting strangers live in their home just so they can afford food and electricity, for the work is gone. Their daughters have to share bedrooms for the first time. Coming down from a three million a year business to wanting public assistance must be quite a blow to them. However, the poor person in me is wondering how they could see such lavishness as a necessity. I also wonder how they plowed through their savings so quickly.

It's weird this brief glimpse into another way of life. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I could never see myself spending $20,000.00 on a piano, or needing all of the play toys that they had.

The economy is rough for everyone to some degree. From what I've read about the Depression the very poor were sometimes better off than the newly poor, because they already knew how to survive with a lack of money. It proves true with our recession to some extent too.

I know of people in my own poor neighborhood who once made their living in the building trade. Some collect unemployment, some keep afloat with odd jobs, and some have carved dinky apartments out of their already small homes to rent to others who are even worse off. One of these apartments I saw was no bigger than a walk-in closet, but the extra $50 a week was sorely needed by the out of work painter.

I hope this family learns some frugal skills, and pull through this trying time as better people. While I can find empathy for them as this is a real ordeal they are experiencing, I also see many ways in which they may have made poor decisions.

There are many news articles lately about the rich, or formerly rich, who feel impoverished. Some readers may become angry, while others understand. I want to bring these people into my home, serve them a dinner of salad, vegetable lasagna, or roasted chicken and homemade rolls. We can eat at my card table which serves as my formal dining room table in my dining room which is also my kitchen. After dinner I can share a few recipes from my cookbooks (bought used) from my bookcase (handmade, yet still serving the same purpose as their $3,700.00 bookcase.) We could talk of several subjects. I could try to convince them to give up a few cell phones. Are you sure every member of your family has to have one? Before they leave I can show them my budget and let them know that they can survive on less. Really, it's not as bad as you think.

What's your initial reaction to the story? Empathy, anger, astonishment, or something else entirely?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Welcome Back Snowbirds!

This is a small town and not near the big travel destinations where you expect an upsurge in traffic during the winter. I never realized until I worked here what an impact the seasonally challenged retirees have on our local economy. Every summer our hours get dropped each week til it hurts. Snowbirds, how I have missed you!

Today, it was busier than usual. Large orders kept coming through the line. There were several two and three cart orders. It is the first of the month, which accounted for most of the traffic, however, Pennsylvania also came in to restock her kitchen and Michigan said she would be in the next day because she was certain she forgot several items. I was so glad to see them, I'm down to 24 hours this week!

I had a discussion with a coworker the other day. I complained about only having $1.65 in the bank after paying rent, but quickly added that I did have some savings for an emergency. She said all her savings were gone and her husband will be losing his job soon. This used to be her part time job for extra money. Her factory job died two years ago, now her husbands job is almost at an end too. She said their income dropped from $50,000 to $20.000. They say it's a recession, but it sure feels like a depression for those of us at the bottom.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sick Day

Going to work sick is a normal part of my life as it is for many of the working poor. When there is no health insurance or sick pay, you just keep going. Last week I kept going but it got too bad when I caught the flu or a cold or whatever it was. I had to call out one day.

This week I received a check for $199.00 and I needed to deposit $196.00 in the bank so I would have the $575.00 needed for rent. Now I'm paying for having that one sick day. I'm not asking for pity, I do have some savings I can turn to in an emergency, and all my other bills are paid for now. It's just a huge nuisance to have three dollars til payday.

My optimism has gone out the window here lately. There was a restaurant hiring and I was sure my husband would be hired with his experience. We weren't expecting one awkward interview over the phone and a negative response. So it looks as if we are sticking with these part time jobs for now, and just scraping by.

Every time I am feeling under the weather and think of calling out I add up the hours of the day in question and multiply them by my hourly wage. I imagine I am picking up my check and it is forty or sixty dollars short. I then figure up how many bills will be due to see if I can afford to be sick. This time I felt horrible. There was no figuring involved.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Green Thumb Woes

I should have realized my destiny when I was a kid and, wanting to try my hand at gardening, transplanted a weed. How hard could it be, my mom was always growing things, carrying buckets of dirt from here to there, and watering random patches of green things. My weed died. I should have given up then and there, after all innocent lives were at stake.

