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Unfortunately, the economy has gone further South since my last article on surviving the depression. That means more and more of you are now out of work or have lost your businesses. A very bleak situation of course but even the most bleak of situations can and will eventually turn themselves around. So how do you survive in the meantime? Well, there are ways and I, of all people, should know because my husband is among the thousands who have lost their businesses. So let me share those ways with you.
Since my first article about the depression, our income went from $4,000 per month to $1,000 per month to $0 per month to $2,000 per month. Although $2,000 is better then $0 or even $1,000 for that matter it is still half of what we are used to making. That means half our bills cannot be paid and it means that unplanned expenses like sicknesses and car breakdowns are impossible to deal with. Seems like an impossible situation to be in right? Wrong, there are ways to get through relatively unscathed. Before I get to some new advice you will want to review the old advice because that is even more important now then it ever was before. Combine that advice with the new advice and you should come out unscathed. To do that go to
Ok, you have done all that Doc told you to but everything is getting worse, so what do you do now? The first thing to do after you loose a business or a job is to realize it is ok to grieve. Loosing a business that you worked so hard to build or a job you worked so hard to keep is like loosing a loved one. It will hurt and you will cry. Just know that it is ok to cry over it and to throw a few dishes at the wall in anger but you need to also know that you have to pull it together fast. The longer you fume and cry the longer you have to loose your perspective and fall into the common trap known as depression. Take a week to clear your head. Go for a walk, beat the doo doo out of a pillow, smash a few plates, use a fry pan on your driveway, scream at the top of your lungs…..whatever it takes for you to clear the mess out of your head. It is far better to get it out so you can move on then to carry it with you like a noose around your neck. Trust me, Doc has a lot of smashed pots and pans to prove it works! And if the neighbors ask just tell them you are crazy because, after the depression is all over with, that wont be far from the truth! Besides, if people think you are crazy they will leave you alone anyhow.
Now that you have spent a few days grieving, fuming, screaming or what have you it is time to get back onto your horse and see what you can do about the mess around you. Put things back into perspective if you will. First, look at your belongings. Can you live without that Kayak you haven’t taken onto the lake in 10 years? Do you really need a thousand dollar necklace to wear to the food bank pickup? Do you need that spare heater that isn’t even hooked up in the basement? The answer is most likely no. Just remember that luxury items, items you haven’t used in years and items you never intend on using can all become a source of income. Go to places such as Craig’s List and Ebay to check out what similar items are selling for and then become competitive. Is that kayak selling for $400 on average? Then price yours at $350 or best offer. Always go a tiny bit lower and offer the best offer option. There are people out there with money who want to take advantage of people in our situation so use them to your advantage. Turn the tables if you will. Hey, if you had the money who would you buy from? The guy at a solid $400 or you at $350 or best offer? Another thing to remember is to be flexible. If someone offers $300 don’t say, “Yeah right!!” You don’t have that luxury right now. Take the $300 and be darned grateful to be able to pay off a bill or two. I had a heater on Craig’s List for $350 and a man we know came forward with an offer of $250 cash. I don’t know about you but having $250 cash in my pocket and not some questionable check for $350 from a total stranger seemed too good to be true so I jumped on the deal and walked away fairly happy as did the buyer, a fire chief from Manchester.
Which brings me to my next piece of advice, which I have mentioned many times before to my readers. That would be to help each other. That fire chief risks his life every day to save our sorry backsides so why not lend him a hand up? Heck, why not lend anyone a hand up right now or at any time for that matter? I have a dear friend who is going through her own personnel hell right now with the depression but she still had the love in her heart to send food to Doc and her family. Food that was much needed at this point in our existence. You may say to me, “But Doc I have nothing to give my neighbor.” Frankly, I don’t want to hear it because I was just given food by a woman who can just barely feed herself right now. You may have almost nothing but that almost nothing can become something really big and really special really fast should you share it with another person who is also in need.
