Thursday, January 1, 2009

Can I live on a shoestring?

I'm technically unemployed right now. I say "technically" because I have a small income stream from some very minor clients and if I scrounged, I could take on some real pain-in-the-butt clients and have a more decent income from them. But the work I'd have to do would far, far outweigh the income. I'm looking for a more steady gig, like I had before. I do heart money.

But having been completely stress-free for an entire day now (well, at least work-wise), I'm wondering if I should or could take a little time off from my career. Sorry I can't really divulge what I do, but it's unique enough so that my identity would be in serious danger of being disclosed if I did. Besides, I dropped enough hints all over the blog, and if you were really curious, you'd probably be able to guess.

So my rent, utilities, health insurance, renter's and car insurance and cellphone are about $2,300/month. If I didn't buy clothes or anything else fun, stopped eating out, didn't travel, etc., those items would be my bare necessities. Let's say I spent $75 a month on food and another $75 on hostess/Shabbos gifts (I am already very well stocked, and eat most Shabbos meals out). That's up to $2450. Let's say $75/month on gas. And then let's say $175 on must have miscellaneous stuff. $2,700.

It's a little scary to think that I need to net $32,400 just to scrape by. Which would mean a minimum salary of around $50,000 gross. This is without saving a dime, giving any charity or early morning Starbucks. Interesting what qualifies as middle income these days.

I was spoiled for the last two years, reaping a comfortable six-figure income at a job I really liked for the most part, even though it came with bucketfuls of stress. I was able to save some for a rainy day, thank God, and if I don't get massacred by the IRS on April 15, I should be able to float along comfortably for the next few months without destroying my savings account. I'm actually considering applying for a job at.....are you ready?


Why not? They give fabulous benefits, are walking distance from where I live, and I can adjust my hours. Most importantly, their jobs as coffee servers or baristas as they call them, are stress-free. Stress-free! The worst thing I would need to worry about is whether or not I got the foam right on the cappucino. It would only be a temporary thing until I find something a bit more suited to my skillset. Let's say I netted a thousand a month working at Starbucks. I have a small income stream of around $500/month from other sources. That would cover more than half my expenses, plus my health insurance premium of $400 would also go away, leaving me with only $800/month to pull from my savings. And I would have two or three gloriously stress-free months working in a young, social environment. And even after I left, I could COBRA the benefits. I am liking this idea more and more. Of course, there would always be the embarrassment of running into everyone from my shul while I'm behind the counter, but I'm not so sure I care. I do care a little, okay. But really, why not?

And by the way, Happy New Year!


Nice Jewish Guy said...

Interesting about the Starbucks job contemplation. How do you know they're stress free?

Before you go fill out that job app, go to your library (or just buy it at Amazon or Borders) and read the book How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill. It's a very poignant tale, and it gives the reader a lot of insight into the inner workings of how a Starbucks operates.

Anonymous said...

Could you really only spend $75 per month on food? That seems really low to me.

The Road Taken said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WebGirl said...

Well, I have a lot of staples already because I buy in bulk whenever something goes on sale. For example, I probably have close to three months worth of chicken and salmon in my garage freezer. And remember, it's just me, and my Shabbos meals are usually at someone else's house. $75 might be on the low side, but I could probably swing it.

Anonymous said...

What about using your writing talents somehow to earn some extra money? Perhaps a column for your local Jewish newspaper? You're such a talented writer.

By the way, during a stint of unemployment a couple of years ago I worked as a waitress at a local Glatt kosher meat restaurant. During my time there I waited on several people from my synagogue. It was definitely a little wierd to wait on people I knew. But I think standing behind a counter serving coffee is different from waiting on someone at a table.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you try to get unemployment or some other stuff from the government? Even food stamps or welfare if you can qualify, what the hell?

WebGirl said...

Oh good grief, Anonymous, you obviously haven't been reading my blog for a long time. I'm a Republican; I don't believe the government should take care of me like that. I would never apply for any of that stuff. To me, that's like going to a soup kitchen, and thank God, I am not in any position to receive charity, not privately nor from President Obama. Geez Louise. I'd do any sort of work before I'd apply for food stamps.

Other Anonymous...thanks for the kudos on my writing, but I do believe that most Jewish newspapers, well, suck. Frankly, I don't read any. One notable exception is the NY Jewish Week, but I doubt I could get a job writing for them. I have no connections. Good thought though.

NJG, I'm going to take that book out of the library today, if I can find it there.

AJ said...

Webgirl, I think you're being too harsh to the 2nd Anonymous. I'm a Repbulican, but I've always believed that Unemployment Benefits are a good thing - after all, people are only eligible for them if they have worked for the past 6 months, and it's good for people who are unemployed to have a safety net. I've been unemployed for the past few months and it was very easy to file a claim (I did it online) and it's very helpful that $405 is electronically deposited into my bank account each week.

WebGirl said...

You're right, AJ. Actually, I should distinguish between unemployment benefits (which are actually privately funded) and the other stuff Anonymous mentioned. Truth is, when I was younger, I also collected unemployment for a little while when I was laid off from my first job. Ok, with my partial apology to Anonymous, let me clarify. I would really rather do anything, including scrubbing toilets, than go on any sort of government welfare program. But I'd be comfortable collecting unemployment, seeing as how it's actually funded by the companies themselves and just regulated by the states and DOL. What makes me uncomfortable is taking money out of working taxpayers' pockets and putting it into the pockets of those who are not working. The idea makes me nuts. But unemployment benefits don't work that way.