Inspired by my friend who has a lovely home and yard filled with all sorts of plants, I decided to try just two houseplants. I picked out the ones that were supposed to be the easiest to grow. I followed directions and tried to do everything right. When they looked near death I had my friend pick them up. Several months later I asked her how they were doing.

"They are recovering," she said sternly,"And they never ever want to see you again."

Our back yard garden is rough this year. My husband was able to grow many vegetables in our garden before. In the clay soil where we used to live all you had to do was skip backwards across a bare patch of earth, while whistling madly and spilling seeds from cup. Florida is another matter. We had three zucchini's, one cucumber, and two teeny green tomatoes that fell off the vine way too early. Now the plants that are left are just big leafy green plants. There is no hope.

My husband still wants to water the vegetable plants and keep them alive. Sometimes he works and asks me to water for him. I humor him and splash some water over the plants, but if they haven't done anything by now is there any hope for them? I was enthusiastically watering this one tomato plant in a corner. It sits outside my kitchen window and I remarked to my husband how tall it was getting. I'd never seen a tomato plant six feet tall before.

"Honey, I never planted anything in that corner." he said

"But, I've been watering it for you." I replied.

At least now I know that I am finally capable of growing a weed. The straggly six foot high weed is now sporting demented looking daisy flower things on the tops. It waves it's leaves at me and winks as I do dishes. Maybe we'd better try container gardening next year so I know what to water.

Gardening is a great money saving activity. Some people are even able to sell their surplus and make money with their hobby. We should definitely all try new things and see if they help. It also helps if we know our strengths and weaknesses as well. I know that I am a thrifty shopper and when there is a really good sale on diced tomatoes or spaghetti sauce, I can use my coupons to stock up because I can't always count on the bounty from my garden. Whoever heard of a person only getting three zucchinis from several plants anyway?

Friday, September 24, 2010

My Favorite Hoarder, or How Not to Stock a Pantry

One of my favorite shows is A&E's Hoarders. I know they have problems and you may argue it is wrong of me to be so voyeuristic with the mentally damaged, but I cannot look away. Mind you, I watch as I do laundry, dust, or de-clutter. It is difficult to just sit and watch unless you tidy up a bit at the same time. Just try it, I bet you can't. As I watch, I look around and see in my own home a pile of laundry that needs to be washed immediately, an overflowing box of newspaper that has to be taken to the car for recycling the next day, or at the very least a smudge on a mirror.

I re-watched my all time favorite the other day. Jill had an entire house stuffed full of expired and rotting food. She held onto a bookcase full of boxes of chicken broth that had expired three years previously. She said it wasn't bad yet because it wasn't puffy. Not being puffy was the excuse she also used for wanting to hold onto the green meat in the freezer, and the eight month past the date yogurt in the refrigerator. At one time the woman had gone through a period when she was poor and hungry. This affected her deeply and she reached a point where she bargain shopped for food, bought way more than she could possibly use, and stored it everywhere.

My favorite scene was when the man in the hazmat suit was shoveling a blackened rotting pumpkin off her living room floor and she stopped him. She said it had been the most beautiful pumpkin ever when it was alive, then she plunged her hand into the rotting goo to save a few seeds to plant. Wow!

With all this talk of stocking a pantry, it is important to purchase only items you would use anyway. Purchase the quantity of items you will be able to use before they expire. If you only eat canned tuna once or twice a year, don't bother to buy more than a few cans when they go on sale, and don't go overboard with perishables either. The point of having a pantry is to have good food available when you need it, not to buy it cheap and then throw it away.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Glimmer of Better Times?

My husband has been discouraged every week when he looks in the paper to find less than five jobs. Even the fast food jobs that people say are always available are not there. They have a staff already, and believe it or not, they rarely hire in our area. You see the same faces for a long time. People are not able to job hop as they once could.

He drove two counties away to apply for what was advertised as warehouse and sales positions. It ended up being a small building with a few freezers for those people that sell meat out of a truck. They wanted to hire everyone that showed up. We have no idea what these guys are paid, but it just seemed to risky. Who buys meat off the back of a truck anyway?

Yesterday, he applied at a job not too far from home, and with his telemarketing experience he was hired immediately. It may work and it may not, so without quitting the other job he's going to try it out. The job is as an appointment setter for an air conditioning company and it is commission only. I figure, it's Florida where air conditioning is a necessity and he is good at phone sales so.....We are hoping to at the least bring in a little extra income. We need it so badly right now.

