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Stuff I will miss when I’m poor

It takes a lot of money to live in NJ.  I’m talking about mortgages, property taxes and food.  That right there will zap your unemployment check.  I take that back.  You can’t pay for your mortgage *and* eat on an unemployment check.  Even with a regular paycheck, it was hard to justify spending money on expensive vacations and I usually run my cars into the ground before I replace them.  Clothes were never a big issue with me because in this country, women are allowed to be skinny, plump, morbidly obese or petite, but they’re NOT allowed to be tall.  So few stores and designers accomodate my 5’9.5″ height (without making me pay a premium for a few extra inches of hem on very limited selection of super boring and unstylish clothing items) that I’ve learned to loathe clothes shopping.  You can be a size 16 and never pay a nickel more than a size 2 regardless of the extra fabric.  But ask for a dress where the waist cinches your waist and not your bust if you’re tall?  Impossible to get at any price.  How fair is that??  I guess if I were a nice size 5’4.5″  woman who looks good in anything, passing up new clothes might be a real hardship.  I might even enjoy shopping.  Since the American apparel industry has seen fit to thwart me all my life, this is not an issue for me.  But I digress.

So, while I have some money stashed away to keep me from involuntary anorexia, cuts will be made in the next month.  Politicians should keep this in mind when they put unemployment on the backburner or don’t give solving it their best effort. And I don’t mean just for fricking construction workers.  All I ever hear about is how some damn construction worker is going to get a job building a transcontinental automobile transportation thingy.  We’re not all construction workers, guys. In fact, we’re not all GUYS. Hello?!, Can we say gender discrimination in proposed jobs programs?  This Lesser Depression is hitting the sciences pretty hard, despite what the BLS is telling you (They’re about 5 years behind on their job category projections in the sciences).  You really can have a college degree and experience in a hard science and not be able to find a job.  And remember, I was one of those middle class people who was paying more in taxes last year than the yearly income required to keep a family of four above the poverty level.  Alabama might want to think about that before they let Jeff Sessions go on an idiot rant about the deficit.

To be cut:

1.) Dish Network– It’s ridiculously expensive given the fact that I only watch the premium channels.  Dish doesn’t offer a Premium only package, ala cart purchases are still not on the horizon and, frankly, I’m getting disgusted with having to subsidize the forty channels of ESPN and sports that I never watch, along with QVC, Lifetime, Oxygen and a lot of reality TV crap.  I never watch network or cable news anymore.  DeGrassi we can watch on Hulu.  I have an Apple TV and a subscription to Netflix.  I’ve called Dish about rejiggering the lineup but all they suggest is taking away the things I actually like to watch while leaving me with the stuff I consider garbage.  Besides, they announced recently that they are going for a more upscale clientele, which I no longer am. So bye-bye Dish.

2.) Dune perfume.  I ran out of my last bottle some time during the summer.  Worn it for years.  It’s my signature fragrance.  Perfume is bloody expensive but I love it.  I will continue to finagle teensy little samples of new perfumes from the Bloomingdales perfume counter.

3.) Clinque, MAC, Chanel makeup.  I shall have to make due with Revlon and tread carefully to avoid aggravating my sensitive skin.

4.) Haircuts.  There’s only one salon in my area that does it right.  They charge a small fortune.  I already go to them only once a year and get maintenance haircuts from a local salon I like less.  Oh, well.  Never had a pedicure.  Have had manicures twice in my life.  Won’t be missed.  But the hair thing might be a problem if I have to do interviews.

5.) Stopping by Wegman’s on a Sunday afternoon.  I used to love to do this.  I’d wander the aisles and sample the searing station and the cheeses, check out the fresh fish and seasonal produce.  An hour later, I’d have something incredibly delicious for dinner with a nice bottle of wine.  Not anymore.

6.) Eating out.  Anywhere.  Clearly, this has got to stop.

7.) Movies.  If it’s not on Netflix or iTunes, we will wait until it is.

8.) Pottery Barn, West Elm, Bed, Bath and Beyond, {insert furniture or home goods store here}.  If it can’t be found on Craigslist, in the free stuff category, we will pass.

9.) Home Depot, Lowes, {insert home improvement store here}.  I finished my kitchen so most of my home’s most expensive features have been replaced or finished in the past five years.  Yeah, I think crown molding would look nice on the soffit.  Too bad for me.  The bathrooms are the only rooms that still need some TLC.  Now that I know how to replace faucets and rewire appliances, I can do most of this stuff inexpensively.  Will consult craigslist for necessary items.

10.) Audible, iTunes, the iPad Apps store, Amazon.  These are dangerous habits.  You think, “Oh, it’s only 5 Beatles songs”, or “That looks like an interesting book and I could have it on my iPad in 15 seconds!”.  Before you know it, you’ve blown through half an unemployment check with stupid money sucking novels.  So, that’s out.  Will consult my bookshelf and the Gutenberg project.

