Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.
We interrupt this regularly-scheduled light-hearted blog to bring up a very serious topic. Things are not looking good. My nest egg is drying up. The nest egg that I so lovingly nurtured for the last five years is on its last leg. And I honestly don’t know what to do.
I’ve been putting emergency money away for years. I was always the “annoying” one who said to friends, “no — I can’t go to that movie, I’m trying to save money” or “let’s get a six pack and watch a movie, it’s cheaper than happy hour.” I did everything by the book — and saved up enough to get me through a lot of my underemployment crisis. I had enough for my expenses. But seeing as the unemployment rate is still at 9.7%, it doesn’t look like any of us will be seeing any kind of reprieve any time soon.
I quit smoking. That was the first vice to go. I had been smoking two packs a day — that’s $20 a day X 7 days. A whopping $560 a month. I don’t know where I even got the money. I didn’t beg, borrow or steal, but any addict will tell you that when you need your “fix” you figure out a way to pay for it. It seemed like I always had enough for cigarettes. I would sometimes opt to smoke instead of eat. I ended up going to an 8-week quit smoking workshop and quit for good. Thank god.
The next thing to go was my eating out habit. And ordering in. I’ve learned to cook — a little — as much as it scares some of my friends. I’ve learned to make chili, which is pretty horrible-tasting, but it lasts five days and is a good protein-jolt. Next cooking hurdle: chicken breasts. Be afraid. Be VERY afraid. If I invite you over to dinner, I suggest you run. Far.
The next thing to go when you’re unemployed is the Starbucks habit. I figure I used to spend about $40/week on coffee out. Now, I brew my own (Cafe Bustelo is cheap and pretty good) and carry around a thermos.
I’ve found a few happy hour and brunch bargains in the city. And I’ve hit up just about every 2-for-1 happy hour in the five boroughs. And with some keen investigative work, Sunday brunches can be found for $11.00, with all you can drink mimosas between certain hours. Thank god for cheap eats.
Gristedes — my neighborhood supermarket — puts out quite a spread at the deli counter at about 5pm. Turkey cubes, cheese, mini cupcakes. I try to do my shopping around then and sample some of their fine deli cuisine.
Law & Order shoots in my neighborhood all the time. Which means tasty craft services tables full of delicious food. The tables are overflowing with croissants, individually-made omelettes, candy, bagels and cream cheese, and wraps. I’ve been known to help myself to this “free” fare — if you’re confident enough when you approach the table, no one questions you — they just think you’re a PA or something.
My landline may soon have to get the ax. I may need to get a roommate, which causes me a great deal of angst since I’ve had the luxury of living alone for seven years. I may have to move.
I need to go back to dog walking. Maybe I’ll swallow my pride and see what Mr. Pibb and Mary — the dogs from hell — are up to. I’ve even thought about cleaning apartments and being a personal assistant. I’ve put ads up in my laundry room, but no nibbles. Yesterday I applied to be a tollbooth attendant. I really did. They make $14.75 an hour, not too shabby!