Thursday, October 18, 2007

No Cost Entertainment

Six Low Cost / No Cost Options

What do you do to entertain yourself without money?

This is a big issue for me. I have my two sons (nine and eleven) living with me half the week and keeping them entertained is always a big deal. Even when they are with their mother I still need to do something to keep myself occupied.

1. The Library
This is really a great resource. I use the library to keep up to date on the latest novels, non-fiction books of all types (though I'm partial to history). My local library district has branches all over town. The closest branch to me has family movie nights, community education classes, internet access, and kids story time, I can borrow dvds and cds as well as books. They also feature displays of really nice art work by local high school students.

2. Your children's school
Our elementary school has a variety of inexpensive sports and arts activities for the kids to take part in.

3. Exercise
Exercise is a topic on its own and I plan to cover it in depth in the near future, but if you do it right it is inexpensive entertainment. I think everyone should take a fifteen to thirty minute walk daily and a one to two hour walk on non-work days. Getting out and seeing the world is entertaining! And if you walk to the library you get two for the price of one!

4. Second-run movie theaters
We call these The Dollar Theater. They run movies that have been out for awhile. It's not as cheap as renting a dvd, but sometimes you have to get out of the house.

5. Renting dvds
Borrowing from the library is the best deal, but their selection is limited and in high demand. The dvd rental machines in McDonalds are a fair deal at a dollar a night -- just be sure to return the movie on time!

6. Broadcast television
I know it's supposed to waste your mind, but broadcast TV is free aside from the electricity you use to run the TV. I think I watch about 5 hours of TV a week and I do enjoy CSI.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Picking up extra work

One of the things I do to bring in extra cash is make myself available for extra work. What does that mean, you ask.

It means that I spread the word at the other restuarants in our chain that I'm available to cover shifts for other managers. This is only a good thing because I'm a shift leader who is paid by the hour. The salaried guys a step above me avoid covering for other stores.

The other thing I do is the marketing thing. This entails taking a stack of flyers around to businesses and schools and dropping them with receptionists or managers or whoever will listen.

Good practice for when I start to market the side business I'm working at starting.

This extra work is only good for an hour or two a week, but hey, it's something.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Eviction Day

No, not my eviction day. Really, truth be told, eviction day was probably last week sometime.

Today is the day that the guys who work at my complex empty out the apartments of the people who were evicted. Clothes, crappy assemble it yourself furniture, groceries all thrown down from the second and third floor apartments. The detritus of lives blown apart stacked around the dumpster outside the building.

Usually other residents sort through the crap looking for something they can use. The poor man's rummage sale.

It's funny. Nearly every day I see the guy from Comcast in the building -- connecting, disconnecting cable. The guy might as well have an office here.

I wonder how many of the people sleeping in their cars tonight made sure that they had cable the whole time they were here. How many drop $100 bucks a month on HBO and Showtime while they eat ramen every night.

This isn't the projects -- these apartments aren't nice enough to receive government subsidies -- but they are cheap.

I guess just not cheap enough.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

First Things First

I think there are two things required to get out of where I find myself now.

  1. Make more money.
  2. Control my spending.

Where to start?

Spending is the easiest and fastest thing for me to change. Or is it? To be honest I don't know how I spend my money most of the time. When I really think about it it's no wonder I'm always broke. I don't manage my money so much as I spend until it's gone. I can probably budget for my big, fixed expenses, but until I really understand how I spend the rest of my money how can I budget appropriately?

What I've decided to do is to track my spending over the next two weeks. I have a small pocket notebook that I plan to carry with me all the time. If I spend a cent I'll record it. This will hopefully understand where I'm spending money.

Monday, October 8, 2007

What to do when up is the only way to go

What good does it do to talk about how to buy a $200K+ house when you’re making $7 an hour? Not much.
Great question, eh? I'd started following Trent's Simple Dollar blog and found it to be a simple, sensible place to get financial advice and inspiration. If some of the blog's posts didn't seem particularly appropriate for me I ignored them and went on to topics that seemed closer to what I needed.

Then I saw the post linked in the first paragraph of this entry.

I felt like someone had hit me over the head with a club.

I don't make minimum wage, but I'm not making much more than minimum wage. In two days I'm going to be 48 years old. In the last five years I have lived through losing my job, my marriage, my home and suffered the consequences of a lifetime of making poor financial and lifestyle decisions. My financial choices right now are about simple survival.

I'm in the same position as Trent's commentor, Minimum Wage, but I think there is a way out and this is what this blog is about -- fighting up from the bottom. How did I get here and how can I get out? What can I do to help others get out as well?