11.) The Apple Store.  That place is like catnip for geeks.  It’s hard to pass it by and not bop in for *something*.  I like gadgets.  I am a gadget queen.  The BFF and I are very competitive gadget people.  My toys have to be neater and faster and more innovative than his.  The kid really does need a new computer so I might scrape together funds to get her a Macbook Air (before you PC people jump down my throat about cheaper PCs, save your breath.  I never liked PCs, don’t like Windows and don’t like the idea of troubleshooting and shelling out money for new anti-virus packages when I get infected. Been there, done that.  I’m sticking with apple.  And if the sucker has a problem, I can take it to the apple store to be seen by a genius where I will be able to sniff the gadgets.  I have to draw a line in the sand.  I will be poor but you can’t make me use a PC)

12.) Starbucks Verona roast coffee beans.  I shall make due with Columbian from the grocery store.

13.) Ikea.  Very addicting, especially the bottom floor.  There are so many cool little things that I never knew I needed until those diabolical Swedish merchandizing geniuses place it in an attractive setting where I can’t help but see it.  The Ikea designers seem so innocent with their sing-song voices and “Ha-dor!” bye-byes and non-judgmental, friendly, socialism-lite, sunny optimism but they are really just evil capitalists in disguise pushing clever furniture crack. Warning: Lack and Malm are gateway series.  Before you know it, you’ll be mainlining Isala and Hemnes and hanging out at Ikea Hack sites (I only tried it once) and you’ll need an intervention.  Still, if I have the extra money, I will go out of my way to get an almondy torte because the kid really likes them and even poor people need treats once in awhile.

14.) Gas.  It costs a lot.  We will be saving it for excursions where we can do a lot of errand running at one time and run a “travelling salesman” calculation to optimize every mile.

15.) Electricity and Gas.  I will become fanatic about shutting off every light and appliance that doesn’t need to be on.  I will be using solar battery lamps when it gets dark.  We will learn to live with lots of sweaters and cosy footwear.   The cockatiel will get a special blanky for his cage.  The programmable thermostat will be strictly monitored.  Violators will be prosecuted.

16.) Christmas.  It will be a very scaled back buying season.  Imagine the March sisters in Little Women.  Might go for a Charlie Brown tree instead of the 8 ft Douglas fir.  Or scour craigslist for an artificial tree if half of NJ hasn’t beaten me to it.

17.) The liquor store.  No more wine for dinner.  No more spur of the moment purchases of the latest boutique brewery seasonal batch.

18.) NJ Transit train to NYC.  At $28/person round trip and no discount for off-peak hours anymore, the kid and I would be spending $56 to take a slow train ride on the Raritan Valley Line, which doesn’t come frequently, with a transfer at Newark to NYC.  I could just park in Newark and take the PATH.  That’s the way I’ve been doing it in the last couple of years.  But the return trip on the PATH goes through Hoboken and then back to Newark.  It’s the most stupid, half assed system. In other words, NY and NJ have not really found an affordable, efficient option for daytrippers to the City.  Or they have found options but they refuse to go ahead with plans to implement them due to ideological reasons.  I love mass transit but not enough to spend $56.  So, the City is out.  That would also mean there’s no reason to maintain my Metropolitan Museum of Art family membership, where the kid took 7 weeks of drawing lessons for a bahgain, or the MOMA membership.  Broadway is completely out of the question.  Seats for a play are outrageous and even when I could afford them, I ended up sitting on the sides in the balcony.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a decent seat in the orchestra at a Broadway play.  At $300-400 a seat, I just figure those are for the rich, even middle class people need not apply.  Poor people can forget it.  Ditto with ballets and operas at Lincoln Center.  Loved it when I could afford to go, even in the nosebleed sections.  Must live without it now.  There are some nice local theatres, especially in Princeton.  So, we’ll go on very special occasions.

That’s just off the top of my head.  I will pinch every penny until my fingers bleed.  The piano teacher is a bit of a dilema.  The kid enjoys her lessons and even piano teachers need to eat.  We will see how it goes.  If the COBRA subsidy is reinstated, I *might* be able to fit in a lesson or two a month.  Even that will be stretching it.

It all adds up.  Multiply this by millions of people all across the country.  No money going to the IRS, no money going to merchants, no money to splurge a bit.  Just no money- period.

Thank you Republicans and President Obama.

One other thing: Number One child is auditioning this week for something special.  Keep your fingers crossed.  I will update with more specific information if she makes it.

