Unemployment Benefits Reduced; What To Do Now

Continue certifying for benefits; seek help with bills; and work on your budget. That’s the advice in this article by Lauren Schwahn of NerdWallet.com (published in today’s Daytona Beach News-Journal) on what to do now that the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits has expired.

I particularly want to emphasize item #3: Work on your budget. And I want to emphasize it in a deep, systemic way. As in, look at your life. Look at what you’d want to change about your work and your living circumstances (even if there were not a pandemic happening; even if you are not unemployed). And look at what costs you’d be willing to cut to make it happen.

Look at creating a home-based business, or a business with neighbors. One that’ll always be needed, come what may — pandemic, recession, or whatever else.

Who do you know that always has plenty of work; what kinds of goods or services are they offering? What are your talents, skills, interests? What’s needed in your community; are there needs currently under-served or completely unmet?

Find the intersection of those three questions. As you are working on paring your budget, you may well find a reciprocal relationship between budget and self-employment: Creating your own job can help reduce your overhead expenses radically. AND, radically reducing your overhead expenses can give you the leeway to create your own job and be able to make a viable living at it.

If you’re super thrifty and super determined, and good at setting your priorities and sticking to them, even a “boutique” business like making custom birthday candles can pay your bills! I just now made that up — “custom birthday candles” — but it does sound promising! People will set aside money to spend for a dear friend or family member’s gift even during hard economic times. In fact, as people cut consumption of mass-produced items, the one-of-a-kind item, from a real person they know, could become a hot commodity.

Other potentially robust ventures: tutoring (by Zoom or phone); edible landscaping; knife-sharpening; bicycle repair; mending; laundry service; custom letter-writing; mobile ice & beverage delivery.

Mobile service is especially a plus for repair businesses; I swear if someone near me doesn’t start a mobile knife-sharpening service, I may have to! And I don’t even know how! I am grateful that one of our best bicycle shops offers mobile repair service.

My household just sent out a huge filthy load of laundry to a local laundry service for the first time. We were delighted with the speed, cleanliness, and friendliness of the service. They zip around town in cute little vans, serving both commercial and residential customers. (For my Daytona Beach area readers, I’m talking about Midtown Laundry. Five Stars for their quality, and also for their social mission, which includes a “second chance” policy of employing people who have served time.)

This is going to sound insane or impossible to some, but if you take the advice in my book and on this blog, you can reduce your daily overhead expenses to such a low level that you can have the freedom to work at the occupation of your choice. It may not always be smooth sailing, but you might find you can accept a bit of instability as a tradeoff for your creative freedom. After all, a large percentage of the population is already dealing with economic instability, even before the pandemic, and even though they spent their lives making the societally defined “right” choices and coloring within the lines.

In addition to asking yourself what you truly want to do, also ask yourself where you truly want to live. With so many people out of work, or in precarious job situations, it’s a good time to really allow yourself to look deep. If there’s somewhere you’d rather be, explore how you might make it there. A lot of people who aren’t out of work, but are working from home, are suddenly realizing their geographic options have widened. Don’t be the person who wants to live by the ocean “someday.” Or in the mountains. Maybe it’s not so far-fetched to think you could live there now!

Lower your overhead; expand your options.