Flat Broke and Out of Options
October 15, 2013 4:55 PM   Subscribe

I lost my job, am having trouble finding a new one, am running out of freelance jobs, have $60 in my bank account, and don't know where to go from here. What on earth is my next step? Please help me think.

I was laid off three weeks ago. I got two weeks of severance, most of which went towards rent in my very expensive city and some of which is now paying for my meager food rations. I had no savings (I know, I know) as I was attempting to pay off credit card debt I earned when I was a Master's student; the credit card debt is now down to $9k, but I still need to pay it off, of course. I have $60 in my bank account and am expecting the next check I earn from my freelance position to go directly into next month's rent. The freelance position is not steady work, and the director will likely run out of new work to send me next week.

I'm actively looking for a job, and have had two interviews at separate places. Unfortunately, I was told at both interviews that I was overqualified for the position and would likely be bored there. (I have an editorial background and an MSW, neither of which really make me overqualified for anything, to be truthful.) I apply to waitressing, etc., jobs, but have never heard back from any of them. I've contacted several temp agencies, including those which have helped me before, and have followed up with each, but I haven't gotten any responses yet. I've contacted any friends and friends of friends who might know of an open position. I'm considering cashing out my 401(k), which should have around $1800, just so I can pay rent for one more month, though I know I'll lose money as a penalty. I'm estranged from my family, so cannot ask any relatives for a loan. My boyfriend generously offered to pay our full rent for November, but that is my absolute last resort; we don't typically share finances and he's not exactly wealthy. Along with rent, we need to make bills and COBRA payments, and I'm scared of ignoring the credit card debt. My new therapist also just informed me that my insurance doesn't consider her a provider even though she thought she was, so I owe her $500 for our five sessions.

If you were me, what would your next step be? I'm not awesome with finances and don't really have anyone to guide me, so there might be some really obvious answers here. I'll keep applying to jobs, networking, and following up with temp agencies, but what else can I do? I don't think I can file for unemployment with my freelance job. What do I do about credit card debts? Can I tell my therapist that she falsely advertised as in-network and I won't pay the $500? Do I cash out my 401(k)? Do I agree to let my boyfriend pay rent? This is the first time I've really been broke, and I'm woefully undereducated about how to deal with it. Please give me some tips on how to get past this crisis point!
posted by pineappleheart to Work & Money (42 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Can you file for unemployment based on the job you got laid off from? Also, can you file for food stamps?
posted by ottereroticist at 5:00 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You absolutely can and should apply for unemployment even though you are also working freelance. I'm sure it varies state to state, but in my experience (NY and MA) each week, you'll be asked about your work and earnings for that time period, and your benefits will be scaled accordingly. There may be some weeks where you'll receive zero benefits if you've had a lot of freelance work. But that will also extend the amount of time that your eligible. I know some states are somewhat different, but no matter where you are you should at least apply.
posted by Kriesa at 5:08 PM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

I would apply for unemployment insurance. I would then hit every temp agency that I could locate and get on their roster and HOUND THEM every day with calls as to whether something opened up. That second step (being merciless about asking what's come in) seems to work pretty well with temp agencies...they tend to reward those who are actively pushy about asking for work.
posted by xingcat at 5:13 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am sorry, this sounds stressful.

First off apply for food stamps so that you don't have to worry about eating. Second, look into unemployment insurance. Third, if it were me I'd let my boyfriend pay rent for a month and work out a written payment plan with him for paying him back. There are penalties for early withdrawal for 401K stuff and you'd lose money.

I'd consider appealing the health insurance claim with your therapist which might buy you some time. I'd try to untangle the network stuff as a separate issue (why did it take five sessions for her to let you know this, etc?). I would try to make a minimum payment on your credit card if you can to avoid penalties and worry about that last a larger issue later on.

As for short term stuff I'd look at Craigslist gigs and things like taskrabbit if you're near enough to a major metro area. I'd also make sure you need to make COBRA payments if you are out of work, there may be lower cost emergency-level health care available to you in MA.