66 Responses

  1. Ikea is massively overstimulating. Going to Ikea is like going to a ball game, except that at a ballgame everyone is moving in one direction (towards the stands, towards the lot, towards the beer) whereas at Ikea everyone is moving in all directions at once, like molecules of gas. This is pure sensory overload for me. Once after an afternoon of nit-picking comparison shopping with my son’s father I had a screaming meltdown in the middle of rug department. After that I learned to limit my exposure to two hours max before retreating to the restaurant for a coffee and apple slice.

    I have my fingers crossed for your eldest. I join Joseph Cannon in urging you to write a book, or collect your essays in book form. I’ve been reading this blog addictlvey for three years not just for the daily pummelling of conventional wisdom (many blogs do that) but for the highly engaging quality of the writing.

    Thanks RD and I hope you think your way different to a new job.

    • Thanks for the kind words. I have no idea how to go about writing a book or getting one published. It sounds like it requires organization and I go to Ikea for my fix of organization.
      The place should be illegal.

      • About writing a book: Alex Haley had the same doubts when people encouraged him to write his first book. (The one about Malcolm X.) He didn’t know how to organize the thing. The task seemed too intimidating.

        Then someone told him to think of each chapter as a separate article. He DID know how to write an article.

        Everything clicked into place after that.

        You could write about how Obama became president. You’ve already done much of the work. In your case, an article — a chapter — could be completed every few days. Three months from now, you will have a salable manuscript.

        I’m not pushing you, but please consider the possibilities.

        Sounds like you’re making the transition from middle class to working class. That one is tough. I’ve done it. Eventually, you may have to make the move from working class to just plain POOR. That’ll be tougher.

        The idea of Netflix will seem laughably luxurious. You won’t have to meet a house note because you won’t be living in that house any more. You may even have to learn how to run a blog without an internet connection. I’ve done it.

        About your entertainment needs: Bittorrent. (During times when you DO have internet.) It’s justifiable for the poor. Ignore the pangs of conscience and ignore the wagging of fingers. Learn how to use proxies to watch the BBC. Hulu and other online venues can help.

        Demonoid is for classical music thieves — a very civilized bunch, you’ll find. Sort of like Raffles. Or Chaplinesque hoboes who still appreciate the finer things.

        There will be days when all you will have to eat will be rice and beans, or ghastly boxed mac and cheese. (The generic kind; Kraft is for swankpots.) When you eat “poor food,” just keep telling yourself that the day will come when you will eat well again.

        A roast chicken can be the best friend you’ll ever have. Get one on special if possible. For an investment of five bucks, you and your daughter and your dog (if you have one) will eat well for days. The secret is to set the oven at 210 or so and let the thing cook for eight hours until the meat is so tender you can slice it just by giving it a hard stare. Serve with mashed potatoes the first night. It’s a simple dish, fit for royalty. Next night: Chicken tacos. Third night: Pasta — with Alfredo sauce if possible. (WalMart sells the stuff in jars for a low price, and it is almost edible.) But don’t stop there. The bones make good soup stock. Include any stray bits of meat you can find, add some onion, use instant mashed potatoes to thicken, maybe some brocolli. Trust me: This is actually GOOD.

        Oh. You know that awful looking grocery store in the dodgy part of town that kind of smells funny but they tend to have good prices on meat and veggies? GO THERE. An onion is an onion is an onion. A chicken is a chicken is a chicken.

        ALWAYS look for specials. You found a can of corn for 75 cents? Try to find one for 50 cents.

        Somewhere after your fourth or fifth box of off-brand Mac and cheese, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t take up my suggestion to write a book.

        • I forgot to add — for your furnishing needs: Craigslist freebies and what Homer Simpson called “Crappenfest.” I’ve decorated an entire apartment in this fashion, and the results looked downright elegant. You’ll have to do some paintin’ and fixin’, of course.

          Thrift stores. The first few visits, tell yourself that you’re looking for ironic fun retro items. After you get over the initial embarrassment, your attitude will be “Screw irony. I just need a raincoat for under ten bucks.”

          • Lol! You are full of helpful suggestions. I totally agree about the chicken. You can’t find a better bargain. I’ve also found that high end supermarkets sell meat in bulk at phenomenal prices. Just take it home and divide it up. There is a kinda dodgy produce store in town that I was planning to visit more often. And I’m already on the lookout for second hand clothes and household goods. My mom is a ace 2nd Hand shopper. Good thing the kid is into vintage.

  2. Nice post. I’d add dental work and health insurance to the list, but hopefully you’ll get work before that point.

    • I’ll be on COBRA starting next month. That will eat up about half of what the state of NJ gives me as unemployment insurance. But gotta do it or the kid has no insurance coverage at all. Can’t have that.

  3. During a low-income period (as self-employed I didn’t get unemployment checks), I switched from Clinique to cosmetic products that didn’t have the parabens and other items not allowed in German products. There are many fine products available at health food stores that emphasize ingredients over packaging and advertising.

    Costco has great two-pound bags of coffee beans. Had to switch from my Peets weekly pound habit.

