Sharing the load when you are unemployed

The hard work of being unemployed is trying figure out how to make non-existent money pay for things. Everything can be a problem, and even the basics can be hard to get.

The load of bills, expenses, and those wonderful nuisances where you really have to buy something whether you have the money or not is a quite unbelievable experience.

It's also sheer murder for your peace of mind.

Insecurity is a terrible thing. In this money-driven society, it's a burden which just gets worse, if you don't do something about it.

There are a few ways of dealing with it:

Shopping ahead.

Buy the things you know you'll need first, and enough so you won't have to buy them for a while.

Buy food that will store, and learn to cook for yourself, because it will cut your food bills drastically. Things like muesli, rice, UHT milk, canned food, freezer food and other things that have a good long shelf life are always relatively cheap, and the quality is pretty reliable. You can spice them up, add fruit and things to make them not be boring as a diet.

Buy good second hand or cheap clothes, preferably cotton, something that can be both cleaned and will last for a while. Make sure you can get decent shoes, don't buy anything with a worn heel.

Bill management.

See if you can reschedule your bills to times and periods where they're workable, and you don't get massive hits on your budget every quarter or so. Paying a bit monthly is often a lot easier, in fact we found that the people on the power and phone company inquiries lines paid their bills that way. It's good for phone bills, or you can get a bit cheap with your prepaid or phone cards.

All these things work. You can save money, and maybe even have some left over, with management.

Sharing the load

However- If you get a chance to share costs, do it.

You'll find you need every cent for something.

Money, in this sense, is playing for time. The further you can make it go, the more time you give yourself to get out of the situation.

Car pools, sharing rent, sharing any possible expense is saving you outlay. Money's hard to make, but much too easy to spend. On any kind of fixed, or non-existent, income, you have to have some reserves to cope with emergencies.

Even if a budget is able to use every cent properly, the risk of having nothing to spare for the inevitable extra problems is unacceptable. You need to have some options. Most unemployed people can't afford to do contingency planning. It really does make sense to share costs and get better deals, particularly for shopping.

Sharing loads, in any social situation, is really a question of relationships. That's not easy, either. You need to share with people who you can trust and who you can get along with without too many bruises.

You don't even have to actually live with people, although obviously sharing rent is a plus, and saves a lot of money. Think of it as a sort of self defence network, where you can pool limited resources and do more.

Sharing experience

There's another positive. You'll soon find, with anyone who's experienced the joys of unemployment before, they know how to do things under these circumstances. That experience is extremely valuable to those who don't know the story of unemployment.

Things like unemployment benefits, unemployment sickness benefits, and a range of bureaucratic nightmares are explained, and you at least have someone to ask who does know the answers.

You also have someone around who understands the horrors of unemployment as a new experience. Most people don't, or at any rate don't know the current version of suburbia's equivalent of hell. People who aren't going through it just don't get it, most of the time, even if they are genuinely sympathetic. You need some practical answers, from someone who knows the problems directly.

If you're young, you can usually fit in well with a group of friends, and it's not that much of a problem.

For older people, sharing isn't always that easy to do. With a lot more life experience, it can even go against the natural instinct to fight your own battles. The idea of having to depend on anyone else also often contradicts life experience which has shown why you need to be self reliant.

All due respect to those feelings, but winding up as a target for all the flak unemployment brings with it isn't really such a great move, overall.

You need your space and privacy, sure, but not the added problems. If at all possible, figure out some way of having the cake and eating it too. You need some defence mechanisms, and so do others. If it's bearable for you to share, then do it, on your own terms.

Self reliance is extremely important. It's a real survival skill. It's really an essential, for everybody.

Just don't overdo the motif, if you can share with others and don't have to worry about their reliability. You can minimize the risks of unreliable people by not over-committing yourself in the first place. Play safe, by all means.

Sharing the load means taking the weight off yourself.

If you've been through the blender a few times, you know what that can mean. In theory it's fine, in practice it requires a bit of thought.

But do it, if you can. You shouldn't be lugging around any more problems than absolutely unavoidable.