I am non-denominational, as most of my readers know, so what I am about to say should not offend my non-Christian readers because I mean no religious discrimination by it. I merely wish to make a valid point. For my Christian readers you will remember the tale, in the Bible, about how Jesus took a small amount of fish and bread and was able to feed humungous crowds with it? Well, that is not just a tale. It is extremely true for any religion and at any point in history. I saw a thing on TV where some church or another went to the landfills of Mexico to feed the homeless and poor who forage there for food. They brought very little food thinking only a handful of people would show up. Maybe enough to feed a few hundred or so people. When the final count came back for the number of people fed it numbered in the thousands! To this day that church has no clue, other then divine intervention, as to how that little tiny bit of food could have fed so many. In the end they packed up their van to head home. What was inside the van you may ask? Tons of leftovers which they gave away the very next day to thousands more needy individuals. Still don’t believe me? Well, it has happened to Doc. I have had times where I wondered just how my family would survive. No sooner has that thought crossed my mind and I suddenly have more food then I know what to do with. I cannot explain it and nor do I want to. All I know is that giving to others freely, even when you have nothing to give, can really bless all of you, no matter your religion.
That brings me to another point, forget religious and racial discrimination. What has it gained mankind all these thousands of years anyhow? Pain, heartache, war, depression……………I could go on with the list forever. Instead of discrimination why not practice love? If your Jewish, just forget it, give to and help your Christian neighbors regardless. And if you are Christian give to and help your Jewish neighbor. Right now is not the time to worry about whether Jesus has come or is gone or if he even exists. Now is the time to worry about doing what is right by your fellow man. Something all religions teach us to do. So what if the man in the gutter is a different color then you. Fish him out and help him back to his feet. Wouldn’t you want him to do the same for you or your children? If you are white and a black hand reaches down to pull you up are you just going to refuse to be helped? That would be shear stupidity. So grab onto whomever is willing to help you and hang onto them, no matter what they look like or think like because that is a true friend and a true angel.
So you have sold all your unnecessary belongings and are banning together with your neighbors, now what? Now you can start bartering for what you need with all your new found friends or you can go to Craig’s List to barter with strangers who can become friends. Networking by reaching out to others is key here. Show you are a good friend and reliable to barter with. Soon you will have a lot of people requesting your help. In turn you will get their help. Can’t fix your own car but know how to paint a house? Find a mechanic who will get your car back on the road in return for a much needed coat of paint on his house. You know what you can do and you know what you have so share it. Your mother would be very proud of you. Not to mention how proud you will be when you have nothing to claim on taxes at the end of the year but have your bills in order and a well maintained car and house to boot. There is no better feeling then knowing that you are going to make it even without money. Money is more unnecessary then you will ever know.
Now you are starting to get somewhere and this is starting to get a bit exciting, so what next? Take it to the next extreme and do what your grandparents did in the great depression of the 1930s. Grow your own food or even start a community garden that you and your neighbors work together. Grow easy to can or freeze items such as cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, beans and peas, although peas never make it out of our garden alive due to my foraging kids. Keep in mind that you have to spend a little money to make a little money so be prepared to buy or barter for a huge upright freezer, seeds, canning jars, manure and a canning/freezing recipe book such as “Putting Food By”, which is my personnel favorite. Check the discount section of Sears or Home Depot for bargains on freezers. I got my huge $750 freezer on clearance at Sears for only $550. Also check Craig’s List for used freezers and canning jars. Canning jars can also be found cheap at places such as Blue Moon Salvage in Rumney New Hampshire or at local yard sales and thrift shops. Check your local dollar and/or discount stores for seeds and a local dairy, chicken or horse farmer for manure. Manure is often given away for free or for a few dollars a truckload. Of course you have to provide the truck. If you are really brave, you can start your own chicken farm by taking my advice in
This will give you what you need to put some fresh eggs onto the table and fresh manure into the garden. But before you dump the manure onto the garden you will need to know a few things about manure first. And I don’t mean where it comes from because I assume that you already know that! What I am talking about is how best to use it. Before you begin planting your seedlings you will want to put a layer of manure down onto the patch of earth that is to become a garden, making sure you have a good 1″ thick. Now you can till the manure into the soil for an even mix of manure and soil. Plant your seedlings as usual then follow with a monthly shot of manure tea. Yes, you heard me right, manure tea. In a large oil barrel mix ¾ barrel pre-collected rain water with ¼ barrel manure. Let this set to form a tea of sorts. Now you can water your plants once a month with this concoction and watch in amazement as they begin growing out of control.