    Going mostly vegetarian has meant lower food bills and more energy. Minimizing sugar and choosing brown over the refined “whites” has me back to my high school weight effortlessly.

    • Great suggestions. The drugstore brands are getting better and there are quite a few reasonable substitutes. L’Oreal makes great lipsticks, Revlon has some nice foundations, NYX makes terrific eyeshadows. It’s just that I liked to spoil myself about once a month on something a little higher end. It’s silly, I know, but when you work as hard as I did for the past year or two, you start to feel like you’re entitled to something a little higher end.
      Already stashing away bags of beans for hearty soups this fall. Don’t like sugar anyway. Can’t remember when I bought a bag of sugar at the supermarket. I’ve never been to Costco but I’ve heard good things about it. I’ll check it out.

      • I hate to say this, but you could give up make-up. It’s just a scam to eat up your money anyway. I can just hear your wail of protest. Don’t worry, you won’t look “hideous.” I never wear the stuff and I look fine.
        I’m really sorry about your unemployment situation – I know what it’s like. It sucks, doesn’t it? I’m in even worse shape than you – I just got laid off from my job and I haven’t even worked long enough to collect unemployment. And I live in – cue horror music – New Jersey, and I won’t be able to pay my property taxes in November unless I get another job soon.

        • {{horror movie scream!!}}
          that’s really awful. I’m so sorry. NJ unemployment bennies are relatively generous but they still don’t pay the rent in nj. Really, it’s just barely adequate to keep your head above water while you go through your savings. Well, if you haven’t found anything by Thanksgiving, let me know. I’m going to get me a free turkey at the Shop Rite!

          Makeup, don’t know if I could go without it. I’m very fair. My dermatologist said my skin should never have left the mists of Ireland. Kinda too late to do anything about that 150 years after the fact. But she also told me that in addition to covering myself in sunblock 6.02X10^23 and to cover myself fully when I go from one shady spot to another, is that I should buy foundation to match my skin and reapply throughout the day. It’s ab extra barrier between UV rays and my fragile skin. So, I do. I like Clinique and Chanel but Revlon will have to do for awhile.

          • RD, I’ve got the same kind of skin since I’m a redhead too and I live in New Mexico.

            I use Neutrogena Healthy Skin compact makeup (SPF 55) on my face–where I can’t tolerate regular Neutrogena sunscreen–if I’m going to be outdoors for any length of time, but I never set foot outside no matter how briefly and even on cloudy days (we actually have 2-3 of those every year) without a wide-brimmed hat. And I do mean wide–5-6″ brim minimum. It really makes a difference.

      • It’s not silly — this is who we are/were as working women. Don’t go too low RD. Don’t. The low for me is 7 years and just now coming out, K? It may not be possible to keep old identity because of how crappy the job situation is here. New identity! but keep the splurge or you will go too low. Don’t. I don’t even wear the makeup much, but the kit, like reading Vogue is part of me for years and years.

  4. I still say put tariffs on everything not made in the US. Nobody will buy anything and the Corpracrooks will reopen the US factories. More people work, more people have money to buy your stuff….

    How can the Corps NOT know this? No workers = noone with money to buy your crap….

    But what do I know, I got a ‘B’ in Logic class…….

    • Owen, lol, I got an A in logic class. I think you must not have been working up to your promise because your logic is very very good.
      I have been saying the same thing for two decades at least and finally it has come to pass. The politicians are too owned to do anything about it even if they agreed with us. But politicians who agree with us are not allowed to win office or are shut up by being shunned and scorned with in their own party organizations. Politics and the media are in cahoots with each other to protect the rich and powerful.
      No third party candidate who wants to win will be any different since they would have to play the same game as everyone else. What is the answer? I do not know, short of riots, people all over the world seem to be powerless.

      • We NEED Mr. Smith!!!!!

      • Well, the Arabs have been doing something lately. It does seem like people in other countries can muster up the energy to leave their computers long enough to go outside and yell. Why can’t we do that?

        By the way, I totally agree that Riverdaughter should write a book. I will buy it in advance.

  5. CB, congrats on all the healthy things you did for yourself. Being a vegetarian would be very hard for me given my need for high protein and low carbs. I sometimes wonder how much better I could feel if I truly gave up all the crap I cheat with. It would certainly be less expensive to eat healthy all the time rather than part of the time.

  6. Most local libraries now have digital “borrowing” – the libraries here in Minneapolis (Hennepin County library system) have a free app called “Overdrive Media” – I just select the book I want to listen from the library website, download it to the Overdrive Media app on my hard drive and it auto-transfers via iTunes to my iPod. It is really easy… and free.