This thread has someone in slightly different circumstances but there are some "How do I move forward from a zero dollars situation?" tips in it.
posted by jessamyn at 5:17 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

You write well. Are there online editing jobs you could imagine looking for?
posted by Dashy at 5:18 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Someone please fill in the gaps here, but I believe at least in California unemployment will subtract any amount you make from your benefits. This is fine, except that I *believe* that there is a periodic (quarterly?) reset on your benefits based on your income last quarter.

Let's say you made $40,000 at your job and were laid off. Your benefits are based on the salary. Now, let's say you were unemployed for three months and earned $500 per month in freelance work during that time, plus your UE benefits. When it comes time to reset your benefits based on income, I believe they use your last quarterly income (not much, in this example and a LOT less than your former salary) to set benefits.

If you *don't* work, they continue to use the $40,000 you made at your job to set benefits. This means that if you work part time/freelance while unemployed, you may face a sudden and drastic cut in benefits down the road.

Now, I'm quite sure some of the details here are wrong and hopefully someone will correct me. But I do believe that the gist of it (benefits periodically reset based on current income) is correct.

So, go get unemployment benefits right now, and do some research on how they're reset based on income, then act accordingly.
posted by cnc at 5:25 PM on October 15, 2013

It sounds like you live in NYC? The New York City Coalition Against Hunger can help point you towards food resources. http://www.nyccah.org/hungermaps. I also see a lot of ads up there for the Freelancers Union, so I wonder if they could be a resource in hard times?

You may need to start making difficult decisions like what you will do in the worst case scenario: Hole up until you and your partner are out of funds and evicted, or move to a cheaper situation? I find having worst case scenario plans comforting but not everyone does. Personally, when I move in with a significant other, I assume that I would pay the rent if my partner lost their job and that's one of the risks of moving in with a SO (the other risk is that in a break up, you could be up a creek. Your mileage may vary...)

You also shouldn't discount your friend network. People want to help. There's a theory called the Strength of Weak Ties, that says that even weak acquaintances can sometimes aid in situations like this. Brainstorm people that might be there for you if things get too difficult. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

You should ask your therapist for a different rate for the past bills, a payment plan and a referral to a new therapist who is in your network. I don't think I could trust a therapist who put me in a difficult money situation with bad information. If the current therapist has an inch of business sense they will realize that forgiving some of your bills is better than being the last in line for repayment.

I hope things work out for you soon.
posted by Skwirl at 5:27 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't think I can file for unemployment with my freelance job.

No, you absolutely can. Register for unemployment benefits TODAY because there is usually a period between when you apply and when they kick in. What state is this all in?
posted by cairdeas at 5:29 PM on October 15, 2013

These are just some ideas for various situations that you list, not sure which ones may or may not be helpful. I am also memailing you.

Make a story as to why you want job X. You mention that you were interviewed but turned away from 2 similar jobs recently with the comment "you would be bored." Continue to apply for those jobs, but when you are in the interview, tell as story as to why you want to work there and for them (and come up with an answer although you don't need to state it) as to why getting bored will not be a problem. As an example, I have a friend who employs people for his small business, which includes packing boxes/answering the phone. He did hire a friend who has specialized skills (i.e. programming) to pack the boxes because she stated up front that she wanted to have flexibility, etc., which were things that he could offer. So he preferred to go with someone who said they would like to do job X, and it was preferable to whatever the previous training was in. Assuming that you can do the same; perhaps check out their web page in advance and say that you want to learn about industry X, etc.

Work on getting temporary, throwaway jobs. One easy to get temporary job is babysitting - this is not a permanent solution, but if some money comes in, it can help reduce the anxiety as you look for other jobs. One way to do this is to register for something like sistercity.com (and say that you are mature, which would be a plus for some people). You can also offer skills in craigslist (perhaps your editing?). But experiment and see what you can do now to try to get some money in.

Negotiate your current bills. You mention the therapist. Consider being up front and say that you intend to pay, did not plan on this right now, and see if they will accept monthly, a few months from now, etc. You probably can't do this with everything, but I would think/hope the therapist would agree.