Bills are paid but there is no breathing room. We've also managed to keep Chloe in food and insulin without dragging out the credit card. However, this morning she is worrying me. She always eats, and has been as healthy as possible for quite a while now. This morning she refused breakfast. She was able to go on her walk although she moaned a lot. I gave her some apple in case her blood sugar had dropped, something that regularly happens in the morning. She usually eats right away after her treat. She didn't. We will take her to the vet if she hasn't improved by tomorrow morning. She's eating lunch now and that's a good sign.

We are employed when many are not. We have a place to live and food to eat when many go without. Our survival skills are strong and life will improve. Perhaps we'll even have healthcare one day. Here's wishing everyone out there health, happiness, and future prosperity.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Micro-Frugality, or Making it on a Diminished Income

Upon first glance my financial situation may seem grim. How many lower class Americans can receive a drastic downturn in regular income and keep going? How often do many of them fall behind in rent, or have their electricity and/or water cut off temporarily. As an example here my husband has a co-worker that had his water and electricity cut off, and I have a co-worker without electricity right now. Unfortunately, this happens more often than you think.

We will be fine and the tough times will pass and this post will explain how. For those of you already living a frugal life you may be bored to tears and I apologize. For those new to frugal views or recently impoverished, I hope I can help in some small way.

As emphasized in "Your Money or Your Life" by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin it is very important to track your money. Know what you have, what is outgoing. and what is incoming. This is no time to spend it when we have it and then wonder where it went when the bill arrives. This money tracking does not need to involve fancy spreadsheets, computer software, or ankle bracelets. Just get a notebook and find out here you are. Keep it simple and you will be more apt to keep up with it.

My system is as simple as it could be. I have a three ring binder in my kitchen, with pockets for unpaid bills and receipts, and a calendar I printed from the computer. Each month I keep track of when bills are due, when pay will be coming in, and even when heart worm medication is due. I also estimate how much checks will be so I can determine how big a payment I can put on that last credit card, or if I can afford an item I want to purchase. In the past, many years ago, occasionally a bill would be paid late, not always because we didn't have the money, but because I was disorganized and the mail was misplaced. Never again! I look in my book each week and I know that I receive a check on this day and two days later the electricity and car insurance are due.

For the past several months I have been purchasing a box of food each month through Angel Food Ministries. There are no income requirements, anyone can participate, everything is fresh and I have never found a spoiled or out of date item. I've compared prices and found it is well worth it. I can purchase the same foods for about the same prices if I wait for sales, buy chicken one week, ground beef another, etc. This saves me money and frees up my time. My tiny freezer is stocked once a month with steak, chicken, frozen vegetables, and other varying items. A few pantry items, milk and eggs are also included. I complete my grocery shopping at a produce stand and a bread store because their prices beat the supermarket. The best bread store I found actually has fresh bread at discount prices. Before you say it, no I don't drive all over town. If I need to go past either place on another errand then I will stop, otherwise I don't make a special trip just for one or two items.

Angel Food Ministries

I have a large pantry that was well stocked when times were better. When an item that I will use anyway goes on a really good sale I will purchase several. As long as they keep well, it won't hurt to have ten of an item in the pantry. Sometimes tuna, salmon, or canned chicken or vegetables go on a really good sale. These items can be used for a thrifty recipe on short notice. Pasta, rice, beans, fruit cups, pasta sauces, granola bars, nuts, all of these items and more go on sale for at least buy one get one free prices and lower if you use coupons. As long as you use these items anyway, you won't be wasting your money.

For several months now, I have not shopped to replenish my pantry, and we still have plenty to eat. Shopping lately has consisted of one box monthly from Angel Food Ministries then bread, milk, sandwich meat, cheese, and produce weekly. The current grocery cost for us per month $90.00 to $130.00. Dog care costs considerably more but she has major health issues.

We have one credit card to pay off, one last payment for our washer and dryer (six months/zero interest,) rent, cable/Internet/phone (no cell phone,) and water. We've been steadily getting rid of debt to the point that we seem to drop a bill off the list every few months. At the bottom of my calendar I keep track of my total debt, and have been happy to watch it shrink slowly but steadily.