    During my morning run over the summer I have listened to both “In the Garden of the Beasts” by Erik Larson and “Area 51 An Uncensored History” by LA Times reporter Annie Jacobsen – good stuff (especially that crazy last chapter in Annie Jacobsen’s book 🙂 )

  7. RD, my sister just lost her cobra because she could no longer pay for it. I hope you find something before you hit that wall.

    • That will be months away. I’ll be ok probably til the end of the school year next year though money will be very tight. Not worried about foreclosure. That’s still a long way off. I won’t be forced to sell at a loss. I am a bit worried about my car. It didn’t pass inspection because of some (hopefully) minor issues. I do have a plan B.
      But I do think the advice we are given about saving at least 6 months of salary is a very good one. And when I do get another job, I am absolutely never, EVER, putting that money in a 401K. My goal from now on is to pay off my mortgage as quickly as possible. No more lending my money to some high stakes gambler that I can’t get back without paying a penalty when I really need it. That’s fricking crazy and I’m Surprised anybody under 55 was ever talked into doing something so economically suicidal. We should all have our heads examined.

      • I’m currently moonlighting as an apartment manager so, one day, I will be able to write a check for a house or a condo. My friends think I am insane. I don’t care.

        Outlet malls are wonderful.
        Thrift shops are wonderful.
        Going to craft fairs and establishing relationships with vendors is wonderful. I have gotten (in no particular order): free earrings, a free necklace, free lotion, free cakes of soap and a free scarf – all of which ended up on my gift shelf.
        Crafting is wonderful. When winter gets here, I’m thinking of taking a beading class so I can make presents for my friends and family.
        Gardening is wonderful. I think I’ve spent under $10.00 in vegetables this summer, even since my lettuce started to yield.

        GOOD LUCK!

  8. Totally unsolicited advice:

    Put together an ebook that compiles the best essays that you’ve written since the 2008 primary to now. Add an up-to-date preface. Put your blog address at the end of the book. Look, *you’ve already written it*. You already have a marketing platform with this blog. Price your ebook competitively ($4.99 or less). Amazon gives you a 70% royalty. They pay on time. They direct deposit. You will earn money. Not a fortune, but you will earn. I will buy your book.

    The Kindle publishing platform (kdp.amazon.com) is as easy as uploading a blog post and a photo.

    Your cover can be a simple jpeg image with font. Or ask Mr. Cannon to design your cover. I hear he has some artistic talent.

    No, it’s not a new career, and it won’t pay your mortgage, but it’s a monthly deposit into your bank account, and that’s always good.

    • Thanks for the advice. I will look into it. Anything to defray the costs of health insurance at this point would be great.

  9. TRUE Grant

    The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has awarded $25 million in Temporary Relief for Utility Expenses (TRUE) Program funding to the Affordable Housing Alliance (AHA). This one-time TRUE Grant assistance, administered by the AHA, is intended for low to middle income New Jersey residents who are struggling to pay their electric and natural gas bills. The maximum grant is $750 for electric and $750 for gas service, depending on your balance owed. Funds will be
    allocated on a first come, first serve basis.


    • Hey, thanks for that timely information. While I still have the means to pay for it, I will pass for some other New Jerseyan.
      Now, if you could tell me how I could get a break on my property taxes…

  10. Cutting back is never fun, so I wish you luck with it.

    We cut the dish/cable cord a couple of years ago and opted instead for an high-def antenna (yes, on our roof!). They aren’t cheap, but paid for itself with cancelled cable/dish bills in a few months. But even before we had that, we used a little high-def rabbit ears, didn’t work as well, but it worked fine. Add in Netflix and what’s available to stream for free and we basically get to see whatever we want, albeit sometimes late. We’re currently catching up on Breaking Bad, for example. We moved about a year ago and thought we’d re-connect to the cable/satellite system, but decided against it. It’s expensive and actually you can get almost the same content (my husband watches ESPN football on-line for free) elsewhere.

    Which brings me to libraries, already mentioned above, in addition to books, some of them also have fairly good and current DVDs and CDs. In addition to being cheap, it cuts down on clutter.

    Finally, check and see if there’s a Freecycle in your area. It can be a way to attain free building materials in addition to checking Craig’s List.

    Good luck and I hope you find employment soon. And, yes, it would be nice if we were governed by people who gave a crap about all of our well being and not just Goldman Sachs’.

