Home » Money » On the Margin: Habits

On the Margin: Habits

If you’ve recently lost your job, you’re looking at a whole new world that you will have to deal with.  I’ve learned a lot by being marginally employed, and in this second installation I’d like to share what I’ve learned about this world.  I don’t know everything, and I’ve certainly made mistakes.  If you have some other ideas, please comment at the end and share what works for you.

The first thing I advised was to keep your spirits up so that you can keep your eyes open for opportunity.  There’s nothing more important than taking pride in your ability to hustle and scrape to survive; not everyone can do this!  To make this happen, you’ll have to develop some new habits that may not have been part of your routine in the past.  The habits below are the details of how I avoid depression and keep myself moving forward.

Good Habits:

More important than anything, know your priorities for survival.  Mine are a bit different than most people, which is why I’ve accepted marginal employment so well.  I want to keep my house because I’ve spent so much effort restoring it over the years.  As a divorced father, I also want to be able to pick my kids up from school every day.  For that reason, a regular 9-5 job is probably out of the question, making keeping the house a lot harder.  I had to accept that one of these may fall off with time, although that hasn’t happened so far.  Whatever the choice came down to, however, I knew I’d make it with my eyes open.

After that, you should find a goal and stick with it as long as it is reasonable.  I have a white board with my goals and my immediate work that I can’t help but see as I walk past my office.  Write down that goal, review it constantly, and understand what it takes to reach it.  You may have to shift, but know that you are shifting and write down the new goal just as clearly.

I can’t tell you what your goals should be, but I can tell you that you have to take care of yourself even as your budget gets tight.  Those $1 burgers at MacDonald’s may look tempting, but you can eat very well on less if you learn how to cook a balanced meal for yourself.  I have lentils and rice at half the cost once a week, and egg burritos for about the same.  Know the food groups and keep yourself well fed on simple things that fill you up.  This is a challenge that is equal parts adventure and art, so enjoy learning how to make gourmet meals on little money.  This will keep up your spirits better than anything else.

Get up every day as if you are going to work.  You are going to work!  This is about you, and even though you might not be paid to look for work it’s a job all the same.  If you don’t keep up your good habits you’ll not only lose them, but you’ll feel a lot worse about yourself.  It’s impossible to feel wanted in your underwear watching daytime teevee.

You should also do something you’ve always wanted to do in the way of a craft.  I write every day, and I’ve gradually tried to see if I can make money that way.   You may prefer building, knitting, or playing music.  Follow your passion with whatever free time you have – and it may lead to the dream job you’ve always wanted to have.  If nothing else, you’ll stay active and productive and feel good about yourself.

Bad Habits:

Eating out is great, but you probably can’t afford it.  Once a week or so isn’t so terrible and it’s good to get out of the house at least a little bit.  But this is one of the most expensive things you can do, so you have to watch it.

Drinking and drugs are pretty much out.  You’re going to be prone to depression as the search for work jerks you up and down, so any bad habit that seems like it’s not a problem may sudden veer out of control.  That’s dangerous.  If you do drink, never drink alone and keep it to a minimum.  You can’t afford it anyway.

Smoking is another big cost, and if you smoke you’ll find that a lot of time alone will polish off a pack far faster than you ever thought.  If you have to smoke, keep a tight budget for smokes alone and think about it every time you light up.  It comes down to knowing what you are doing and being deliberate about it.

A lot of unemployed people play the lottery, hoping for one big score that will solve everything.  It won’t happen.  I do buy 3 Northstar Cash tickets when I have exactly 3 ones in my wallet when buying gas, but that’s it.  It’s my lucky charm that has gotten me … bupkiss in the lottery, but what it’s done is stopped me from buying more.  That’s what good luck often looks like.

On Wednesday I’ll get into the job search itself and relate what it takes to get a steady stream of income one way or the other.  In the meantime, if you have a comment on a good or a bad habit that the recently unemployed have to be aware of, I’d love to have a comment here.  Thanks!

Other articles in this series:

On the Margin

5 thoughts on “On the Margin: Habits

  1. All very good points. I would have to say, you are clinging to the house. That may well be the worst thing you can do.

    My wife and I were at a point about 5 years ago, when we were starting a business, where we thought we would have to sell our home. We thought it through and prepared to sell it if things got tough. Family was and is the most important factor as to why we became entrepreneurs. You may want go through the exercise of looking for an apartment, but home you never need to live in one.

    Good luck to you!

  2. On avoiding depression when living on the margin: your link refers to economic depression, not clinical depression. People without work can be very vulnerable to clinical depression if they do not have support systems of family, friends and confidantes to talk to when they feel down. Taking care of one’s health should be a priority, as much as is possible. Good health will lead to better resilience in times of difficulty or struggle.

    Also, it is imp0rtant to do nice things for other people. We can get so focused on our present situation, worrying about money or figuring out when the next gig will come in, that we forget how many advantages (big and small) that we have had in life. I find that spending a few minutes each day being grateful for all of the simple abundance in my life works wonders and cures tech-toy envy, for example. 🙂

  3. There is also seasonal depression (SAD). There are things you can do to avoid this, but you have to be proactive about it. If you have health insurance now and are prone to SAD, go to your doc and get a diagnosis and prescription for a light box. Light boxes change lives in these northern climes. It can help you get out of bed daily in the winter!!

  4. Pingback: Routine « Barataria - the work of Erik Hare

  5. Pingback: Blog Series « Barataria – the work of Erik Hare

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