Quickly find freelance projects. I freelance, too, and sometimes have to beat the bushes to get a project or two if something falls through. You may already know how to do this, or you may not, so please forgive me if I am stating the obvious. I would spend energy finding clients and projects right now since you have gotten projects in the past. There are two routes that I would take, although this varies by industry, specialty, etc (and you can experiment with both - if one doesn't work out, go with the other technique). Find a list of companies. One way to find this is to go to linkedin and see where your clients go and come from in terms of employment (or whatever is often viewed). Usually it is a company that does the same thing and works with freelancers. Another way is to find a journal that publishes "Top agencies or top whatever type company of the year" and go through the list. Check out the webpages to see if it is what you do and if so, either call and/or send a brief email along the lines of you are a freelancer, specializing in X, do they work with them, who should you contact. The other technique is to make sure that your LinkedIn lists your skills, contact, is open to searches (also add yourself to groups in your specialty) - but you can have companies approach you if it is specialized and they have a need and go searching through the database. Some companies would prefer to hire vs have freelancers, so if they make this suggestion, be ready with a CV/resume, or whatever.
posted by Wolfster at 5:32 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi! I'm in NYC. I thought maybe I couldn't register for unemployment because when I went to apply online, the form asked when I last worked. Since I'm freelancing, I put in today's date, and was then directed to a page that said I wasn't eligible.
posted by pineappleheart at 5:36 PM on October 15, 2013

Look into:
- health insurance benefits in your state. In my old state, MN, there is a very very good state health care program, under which I received very good health coverage for free for years when my income was too low to even consider buying my own health insurance. I think MA is another good state for this. Not sure about other states. (I currently live in IL, where the health care benefits are not very good.)
- food stamps. Take awhile to get sorted out but could be a big benefit while you're trying to get back on your feet.
- unemployment! Yeah, definitely apply.

Do you live near any major (research) universities? You can apply for psychological and medical trials and make a few hundred dollars a pop. These have gotten me through some rough times when I was an undergrad supporting myself through school. I tried Flonase and kept a journal about it and made $250, once. Another time I laid in an MRI machine and pressed two buttons for an hour and made $300. Sometimes you can get health care you need (IUDs, allergy medications) for free by participating in these trials too.

Agree very much with Wolfster. Also applying to online jobs like Leapforce that pay decently well and which you should be able to do from home for about 6-12 months (after that point they often cut people off). You can talk your way around a lot of things-- including rent, credit card bills, &c. If you are proactive and have a plan in place it will help stave people off while you get your life together.

Failing all else, if you have no restaurant experience, you can walk into (modest) restaurants and lie about past experience. It is maybe not great, but if it's a small/slow/not fancy restaurant, you'll be able to pick things up on the job very quickly and it won't be a problem. I learned to wait tables on my first day of waiting tables by pretending to be a waitress, basically, until I got the hang of it.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:37 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Let your boyfriend cover rent this month. Low drama potential.

Tailor each resume for the job at hand - you don't need to disclose higher ed, just like you don't need to disclose tech jobs when applying for sales gigs or vice versa.

For unemployment stuff - try and talk to someone over the phone that could answer your questions.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:38 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Tailoring resumes, writing very convincing and candid cover letters, talking to people on the phone instead of navigating websites = yes yes yes. And I would let your boyfriend cover rent this time, because he loves you and you don't sound like you'll make a habit out of it, and it'll free you up to solve the rest of your (root) problems that much better.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:40 PM on October 15, 2013

1. CALL your credit card companies now; tell them you got laid off and ask for a forbearance for as long as they'll let you take one. The balances will continue to accrue interest, but you won't have to make payments for that long, if they agree. At the least, they may agree to lower your minimum payment for a while. Otherwise prioritize which ones are really most important to you to keep in good standing and only pay the minimum on those.

2. Check into applying for unemployment; definitely apply for food stamps.

3. Absolutely re-negotiate with your therapist.

4. Continue to apply for everything available. Tailor your resume to the job - leave off the MSW if it makes sense for the job you're applying for. Walk your neighborhood and see if anything close enough to walk to has a help-wanted sign in the window (it does still happen). Apply for them too.

4. Sell everything you own that you can sell on craigslist. Don't include your computer unless you have both a desktop and a laptop - you need one computer to job hunt.

5. Spend NOTHING you don't have to. That sounds obvious, but it is easy to think you deserve a 'treat' from time to time. Right now you deserve a treat but you can't afford one. No retail therapy, at all. The holidays are coming which will make this very, very hard - do not give in until and unless you get a job that gets you two paychecks before the holidays. People who love you will understand.

