How to live on next to nothing and then get a job
How to live on next to nothing and then get a job

So how do you go about living on a tiny income and getting back to work?

These are my own views and experience - not instructions!

By 'next to nothing' I mean unemployment money or a very low wage. Living on absolutely nothing is another matter. People often complain about their unemployment money not being enough to live on - thats wrong, I think they mean its emotionally very difficult to live on.

Mathematically its simple - you drop every luxury, minimalise on every expense. That means no TV, no car, no drink and cigarettes, no holidays, no lottery tickets.

In fact, you spend only on four things - shelter, food, clothing, job-hunting.

Shelter - get a cheap bed & breakfast only in emergencies. Otherwise try for a hostel room, cheap bedsit or a room in a shared house, or you may be in a council house or housing association anyway. If you can't find one, look for one, and keep looking - this isn't easy, it isn't impossible either. For heating in the winter follow the old adage "wrap up warm", remember you don't have money for heating - so you have to do the adapting! If its gets really bitter try to heat only the smallest most enclosed room, and only to the point of bearability. If you are vulnerable to cold then keep multiple layers on always - even in sleep, change clothes during the warmest hour (afternoon normally) not first thing.

Food - All major supermarkets have supersaver/value brands. Loaves of bread for 19p, beans for 9p - you get the picture. don't buy any food unless its very very cheap. If you have an adress get a loyalty card and slowly earn points. Look out for special deals (2 for 1 etc) and only get these if you have to have them, don't buy them just because they look like a bargain. Go to market at the end of day and haggle for the left overs - they want to empty the stall if possible. A single person can get his food budget down to a fiver a week by being superstrict - and still have a little fresh fruit.

Clothing - Almost every town has charity shops with very cheap clothes, go to them. Almost every town has carboot sales where people sell surprisingly good stuff at low low prices - walk to them. If your town doesnt try to get to another town, you have to the adapting! Look hard for things you need, you can get everyday where and even a suit for a tenth of the shop prices. Try bargain shops and markets for cheap socks and underwear etc.

But I can't live like that!!!

Then you can't live. The choice is stark here. If you have desperately little income then adapt to it, it won't change because its horrid! You really have to 'get real' and 'get tough' with yourself on this. It may well be demoralising to have no TV, no luxury of any kind - so don't sit there, go Job Hunting - make you're mission self improvement - its a tough mission but success proves to you how resourceful and determined you can be. For that leisure outlet, to at least help you cope with the emotional strain of poverty, do things which are free (or extremely cheap). Walk in the park, go to the library and read, meet friends - but only positive ones, moaning and despair will drag you down and you just cannot afford people like that! But you know what - being strict with yourself week after week, unless your total income (ie including all monies) is really low (about 30-40 a week) you'll actually start saving a few pounds here and there!

Job-hunting - well thats the plan isnt it? To aim for a greater income. What will you need? To send letters, wear suitable clothes, travel. More than this you'll need a determination to succeed and a belief you are worthy of doing so.

Finding and applying. Easy, walk to your nearest job centre (or save up for a once a week busfare if its several miles away) and look, look then look - and choose anything you can do (not would like to, can). You may have a degree or one CSE grade 4, but dont turn your nose up at the nightshift in a chicken factory - its good money and what else were you going to do at night anyway? Infact the food industry is great, you get reasonable pay (usually over 200 a week) and often get staff shops and other benefits. You can look for various factory jobs, temporary work - anything. Look through the free papers, save up for the 50p weekly local on the jobs day.

To apply you can often fill in the forms at a job centre, sometimes you can even walk into the actual place and enquire, if not then you can spare money for letters and CVs, having used one of the many job clubs and local services to write them up. Some even give you stamps, and if they don't, well 10 will cost you 2.70. Youve already been lowering your outgoings by being superstrict, see above. Basically use every service that exists, choose well (but choose to choose, always be applying - don't evade the task) and keep it up. If the town you live in has very few jobs look elsewhere - anywhere. Save up what little you have for interviews out of town - refuse to be 'trapped' by your town. Buy an old bike and fix it up to give you range (bikes can be around 10-20 at car boots sales - often in good condition). Check out bus routes, a 1 bus fare is worth it for an interview.

Take it! - If you turn your nose up at that sort of job, because you think your too good for it, you would like to hold out for more money or because your friends have better jobs and "its not fair" then think again. By working anywhere, by showing the courage and determination to do what it takes to survive by your own effort you're showing potential employers in the future what an excellent work ethic you have. Once inside a job, any job, do your best. Perhaps you were once employed in an office using your brains for 25k a year, and now your stuffing chickens for 10k a year. Its still better than rotting away doing (and having) nothing - and it gets you back into the world, back into your independance - and gives you extra money to hunt out other better paid jobs and even pay for small luxuries.

It will seem damned unfair that some people just land easy jobs for big money while your struggling. Remember that most people do earn what they are worth. Those lucky few are exactly that - a lucky few, ignore them. Bitterness and resentment will only damage you. So make yourself worth more, study at night school if you can, take whatever course your employer offers even if it seems below you. A grade 2 chicken stuffer earns more than you - so learn how to do it, be worth the money.

Jeez, its so difficult!!

Yes it sure is, its like pushing a boulder uphill every waking hour, sometimes it won't seem worth doing but only if you give up hope will it actually be not worth doing. You can work, you are worth a wage, you can become better and better, and fufill your potential. Only you can make this happen, its your choice - its your responsibility you don't try, and your responsibility if you do - its your quality of life that goes up when you succeed.

Go for it!

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