  11. […] read Riverdaughter’s latest: Stuff I will miss when I’m poor It all adds up.  Multiply this by millions of people all across the country.  No money going to […]

  12. I cancelled my cable TV over 8 months ago. For 4 months prior to that I had received a bill that increased $12 each month. Their excuse was that they were pro-rating something. I’ve been in this apt for almost a year. What the sam hill could they be pro-rating after all that time. Their answer was bullschitt so I told them to stuff their cable TV.
    About a month later a friend gave me several links and I discovered that I could get everything on my computer that I had been paying $70 a month for. Check these out. Of course they are not as convenient as TV but they carry all the same programs streamed on your computer. You can’t use that remote and you have to watch a 30 second commerical each time you change channels and occasionally have to refresh.

    http://www.tvpc.com/ChannelList.php (This one lists programs from many countries including the U.S.)

    http://www.rentadrone.org/hln-live-stream-feed/ (All the cable news channels plus many others, Al Jeezera, France 24, etc.)

    http://www.justin.tv/directory/news (I haven’t check this one out yet. It looks like all kinds of pre-recorded programs)

  13. RD, I like the book idea. It would be a patriotic act. As a book your essays would more likely be referenced and may get a wider reading. You write incisively, passionately and often name names. Best wishes with it!

  14. Now to get downright silly: instead of buying CDs get a ukulele and learn to play it. Make new friends and enjoy hours of amusement. I’m only half-kidding.

    Back to serious: Do you have Trader Joes? It sounds all California trendy-pricey but Two-Buck Chuck will keep wine in your diet.

    • Surprise! We already have a ukulele. It’s the kid’s.
      I have heard rumors of a Trader Joe’s in NJ but have not actually seen it. Wegman’s carries some cheap tasty wines. I found one red called Snapdragon in my local liquor store that is fantastic. The problem is that I’m spoiled. I’m used to rich, buttery chardonnays and full bodied cabs. So, while I can easily switch to unknown vineyards that produce starter wines, my tastebuds aren’t fooled.

      • Allow me to introduce you to your new hobby: http://ukulelehunt.com/
        A friend and I played a rousing ukulele duet of “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago” for a roomful of French people. You can’t buy that kind of entertainment at any price.

        There are perfectly quaffable cheapo wines out there, so it sounds like you have a new domain of research. Be sure to invite other Confluencials over for R&D sessions.

  15. Damn, dishwasher finally hooked up, all joints Teflon taped to death, no leaks, ran through a rinse cycle all ticketyboo.
    The garbage disposal won’t start.
    I’ve checked the wiring and flipped every fuse. It is dead.

  16. RD, I have been reading your blog since the spring of 2008 and feel I have a friend your opinions,ideas and lovely way with words. My first vote was for Goerge McGovern and every Democrat since who ran for President. That changed on May 31,2008 . I never looked back and everyday I came to your site to read,to think but never to comment until today and “Stuff I will miss when I am poor”.

    My situation is slightly different. My husband lost his 6 figure salary and decided never to work again even though he is still a relatively young man,highly intelligent and exceptional in his chosen profession.The first year and a genrous severance didn’t seem all that different,but then it changed. It was quick and ugly. We have a second home which I never wanted, we can’t sell and is draining our savings. I work for a non-profit and my salary is what one would expect in that world. This year,I was transferred to an office where I had to drive rather than take public transportation.If I didn.t take this position,I would have lost my job and not been eligable for unemployment compensation. My husband was adament that we get a second car even though most days the original car sits in front of the house and we have doubled the insurance bill. The person who orchestrated my transfer has since quit her position; one in which I would have gladly accepted.For the past two years,I made the mistake of trying to “fix” things and see the other persons’ perspective. Day and Night, the last person I thought of was me. Physically,I look fine, but emotionally and mentally, I’m drained.

    I changed my spending habits and it became almost a game. What can I do without, where can I sustitute, do I really need this? I used to buy nice clothes and make-up. Now I search out consignment shops and use all the cosmetics I stock piled a few years ago. For health reasons, I stopped eating red meat,expensive take out and going to restaurants because I was too lazy to cook. It prepared me for my present situation. The only thing I refuse to give up is the quarterly trip to the hairdresser,although I stretch it to 4 months. I need to look presentable as my job entails working with the public. Amazon was my addiction. I love beautiful books, good music and films. Now I sell some of the books, CDs and DVDs and tell myself that I’m getting rid of “clutter”. No movies, theater,sporting events or concerts.The 4 cats still have the same quality of life ,but again, I worry should they get sick.

    I was hospitalized last year and was fortunate to have good health care benefits,but I worry constantly about what would happen if I lost my job. I’m too young for Medicare and want to work until I can receive the 100% I’m entitled to for Social Security. My husband is slightly younger than I, and seems not to care about any of the things that keep me up at night.

    I have gone over and over in my head why my husband refuses to see or understand our present situation and I can’t come up with any practical answers, only selfish ones on his part. Its’ one thing to lose you’re job and try (and want) to get another, its something entirely different to knowingly chose to face an uncertain financial future.