6. For quick cash, check into donating blood or plasma - some places here offer $100 for first-time donors, which won't pay the rent but will buy gas for the car/tokens for the bus/extra copies of your resume.

6. Let your boyfriend pay November rent and make an agreement on how you'll pay him back when you are employed again.

7. Dipping into your 401(K) is the measure of last resort - you don't have a lot in it, and the fees will take most of it.

I'm sorry you're having to deal with this, it is really hard. You can get through it though - stay calm, stay focused, stay positive that this too shall pass. Good luck.
posted by faineant at 5:49 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

This sucks. Sorry I can't offer more advice on all your points, but did want to note some thoughts on a couple of items:

1. Therapist bill. Appeal to your insurance company. These things drag out FOREVER. I currently have a medical bill that has been in dispute with my insurance company for OVER A YEAR (yes, ridiculous!) In the meantime, I don't have to pay anything and the doctor's office has been great about that.

2. Boyfriend. Yes, let him pay! Think about the reverse situation - wouldn't you be happy to help?
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:52 PM on October 15, 2013

Response by poster: Sorry, won't threadsit beyond this, but about tailoring resumes, which some people have suggested:

How do I explain gaps in my resume (for example, two years of getting an MSW and working as a social work intern) if I leave some jobs off?
posted by pineappleheart at 5:54 PM on October 15, 2013

If this is going to be a temporary situation, consider taking a cash advance/ cashing a balance transfer check to get you through a month. If there is enough room on the balance, that is. Do this before you call about a forebearance.
posted by mazienh at 6:08 PM on October 15, 2013

No one has suggested this I believe, but dump the therapist unless it is VITAL to your well being. At this juncture, you have to cut spending to the BONE. If you must keep the therapist ask if they do pro bono work or will work for a large discount. And if a therapist makes a mistake about the coverage they use they should certainly eat some of that mistake.

Also, though it is never desirable to spend retirement savings, depending on your situation the costs to use that money could be as low as 10%. For instance, if you withdraw it in a year when you would have little to no tax liability the only cost would be the 10% penalty. The costs would certainly not consume most of it.

If you have stuff to sell on Amazon or Craigslist can be quite an additional source of income.

good luck
posted by jcworth at 6:14 PM on October 15, 2013

As for the therapist, ask if she has a sliding scale for cash clients. Ideally your fee would be equal to your insurance co-pay, so it wouldn't make a difference to you in the end. If she already knows of your job loss, she will probably be expecting this conversation.

Definitely call your credit card companies and ask for a forbearance - they are must nicer and more lenient if you tell them about it BEFORE you miss a payment.

Definitely apply for unemployment. Use the last day of your full-time work when you start the process, that will make you eligible. Once you start reporting weekly income, you can account for freelance work, if any.

Keep pounding the pavement every day. If you see any store or restaurant with a help wanted sign, tell them you can start today. Be prepared to literally start a shift when you walk in the door.
posted by trivia genius at 6:33 PM on October 15, 2013

Wow, I am sorry about the therapist/insurance situation. In fact, I would expect a therapist of all people to help you sort that out first since, ya know, money problems make things more stressful! Definitely ask her if she has a sliding scale or can at least put you on a payment plan.

I would also let the boyfriend cover rent. I know how hard that is, I hated when I was unemployed and leaned on my fiance for money, but since your boyfriend offered I'd take him up on it.

Have you looked at gigs on Guru.com, eLance, etc? You can probably make some freelance cash doing writing/editing, etc.
posted by radioamy at 7:08 PM on October 15, 2013

how about call a temp agency near you to get some money. it may be menial work but money is money. perhaps you will find something that you enjoy and is appropriate for your qualifications. professional staffing group, kforce etc are all over the country. search temp agency's near you.

posted by Jewel98 at 7:22 PM on October 15, 2013

If $1800 is only half your monthly rent, and you were only making just over that per bi-weekly paycheck, you need to move! Can you and your boyfriend start looking at places to move to ASAP? Can you start looking for jobs in a different area? In most places in this country where $1800 pays half a month's rent, there are other places within an hour or two's driving distance where $1800 would rent you a luxurious single family home in the suburbs. Wherever you are now, it sounds like that location is a big part of the problem here. Just scraping by with no savings in an extremely high cost of living area is how you end up homeless (not saying this to be mean, I am worried about what will happen to you if you stay there). This does not sound like the kind of situation where a waitressing job is going to help you pay your bills.

