During periods of recession and rumors of future economic downturns, American workers and families look for ways to survive financially. The following methods have been successful repeatedly in my life and career:
1. Apply conservation.
Resources become scarce during economic downturns, so conserving resources becomes primary. Reduce, Recycle, Reuse and Restore -- Use these 4 R's often, but allow yourself an occasional splurge. Walk when you would normally drive a few blocks -- and increase your health in the process. Go to public, post-secondary, and government libraries instead of buying magazines and newspapers; while you're there, update your resume and professional portfolio in free library-sponsored workshops.
You probably don't need three cable TV boxes with 400 channels, 2 Wii systems, four Xboxes, and lights on in every room of the house. Eliminate what you can and close off rooms you and your family use infrequently to save utility costs. Grow a produce garden and learn food canning and drying in free or low-cost classes at community learning centers, high school community workshops, Native American reservations, Mennonite communities and recreation centers in your area. Set priorities for such essentials as a standard menu and schedule luxuries as the extra seasoning.
2. Be proactive.
If you lose a job or have too many expenses, set out with determination to increase income and reduce expenses. Accept a second job or begin with part-time work, if that is what is available, and work two or three of these positions -- I have done this multiple times through recessions.
I knew a 17-year-old youth from a large single-parent family who worked two full-time fast-food jobs until his preschool-age siblings had enough food and child care and his Mom found full-time employment. The younger teens in the family also worked, but stayed in school. As the mother's income increased, the teens reduced their work hours, and the older son earned a GED and attended college.
Despite having multiple academic degrees, I was unemployed, long-term, in 2005 when my employment-and-training employer closed the business. After filing for unemployment benefits, I did not wait, but immediately registered with a temp service and accepted all assignments. I performed market research, prepared resumes and work portfolios, edited dissertations, reviewed films and books, found one-time gigs online, and began to build a larger Internet presence as an effective freelance writer. I also began to write on HubPages, which has become a source of income for me.
3. Create interaction.
American society began to fragment in the 20th century as advanced technologies allowed individuals greater self-sufficiency. Women no longer needed to marry to survive and men no longer needed wives to cook. However, 21st century college graduates and adult professionals in their 20s and 30s, bereft of finances, are moving back home with their parents. Banding together with family and neighbors helps everyone in any economic climate, whether it's planting a shared food garden, purchasing in bulk, sharing child care, networking for employment, starting new small businesses that bring jobs, bartering material goods and services or keeping an eye on one another's properties. These are examples of community building that need not result in a full-blown commune. In addition to physical communities, online communities are also effective, especially writing communities that produce income.
4. Discover community resources.
One Midwestern town maintains a large bulletin board in the foyer of the main branch of its public library. The board is attractive, easy to use and provides information on all of the local education, employment and social services. It also includes directions to the Greyhound Bus Station and the phone numbers of hotlines for runaway teens, individuals contemplating suicide, and victims of domestic abuse. Few cities or towns have such a complete directory, even on Internet sites. Yet when you are looking for jobs these interactions are key networking opportunities. If you need help and cannot find it, then you can research resources in your community and build a list or directory to share with others. Where to find these resources? Look for venues like these:
- Community bulletin boards - coffee shops, laundromats, universities, etc.
- Online - job boards, helping organizations, writer's communities, etc.
- Public service announcements - radio, television, the Internet and other media.
- Telephone directories - both hard copy and online; libraries should have both. Check white pages for government listings that can help and Yellow Pages under "Organizations."
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