    • Oh, wow, I am so sorry. I have no idea why your husband isn’t worried but if the situation is getting as bad as you say, you may have to take over and make decisions without him for awhile. I’m sure you know that you can get your mortgage renegotiated on your second house if you go into bankruptcy. But why take a chance? Rent it our or sell it. Find a smaller primary house and sell the first. Make an appointment with the real-estate agent and then invite her to your home to meet your husband.
      It could be he’s in a daze. I still wake up not quite believing that I don’t have a job. It can knock you senseless for awhile. Make sure he gets out and reconnects with his friends. That helps a lot.

      • Senseless describes how I feel too. I’m jobless in a foreign country. Thanks for saying so, I feel less lame now.

        • Nope, you are not alone. We’re going to become ghosts of the middle class. Spirits that hang around the employed a little too long for them to feel comfortable.
          I force myself to go to the princeton science library a couple days a week to do my job searches and read literature and configure my Mac. It makes me feel a little more connected. It feels like a working environment. Do you have a place like that?

          • Unfortunately no. I am quite isolated here. There is a technical meeting in my field coming up though. So I’ll get out to that.

  17. Gee, I wish I still lived in Jersey, only a stone’s through where you are.
    I went to Vidal Sassoon in London back in the mid-80’s when I was thinking of owning a salon. I can still cut their way but have given up my license…I would cut your hair for free!!!!!

    Sigh….can’t do it over the phone…

  18. Sorry, that should be “a stone’s THROW.” My old brain seems to do things to the fingers that my receeding young brain doesn’t even know is happening!

    • Jeez, you should know by Now that I’m hardly a stickler when it comes to typos,
      Yes, I could use a good haircut right about now.

  19. RD: your comment over at Suburban Guerrilla gets the “Comment of the Week” award. Priceless.

    • I always appreciate a good Fu, er, rant.

      • I just got called a Nazi over there….I assume by an Obot who believes that we simply must elect whomever the DCCC wants. Not. Going. To. Happen.

        • I love Susie and I know she’s not an obot, though she can’t police every thread. But i do get concerned when she kinda sucks up to the creative class and distances herself from people the left doesn’t approve of. Last week on virtually speaking, she insulted practically my whole fsmily in one profession after another. It was kind of funny, actually. Every one of us has worked in a job or profession that doesn’t pass the lefty purity test. My dad was a highly trsined and well respected nuclear reactor maintenance specialist, I worked for big pharma, my brother is an army nut, and I have another relative that works in the health insurance industry. But I’m still a new deal liberal democrat in exile. Go figure. You’d think the left would stop insulting us but they just can’t help themselves. And that s a shame because there are a lot of american voters who work for corporations that the left does not like. They can’t help it. That’s how their business operates and how they make a living. It’s pointless to make them feel guilty or shameful about that. You don’t win people to your side that way.
          I’m particularly proud of my dad’s work. He was a rigorous nitpicker and was very good at what he did. I don’t think there was one day that he went into his site where he felt ashamed of the work he did. So, that was pretty tasteless. I wish she wouldn’t do that anymore. Same with me. I loved what I did and would do it again in a heartbeat. I only hope that my work makes it to the clinic someday. I will never be embarrassed about working for big pharma. After all, I wasn’t making the dumb decisions in the board rooms. My goal was not to make obscene gobs of money for myself or for shareholders to skim off the top to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else. All I wanted was an interesting career and a decent salary and for many years, I got that. I’m only sorry it had to end just when I was on to something. It feels very unfinished.

  20. Having to cut back can be very challenging but you can make a game out of by trying to see how much money you can save or where you can get the best deals. I don’t know if you know about couponmom.com but I use it as a kind of one stop shopping place. When my husband was out of work, yes, I went to three or four grocery stores but it was a full circle and I started left and ended up making the circle and coming back home. As far as make up, I save money by not wearing when I’m at home and not going outside etc. That saves a little bit. I’ve found Almay to be really good for sensitive skin too. The rest is really easy to give up because you can just simply avoid going to IKEA etc. until your financial situation changes. The worst thing for me was the surprises. As long as it was the basics like food, clothing and shelter that I was dealing with I could handle it. The problems for me came if a car had to be fixed. That could really mess up my budget.

    The unemployment here in GA was not enough to make the house payment or have food, pay the electricity bill etc. I tried to work with these SOB banks but I didn’t have much luck. It all ended up working out okay as my husband was only out of work for 2 months (I consider ourselves very lucky on that account even though we took a steep paycut).

    • Yep, basement flooding and rejected inspection of car. Didn’t really need that. The basement is looking much better. It’s still drying out but I think it will be ok. The car gives me the willies. No idea what to expect on that front. It’s a second hand pt cruiser and it’s hard to get parts. Could be minor but if it’s a lot….
      You really can’t do without a car around here. Thers’s no public transportation to speak of.

      • We have limited public transportation. I actually could have used it if I needed to but as it was I just consolidated all my errands and shopping into one day.