Ok, say you have tried everything but you still have way too many bills and way too little cash on hand, what then? In this situation there are many options. To weigh which one is right for you, you will need to sit down and create a budget. Do this by gathering up all of your bills into one pile. Now create a list, as you see in the example to the left. This is where the soul searching comes in. What is your current income and how does it compare to your list? Is it way off of the mark like Doc’s is? Then you may need to consider bankruptcy, or if you can find one, a job. Is it slightly off but not too hair raising? Then it is time to do some financial maneuvering. But, no matter how badly off the budget is, the first step to reigning it in would be to do a little shaving. Start with the basics. Can you get food from a food bank, from welfare or from WIC? If so do it no matter how embarrassing it may seem. That will slim down the food budget a bit. Can you get heating assistance and/or free health insurance for you and/or the kids? Go for it. You will be surprised how much this will cut down the monthly bills. Still not a manageable budget? Keep slashing then. Do you really need 3 cell phones? Can you turn off certain appliances without sacrificing your daily routine? Cut down and back on everything you can. Now see if that looks more manageable. Still not good? Call all your debtors and explain the situation to them. Some will work with you to find a more manageable payment amount by reducing monthly interest rates. Others, like Capital One Auto Finance, will laugh in your face but it is still worth a shot. Call your mortgage company and ask about Obama’s bailout plan. They will send you a qualification form to fill out and send back. If you qualify your house payments will be lowered. Call your student loan company to ask for an interest free 3 year deferment of payments. Now stand back and look at your new bill list. Still way off? Find a free lawyer in your state that will help you file bankruptcy and answer any bankruptcy questions you may have. If you own a home that has less then $100,000 equity in it you will be able to keep it and the family car. Only slightly off? Then take my next piece of advice to heart.
Look at your home in a new light. Do you have a basement that is dry, large and yet unfinished or unused? Do you have a friend or family member who needs a place to live? Use places like Overstock.com, Big Jims in Pembroke New Hampshire and/or salvage yards to finish the space into an in-law apartment you can rent out. Apartments right now are fetching around $1,000 a month with utilities. Minus out the expense of the utilities and you should have enough left over to pay your mortgage. Taking away your biggest burden should lighten your bill load tremendously and put you back onto the road to financial recovery. Don’t have a basement but have an oversized yard near to a seasonal attraction? Rent an outhouse and then rent tent space on your lawn. A lot of people do that around our area during motorcycle week. Anonymously call local campgrounds to check their going rates and then go cheaper so as to be competitive. If local campgrounds charge an average of $40 a night you should charge $30. A 7 day stay such as motorcycle week, will net you $210 per camp sight. Have room for 10 tents? That will get you $2,100 for the week! A friend of ours even rents out her parking lot to motorists hoping to get close to the Fourth of July action. Even if you only pull in $1,000-$2,000 that is enough to get you through another month of living. Another way to use your home for income is to set up a farm stand to sell veggies, rent lawn space to people wishing to have a community yard sale or rent out rooms to college students if you have extra rooms within your home. Just make sure you check out local ordinances before renting to campers. Some towns turn a blind eye to it and others may require a permit for it. Also check out local laws pertaining to yard sales. Some towns require that you purchase a permit to have one.
Should I come up with any more ideas to help you I will be writing another article soon. In the meantime, hang in there and enjoy my complimentary depression era recipe found below. This recipe was used by Italian imigrants during the depression and consisted of only tomatoes, water and bread. However, Doc has added a little extra to make it my own. Enjoy!!
Doc’s Italian Depression Bread Soup
1 pound hot or mild sausage chunked
1 large green pepper diced
1 large onion diced
1 loaf of stale and preferably hard Italian bread diced
1 can crushed tomatoes or 1 pound fresh tomatoes diced
4 cups water (If you have chicken broth on hand exchange water for a few cans of that)
1 tsp garlic or to taste
1 tsp Italian seasoning or to taste
Pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Cut sausages into chunks and fry with diced peppers and onions in a little olive oil. You could also use sausage that is ground but not in a casing. This fries up just like hamburger and will work just fine in the soup. Once the sausage, peppers and onions are fried add the remaining ingredients and bring up to a boil. Boil until all ingredients are heated through and bread chunks become soggy through and through. This should come out very thick just like a stew. However, should you like a runnier soup, you could add a can or two of chicken broth or some more water. Whichever you prefer. Just keep in mind that the original recipe was to help the poor be able to eat on a budget so chicken broth wasn’t something that too many people without a chicken farm had in the depression era.