That is how we are able to survive without assistance. We stocked up when times were better. We are organized and diligent in bill paying. We know what we earn and and what we can spend, leaving enough in the bank for the rest of the bills.

We also have savings, which even in difficult times I add to. It may be twenty dollars or five, but it is something. We are also determined not to panic and spend savings on anything unless it is a dire emergency. That may have to become our moving fund if a job opportunity presents itself, or emergency bus fare for a child or other relative in need. It's important if you do have savings to preserve them at this time. That's how some of the homeless families you read about end up in their situation. They reached a point where they had to use their savings for day to day living expenses. It's a sad feeling to see your emergency fund vanish.

I still have my emergency fund, the pantry is stocked, and none of the bills have been late. This is just a temporary, difficult situation. It shall pass. We are still employed, and we have each other. Life is still good.

Friday, September 17, 2010

All Tied Together

Today was a day off spent puttering around the house, leisurely accomplishing just a few tasks so I could claim to myself that I did something constructive. Laundry dishes and all those little things that build up when you work several days in a row and refuse to give them the attention they need.

There's always financial and economic chatter on the web. It's funny how one theme will be brought up in one area and spread to a dozen other sites each with a different viewpoint. Donna Freedman linked to some great sites and discussed a popular goal of many workers. She had a different viewpoint which I completely understand.

see her post here

It's the battle of the work yourself to the breaking point to collect a million versus the take it slower and enjoy the little things crowd. No, just kidding, there is no battle. We all have different lifestyles, philosophies, and circumstances.

The thing about today that was particularly interesting was the surprising moment when real life and virtual life collided. I had a pile of coupons to be clipped and sorted and a DVD, covered in a few layers of dust. It must have been a few months ago when I promised a friend I would watch it.

I've read one of Eckart Tolle's books but hadn't heard him speak before. Perhaps I wasn't in the mood or doing too much while I was listening. My night went like this for a while; clip a few coupons, zone out, snooze for a few minutes, then repeat. That is until I heard this:

"After ten years of struggle and stress and negativity finally you become a millionaire. Finally you've made it. It's pointless, you've been unhappy for ten years, you'll continue to be unhappy even with your millions and in the process of making your millions you've made many other people unhappy. And that's called success." From "Finding Your Life's Purpose" by Eckhart Tolle.

I'll stick with my simple pursuit of happiness while being as financially responsible as possible life. At this stage in the game it would be too much of a mad dash to the end to chase that much money. I'm not saying I would rather sleep on the beach and eat out of trash cans, it's just that I can live on a lot less than that and still reach happiness. Even today, washing dishes, talking with my children on the phone, clipping coupons, a simple dinner of beans and cornbread with my husband....I was happy.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How Much is Enough?

During my virtual stroll the other day I came upon a post by Len Penzo that has stuck in my mind. I tried to create a link here, but my skills are lacking and I'm running out of time before I have to go to work. Please forgive me. You'll just have to go to and read the original titled "If you can't live on $40,000 per year it's your own fault."

This article had me pondering the many levels of poverty in our world. What may be unbearable poverty to one may be living well to another. I am one of the working poor. While my living conditions would not be ideal to many, I am surviving. I see others on the same wages struggling in much worse conditions than mine. On the other side, it would be horrifying for many people making above $100,000 to survive on what I make per year.

Surely, I do have empathy for the struggle of the newly poor this economy has created. I know what it is to be on a tightened budget. I must admit, I don't fully understand the people who refuse to be anything but their former job title, turning down work they feel is beneath them. This thinking reminds me of the few Wife Swap shows I saw where they traded a wealthy, shop every day woman for a woman who worked low paying jobs or ran a family farm. That was culture shock for them.

For those of us with open minds, those that can picture ourselves in other situations and wonder "What would it be like if....?" I have a question for you. How much do you need to just scrape by? And, what is your magic number, the salary that would leave you comfortable and set and make you feel as if you had truly made it?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I'm Visiting Today

I wrote a guest post today over at Food Stamps Cooking Club. Before I describe the site I'll tell you how I stumbled upon it.