      • There are a lot of PT Cruisers out here. They made them for a decade. There should be loads of parts for them. They are built on another common car chassis made by Plymouth. You need to find a local garage that works on older cars, not the dealership garage. You should be able to keep that thing running for years yet. I have lived on the cheap for years. I never earned much above $25,000 and I retired a few years ago and bring in $1500 a month. I had 3 kids and got all thru college. Can you get CHIP for your kids? That will save you from having to insure them at such a high rate.
        I like that book idea for you. Put a donate button for your blog. I can’t give much but I always do a little. I enjoy your blog immensely and would be happy to throw a few in your pot. Glad to hear you got the dishwasher hooked up. I have installed several in my day… and disposals too and many things. It feels good to be self reliant. At this point I can fix or install most anything in a house. I re-plumbed a whole house a few years back. Not that complicated. Hang in there. Don’t put much money into your house. Sell it and look for a place cheaper…in PA or someplace. Low taxes in some place help. But take care of savings.

        • I appreciate your suggestion for a tip jar but if I took money for speaking my mind, I’d start to get nervous about, er, speaking my mind. Free speech has to be free to be any good. But that book thing does sound intriguing for the non-bloggy types.
          Don’t know about SCHIP. I think it will depend on what they consider my salary. It might not be low enough yet. Next year for sure.

  21. I appreciate your writing and hope your situation improves. However,
    many of the items you listed were always out of reach luxuries for my family and many others,

    • They used to be out of my reach as well. In the past several years, I finally got to the point where I could afford some of them. I hope you have that pleasure someday as well.

  22. Riverdaughter, I raised four kids as a single mom, got them all through college, owned my own home, and did it all by pinching pennies until Old Abe was reciting that old Gettysburg Address over and over and over again. Goodwill is your friend. Pick one or two near better neighborhoods, develop a regular routine, and you will be astounded at the bargains you find in everything from best sellers to unworn Coach black heels still in the box (one of my personal bests). My local store is always so full of the labels I wear to work – Talbots, Jones New York, liz claiborne – that I have never bought any of those labels retail, and the prices are so cheap that the trip to the dry cleaners after purchase still makes everything true bargains. Anyway, RD, will be thinking of you, just remember it’s like playing a game, but in your case, a game you can win.

  23. Beware, this link goes to TV Tropes, which can be rather addictive. 😉


  24. For those not already aware of this, commenter jjmtacoma has a great blog giving advice on Cheap Eats! at Corrente. Yummm … 😉

    • I second that nomination. I’m a frequent reader of jjmtacoma’s recipe blog. Very practical.

  25. Adding my vote for a book. Your voice and perspective is unique ….in that you can speak directly of the willful destruction of high level stateside THINKING…the R&D…as well as the manufacturing etc which indeed go hand in hand .

    I have recently become a covert to the eBook publishing revolution …look into that….into Amazon’s Kindel publishing …. A book that speaks truth to power will need that route imo and that route is daily gaining acceptance and respect.

    It’s soooo easy when compared to the brick and mortar way….
    I think partically a book about current events would be at a disadvantage with the usual publishing method as it takes well over a year.

    Exactly who does upper management of a chain like Bed, Bath and Forget it think will be buying their stuff?? I don’t mean to pick on them…but they are right in the now unnecessary buying zone that is as endangered as what was formerly known as the middle class….the dollar store , or super high end is where the money is

  26. A book, please.

    I understand your feelings about insults from the left. Some in the left (and right) insult lawyers all the time. There have been massive layoffs of attorneys in the US, with the jobs often going to India. These attorneys have at least two degrees, and like many scientists and engineers, are out of work and out of luck — some with a lot of college debt. So do they switch careers and if so, to what? Do they have to get yet another degree and pile on more debt to do so?

    And think of all the high tech jobs shutting down because of the loss of the shuttle program. Not only do we lack the knowledge and ability to go to the Moon — the US cannot even go to the space station now. And all those jobs were American jobs — the spending stayed here in the US.

    No one has a plan for getting highly skilled workers back to work, but their skills are the first to be outdated. It is all part of the destruction of the middle class. (Yes, most attorneys are in the middle class — rich partners are a small percentage of the group.)


  27. Yep, RD. Sends you a hug. The last seven years. How I kept sanity. #1 Ross. Just yesterday two BCBG sweaters. For your new kitchen — beautiful Portuguese baking dishes. $5.99. Don’t give up the perfume. At Christmas, buy a gift pkg, because less than Revlon. Last year, Lancome and Arden had the best ones. Will last all year. For market? For staples see if there is a Smart and Final near you. This is going to be the hardest part right now, for your identity. It has been for me. Think Kindle and self-pubbing a science book for kids? sends you the biggest hug I can muster. Always.


  28. RD, join me in place where you can write a book, K? November is national novel month at Nanowrimo. Will be totally fun, I promise.


    Check it out!

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