Thursday, Apr. 16, 2009

The Unemployed Couple

Barbara, 46, and Kevin Lowe, 52, Grand Rapids, Mich.

The cell phones were canceled; so were all subscriptions and outside entertainment. We didn't go skiing this winter, and we won't be golfing over the summer. No more wine. We used our severance and some savings to pay off Kevin's 2008 Saturn and pay down the house. We debated whether to cancel the local newspaper, but in the end kept it for the Sunday coupons. We now eat every single item in the house until it's gone. If that means we have curly pasta and penne and spaghetti all mixed up, so be it. I have 101 ways to use half-eaten boxes of pasta. We're much more careful shopping — no more running in to get one or two things. We wait until we have a big list, and then buy only what's on that list — and at the local grocery warehouse, not the food boutique.

You'd be amazed at how you don't even know where your money goes. It took us a couple of months to get a firm handle on our expenses. There are some things you only pay a few times a year and you forget them, and then they crop up and you don't have $40 for the water bill or veterinarian. I distributed flyers around the neighborhood offering babysitting and elder-care services. I can take care of an infant for a few hours as well as any high school girl. I'm tired of waiting for someone else to offer me a job.

It's hard to invite people for dinner, so we don't accept many invitations. We went to the art show on the day tickets were discounted, and told friends we'd brown-bag our lunches. One of them said we could go to a cheap restaurant, but I can't. I'm not sure they really understand how it is. I know I didn't until it happened to me.

We are still confident something is going to come up. We have discovered we can live on a very small amount of money, but we need to find something with health insurance before our COBRA expires. We take turns having meltdowns.

See 25 people to blame for the financial crisis.