When I first started this endeavor I was visited by another blogger who runs Monroe on a Budget a frugal living blog sponsored by the Monroe Evening News in Monroe Michigan. This may be a local blog but the news items and tips can be of help to anyone on a budget. The site is a very professional, well done and updated frequently.

Visit Monroe on a Budget

Along the side of Monroe on a Budget's blog there is an impressive long list of links. That's where I found a delightful blog written by Mother Connie that focuses on food, news, and healthy eating for those on really tight budgets. It is titled Food Stamps Cooking Club. I was deeply honored when she asked me to write a guest post, and that's where I am today.

Please visit Food Stamp Cooking Club.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fighting the Blahs

I wasn't expecting this severe an economic downturn in my own household so soon. We were coping with our current jobs and chipping away at our debt to the point that I could see it being gone within a few months. We had no idea my husbands hours would drop so severely. It really hit home recently when I put our checks in the bank. His was $37.00 for two weeks. Granted that will be the worst one since hours have picked up since those bad two weeks, but he is still scheduled for no more than twenty four hours.

I've gone in when others call out at work, so I've added a bit to my check. We have been super frugal in order to make ends meet. I bring lunches from home, and cook all of our meals from scratch. My husband doesn't need to bring a lunch as he is only scheduled for three hours a day. We do not go shopping much normally but now we don't go at all. Even groceries are really thought about now. I make sure the bills are payed before I buy juice and popcorn. Micro-frugality is practiced where I plan out each little expenditure.

We still enjoy one anothers company, read, and well we obviously still have all the American basics electricity, Internet, a car... We will survive. I'm glad we have these skills that enable us to live normally when our income has been so damaged. My husband was discouraged when he looked in the Sunday classifieds and there were no jobs. None that he qualified for anyway. Something will fall into place for us, it always does.

I was on the phone with a friend the other day who does make use of "the system" for medical reasons, plus she has children and honestly cannot work at this time. She asked me why I haven't applied for food stamps. I told her that my dad had gifted my husband and I with an IRA, plus I had a little savings. From my understanding you have to be rock bottom and have no savings at all. I once knew a woman who lost her job and became divorced and was very nearly homeless but was turned down because she had a newer vehicle. The social worker told her to sell her car (which she needed to find work!) and come back and reapply.

My friend seeing no other alternative said, "Can't you make that IRA disappear?" I gently explained to her that I'd rather be micro-frugal for a while until better opportunities show themselves. Programs are in place to help people who need it. The families that come to rely on assistance for generations must feel a sense of hopelessness and not see a way out of it. They may come to see it as a normal part of their permanent lives. I would turn to temporary help if needed, however, we're not there yet.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

An Increase in Crazy

I work in customer service. Wherever you are there will always be that one customer per month that goes berserk or starts cussing, or has a meltdown in the store. I've seen my share of unpleasant people. Usually there are no problems and just an occasional outburst every month or so. Here lately however, we are experiencing what I can only refer to as an increase in crazy.

There is a drunken woman who wears garden gloves and a child's cowboy hat that looks as it it's been run over a few times. She mutters to herself, and swings a cane around while she walks. She loves to buy various items and then return them. One day she threw her purse on the counter to rummage for her receipt and a roach crawled out of it. Two days later she returned two empty bug bombs and said they didn't work. Yes, empty! She had her receipt and the manager said to give it to her. Finally, on a different night someone told her "No." She was trying to return something with a receipt for a completely different item. She cussed at us and threatened us, and disturbed several others shopping at the time. The manager on duty said she hadn't abused us enough to be trespassed by the police.

We pay you to get sick. There's another lady that comes in and says I bought this sandwich meat, bread roll, roast, etc and I got sick after I ate it. We apologize and refund the money for the item. She then says, "I need to be compensated for getting sick. Who is going to pay me for being sick?" We call a manager and the manager gives the woman a free ten dollar gift card for our store so she can buy some more groceries and get sick again. Yes, she gets sick often.

Some people clean out their shelves at home and bring all their out of date products back to the store where they receive store credit. If I forget something on a back shelf I will throw it out. I guess they feel no embarrassment when they drag a bag of yellowed cereal boxes and roach encrusted cans back to the store. One man brought back a two liter of Pepsi from 1997. "I bought this here last week but I meant to get a diet Pepsi. Can I exchange it?" The manager said yes. The man very kindly offered to put it back on the shelf for me. No thank you. This will go right in the trash or perhaps a museum.

