Since moving to the Bay Area in October without a job, I’ve basically heard two different reactions from people: “Wow…you’re brave.” And, “Well that was dumb.” I’m convinced that both reactions mean the same thing, but I have no regrets! Although it’s been almost four months and I still don’t have a job, I’ve managed to make my savings last. In this article, I shall share my secrets with you. The first step is to have some savings. The more the better, if you can believe it! The amount you’ll need depends on where you’re moving, if you have a place to stay for free or not, and what your plans are as far as finding work is concerned.
Temp While You Look
Are you open to doing temp work until you find your dream job? If so, you can obviously get away with having less money to start with. But if you like to attack the job search like it’s your job, you may decide that you don’t want to waste your precious energy and time on mind-numbing tasks. In this case, you will need more mula.
Stay with Friends
Rent is a huge money drainer. If you know anyone in the city where you’ve moved, reach out to them and ask if you can stay there for any amount of time. It can be a difficult thing to do, but totally worth it. Whether it’s just a few days while you look for something else, a few weeks, or even months, if you’re really lucky your connections can help you save some serious dough.
Find Cheap/Free Extra-curriculars
Listen. You have a life. And if you don’t, you need one. Just because you’re unemployed doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to take care of yourself and your needs and enjoy your hobbies. Do you love to make pottery? Do improv? Practice yoga? Play an instrument? These can be expensive hobbies to keep up, but you can also probably do them for free. Many places that offer classes for adults also have work/study programs where you volunteer your time to help out every week in exchange for free classes. Ask about it.
A social life is important and just because you’re not hitting the club or bar scene, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. There are cheap and free cultural and social events happening all over the place. Google “cheap events” with the name of your city and I guarantee you will find some great things to do where you can probably also meet people and save your pennies. Meetup.com is also a fabulous resource for finding fun events.
Volunteer for Fun and Contacts
This is less of a money-saving tip and more of a practical step towards landing a job – important to do when you’re trying to make your savings last. You know, because the less time you’re hanging out without a job, the less money you spend. Find an organization that you are passionate about and reach out to them to see if they’re looking for volunteers. Ideally, you can get some volunteer work that will beef up your resume with skills that’ll look good to potential employers – maybe even the very organization that’s taking you on as a volunteer!
BYOGroceries (and coffee)
Eating out truly adds up. These days, a meal out will cost you $10 at the very least. If you spend $20 on food per day, that’s $140 per week, and let’s be honest – some of the meals you’re buying are more than $10. You can get groceries that’ll last a week for $60, no problem (choose your grocery store wisely). Now would be a great time to learn how to cook if you don’t know how – it’s really just following directions. The internet is full of recipes. My favorite is epicurious.com. (Oh, and coffee. Beautiful, precious, delectable coffee. Make it at home. You can get a French press for $10. Treat yourself with a latte at the local coffee shop once or twice a week if it feeds your soul, like it does mine. More on treating yourself in a bit).
Do you go clubbing? Stop that. Clubbing is the worst thing you could possibly do right now. I don’t care how old you are or how cute your clubbing outfits are or how sweet your moves. Unless other people are paying your way, going out at night is a very quick way to drain your cash. Instead, consider hanging out at a friend’s place. Or at least avoid places that charge a cover.
Last Resort – Charge Things
At some point, the number in your bank account may fill you with fear and dread. This piece of advice might be controversial, and it is, of course, a personal choice that may be a better idea for some than others but there may come a point where it’ll be a good idea to start charging things. Just make sure you really up your frugality at this point and that you have a plan for paying off whatever debt you rack up soon. It’s important to always keep some cash in your checking account.
Boost Yourself with Little Treats
What you’re doing is hard. Trying to make your money last puts you in a position where you need to make tough decisions every day and deny yourself things that you want. Try to find little things to do to make yourself feel rich. Enjoy nature as much as you can. Spend some time and energy on making delicious meals and savor them. Connect with friends. Get some exercise. Find a creative outlet. And, yes – every once in a while – spend that money on something frivolous.