Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cuts, Warm Air and Unemployment Beer

Fred has been out of work for almost 2 months now. Life on my tiny salary, plus his unemployment, presents new challenges. We have made some changes until things look up--before we have to start renting out rooms.

First, some simple cuts were necessary to help the budget balance. There are a remarkable number of “generic” products available out there. Some are just fine. Ketchup and mustard taste the same. “So-Soapy” shampoo works the same. “Ole’ Roy” kibble seems to satisfy our dog, Jasmine. But...when I made Fred a sandwich the other day, the texture of the no-name brand bread was what my grandmother used to call “cleechy.” That is...barely baked, chewy and sticks to the front of your teeth when you bite into it—full of holes and air. It looked like something you’d use to cover a wound.

“It’s AWFUL,” said Fred.

“That’s ‘Unemployment bread,’” I said, “too cheap to resist.”

And, for the present, Fred has given up on his favorite brand and started drinking “Unemployment Beer”-- which will likely make him pee blue and grow a white stripe down his back.

Second, we have started cutting down bills. If you visit us this summer, we’ll turn the air conditioning on for you. But if you just show up--you’ll see us limp, sweaty and fanning ourselves upstairs in front of my jet-engine 40s Westinghouse “Mobilaire” fan, or fist-fighting over the 3 comfortable seats downstairs in the T.V. room, where it’s nice and cool. Although...I hate to admit it, I do like the fresh air (be it hot) better than refrigerated.

I also called around and got better insurance rates for our cars, which riled our current agent, who grilled me about the new company and its policies to make sure I knew that they weren’t all the same. The old, “Make your customer feel stupid so they’ll come running back to you” tactic failed on me.

Lowering the cable bill was another move to hover just-above the cesspool of financial uncertainty. I called to see if there was a cheaper plan, and instead of cutting services, they reduced my bill! Apparently, there was a “promotional deal” just waiting for the asking. Time Warner REALLY doesn’t want to lose its digital cable box users--just call them!

Third---and probably the most sensible way we’ve been able to keep more money in our bank account, is by eating at home. Convenience snack food and restaurants were part of our lives for many years. Passing them on the street was hard, but after 2 months, I snapped into “Penny-pincher” mode, and remembered how to cook ‘big meat’ and use the leftovers for a variety of ‘offspring’ meals. De-meating bones is messy, but doesn’t really take that much time. If Jasmine is around, she can have the stuff I drop on the floor to supplement her “Ole Roy” farts-a-lot diet.

Life’s not so bad—until next month, when my gray roots are in full bloom. Fred will need a lot of “Unemployment Beer” to blur that image.

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