Other people will get angry because an employee doesn't smile enough. Some will tell a manager that the girl on register three didn't smile and was very unpleasant. Despite the fact that they may have been prompt with ringing the groceries, correct with the change, and courteous as well, their job may be in jeopardy because they failed to grin like a good corporate employee.

A few weeks ago I was working and an elderly gentleman approached me. He pointed at a coworker and said, "That girl down there, that little colored girl, does she work in this store."

"Why yes sir," I replied, "The nice woman helping out on register five? She's my manager."

"Humph." he said before shaking his head and stalking out. If only I could have spoken my mind with him, but I had to be a good little smiling corporate employee.

In months past we have had the occasional incident once a month or so. Here lately, every day has been crazy. We have had more than one person cussing out an employee per week. The service hasn't changed it must be something in the air. I wonder what tomorrow may bring. Sometimes I dream of a different life. Here lately I wish I trained to become a mortician. The customers would be so pleasant.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

And the Aged Shall Rise Up

We made a new acquaintance via our last yard sale. He had stopped by purchased an item and left us with his business card. He had a lawn service and did small engine repair as well. Since my husband is attempting to supplement his meager income with whatever odd jobs he can find until he finds better employment he wanted to get his weed eater repaired.

We had to drive to the neighborhood across the highway, not that far. The homes and properties are probably worth about double what they sell for in our neighborhood. The first thing I noticed was everything was for sale. He wasn't exactly having a yard sale but he had furniture, lawnmowers, exercise equipment, and his boat all lined up with price tags and a phone number displayed. We talked a while and learned that he hurt his back and wasn't running a business any more. His wife had a job making four times what I make until she was laid off two years ago. He said she is about to run out of unemployment and is having difficulty finding a job because of her size and her age of 56.

It was like a meeting of the truly poor and the newly poor. They had been in a much better position than us before the collapse. They may have been overextended in their spending but they hadn't imagined a time when the work would stop coming in.

He told us his wife has been job hunting a long time. She has applied and interviewed and followed up in many places. He said the most frustrating aspect of this is when she goes back to the place she interviewed at to see their new 20 year old employee. He said there aren't as many jobs and from what he has witnessed more jobs are going to the younger generation.

We all need employment, young and old. I'm not agreeing that one should be hired over the other. Myself? In the past I could leave one job walk two doors down and have another the following day. I have never had a problem finding work. I have management experience and interview well. There are very few opportunities at this time. It's rough.

I applied at another company a while back on the recommendation of a regular customer of mine who works there. She gave me a glowing reference, I introduced myself and shook hands with the manager. He said as soon as a position became available he would call me in for an interview. I knew it could take some time. I found out recently he hired a 17 year old and I never even got an interview. Since then I've noticed several places that have said they aren't hiring will be training new people a week or two later all under the age of 24. It's frustrating. I am surprised to have less opportunities based on my age. I thought I was still fairly young.

I keep reading scare stories of how we will have to work until we are 70 to collect social security. Where? Just where are all of us going to find work? I wonder if we are coming to a day when aged gangs will start robbing banks and become cult heroes like the outlaws of the 1930's?

"Can you describe the robbers?" asks the detective.

"I don't know," says the terrified bank teller, "It all happened so fast. A couple of grey haired men came in with guns and started shouting orders and the next thing I knew I was tossing the money into a large sack attached to an old ladies walker. After she hobbled out to the get-away-car they ran out and were gone."

Another scenario is to lower the retirement age to 40. Hey, I can dream can't I.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hard Times in Modern Day

My mother must have driven home the saying that "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," because I've been silent an entire month. Times have been rough but I have been through worse. The bad part is it hasn't improved yet.

My husband should be home soon. He figured his hours up and he will have twelve hours tonight when he clocks out. This being the last day of the pay week means he will have a lovely check with five hours for one week and twelve for another. I can't wait to pay the bills with that.

We look for jobs here and elsewhere. Elsewhere hires occasionally but here never does. We may just end up traveling to elsewhere.

Ironically, as I was writing this my husband came home with his schedule for next week. He got his six days back.....with THREE HOURS each day. See why I haven't written?