Sunday, February 20, 2011

How to Survive on Little

Mental security: knowing you can live on nothing and not only survive but thrive!

Several times in my life through circumstances both forced upon me and by my own hand have I been in a position where I have had to live on nothing. I am not talking poverty level. I am talking no heat or no food.

Each time I have come out ahead a stronger better person and now take pride in knowing myself - no matter what kind of financial situation I am in I will be fine. Although I am currently in a better place I sleep well at night knowing the following:

How to Survive on Nothing (or almost nothing)

1. Shelter: This is the most important factor. You can live without new clothes. You can live without a phone. You can live without cable. You will never come back from nothing without shelter. If you are forced into a position where you cannot afford the shelter you live in make a choice to live somewhere else. If you are declaring bankruptcy and know that you will have to move out of your home shelter should be your first concern. Find somewhere fast to live before someone else makes that choice for you. Sometimes peoples stuff come between them and cheap living - who says you need all that stuff! Sell it, use the money to get into small cheap accommodation. If family is an option ask to move in with them. Offer to pay rent and do so on a consistent basis. If you take advantage of family members they will never be there for you again and you will have difficulty living with yourself. Pay your way! Second option - ask friends. Perhaps someone is in a similar situation and would like help paying their mortgage or rent. If you don't ask no one can say yes. If your friends do not have living space available they might know someone else who does. Third option: Ask the community. If you belong to a church or organization use them as a connection resource. Post a notice on an electronic bulletin board such as Craigs List or Kijiji. Understand the smaller shelter you choose the better. All bills are cheaper the smaller the accommodation. More space means more money. Those with tiny budgets should try for accommodation that includes heat and electricity. Therefore once you pay your rent you always will be warm and when on a limited budget you cannot handle fluctuations in bills. Everything else will fall into place after that.

2. Food: Some would say food should be number one on basic necessities of life. I disagree. There are always resources for food once you have your shelter covered off. No matter how bad it gets you can always find a meal at a friend, family, church, food bank or even nature depending on the season. Most places have some kind of free food available: berries, mushrooms, sea kelp, clams, fish. Often Freecycle (do an internet search for Freecycle in your area) is a good place to find extra free produce. Free apples, potatoes, and garden produce are often up for grabs. Don't be shy - everyone who uses Freecycle gives away for free and accepts for free. That is the nature of it. With what little money you do have ensure you always have large quantities of the basics on hand: pasta, rice (brown fills you up and has more nutrients than white), oatmeal, potatoes, carrots and onions. These ingredients are simply the cheapest and can be supplemented with whatever you are able to afford. Keep your eyes open for free samples at stores. Meat should be the smallest portion of your grocery bill. Vegetables are the cheapest and buy only what is in season. Meat should be looked at not as the main course but as an ingredient. Nutrition is sometimes difficult to worry about when you are more concerned about just getting some food but try and ensure you are nourishing your body as well.

3. Telephone. Think pay as you go cell phone or cheapest possible land line with no features. You must be available if you expect to dig your way out of living on nothing. You cannot benefit from a job offer if your potential employer cannot reach you. You cannot offer to pick up that free produce from some nice farmer if you can't call him to tell him you are coming.

4. Clothes. People spend so much money on something to keep you warm and to cover you from the elements. Really that is the function of clothing but we often forget that. Do not think of clothing as an investment. Best options: garage sales and thrift stores. Garage sales are the cheapest but thrift stores allow you to try goods on and have the widest variety of items. All clothes should be washed before wearing but the benefit to buying used clothes is that you often can buy items you could have never afforded otherwise ie. $45 Ralph Lauren T-shirt for $3 at my local Salvation Army (purchased March 9/09) and generally you get an idea of how the item will wear as it has already been used. If good clothing for a job is required you often can find brand name items to make you into a fashion plate for $10 per outfit. Enter a Freecycle post with your size and what type of clothing required ie. work clothes or winter jacket or kids clothes and wait for your emails to come in for contact. If you don't have a computer set up a free email address (gmail or hotmail or yahoo mail) and use the local library computer for free.

5. Furniture. Now you have a place to live, a way to be reached for employers, clothes to wear to your new job, food to nourish your body and now it is time to make your new place a home. Many items are available free for asking. How? Post a request on Freecycle. See if you have a friend who has a truck to pick items up. If you have no way for delivery then post that as well. Freecycle is good people giving items away for free and keeping them out of landfills. As soon as you have any item (and I mean anything) that you no longer use or need then post those items for others on Freecycle. For every item you ask for or receive you are to post an item and no money is to ever change hands. Beds are often available as they are difficult to sell. Desks seem to be plentiful. Flowered couches perhaps might not be the most modern but usually still in good shape and easily disguised with a blanket or sheet. Another choice would be Kijiji or Craigslist as year round options to buy used furniture. Prices range from extremely low to extremely high and occasionally the seller is willing to deliver either for free or a small fee. Garage sales again are a great option but you must have a way to cart your goods home. Ask friends and family what items they might be thinking of giving away. Almost everyone has a stash of items they are ready to part with from furniture to kitchen items to blankets and sheets.

Just remember, you are strong and this situation is temporary. Everyone at some point in their life experiences trying times. Keep your chin up, as this is the time for you to understand what the people around you mean and how strong you really are.

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