If your therapist is uncompromising about the amount you owe, ask her if you can put it on a payment plan where you make very small payments. It will be much more trouble for her to try to hound you for money that you don't have.

As for the resume, I would just leave the gaps on there, and if anyone asks, tell them you went without a paying job for a while for personal reasons, or some such vague statement. Sounds like it's not a lie, and I doubt they'd question you aggressively about it in the type of job you're applying for. But I also, again, don't think that a service/waiting tables job is going to cut it if you need to make over $2K/month just to pay for food and shelter.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:26 PM on October 15, 2013

Best answer: I thought maybe I couldn't register for unemployment because when I went to apply online, the form asked when I last worked. Since I'm freelancing, I put in today's date, and was then directed to a page that said I wasn't eligible.

The job you got laid off from is the one they're asking about, not your freelance work.

They will ask you to mention if you're making any kind of freelance work that could bring in income - if you say yes to this, then they'll ask whether it would potentially make you more than $400 a week. And I presume you're going to say no.

Sign up again and put the date you got laid off as your last day of work. You'll still have to wait a couple weeks for the benefits to start coming in, but you should be able to get something.

I am writing from New York State.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:41 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I took my stint in law school off my resume and told people I'd been helping with family stuff (which was not entirely untrue) and suddenly had a massively easier time getting a job than I had trying to explain that I didn't want to actually be a lawyer. It's not as good as having an employment history with no gaps, but some gaps people understand as being temporary hiccups, other things it seems to be really hard to explain. Like extra schooling.
posted by Sequence at 7:42 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If $1800 is only half your monthly rent, and you were only making just over that per bi-weekly paycheck, you need to move! Can you and your boyfriend start looking at places to move to ASAP? Can you start looking for jobs in a different area? In most places in this country where $1800 pays half a month's rent, there are other places within an hour or two's driving distance where $1800 would rent you a luxurious single family home in the suburbs. Wherever you are now, it sounds like that location is a big part of the problem here. Just scraping by with no savings in an extremely high cost of living area is how you end up homeless (not saying this to be mean, I am worried about what will happen to you if you stay there). This does not sound like the kind of situation where a waitressing job is going to help you pay your bills.

I assumed the $1800 was for the entire apartment's rent, which for a one bedroom here is sadly pretty normal these days.

It's not as if moving is free. There are enormous costs involved, and if it disrupts the boyfriend's job or requires him to quit, then it's a WORSE outcome. The boyfriend does have a job- a job which apparently will allow him to cover their full rent, if not indefinitely. Plus, depending on what industry the OP works in, New York might be one of the only places she can hope to become employed again.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:54 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, also: ignore/put off the therapist for now, and let your boyfriend pay the rent. If you like, you can tell him that you'll cover a whole month's rent once you're employed again.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:56 PM on October 15, 2013

Google for the nearest Department of Labor One-stop Career Center and tell them you want to sign up for the Career Services Orientation. It will take you through the steps of grant eligiablity for schooling, training, or on-the-job apprenticeship.
posted by FunkyHelix at 7:57 PM on October 15, 2013

Response by poster: Oh, man, $1800 is not half my monthly rent, thank God. I'd never survive that. I just know that I won't get the full $1800 from my 401(k) and would only get the amount I would need for rent. I would love to move out of New York, but my boyfriend owns a business that needs to be here. My worst case scenario is that I have to leave him to live somewhere else in the U.S. that's more affordable, but . . . you know. He's my boyfriend. I don't want to break up with the person I love, and I want to find some way that isn't that way.

And I definitely dropped the therapist. Not only can I not afford it, but I think it's pretty crummy of her to wait for five sessions to tell me by late-night email that she doesn't take my insurance, especially since she told me she did and knows I just lost my job. As someone who's trained as a clinical therapist, I think she should be ashamed of herself.

Thank you to everyone for your kindness. This helps a lot.
posted by pineappleheart at 8:04 PM on October 15, 2013

If I was in your position, I would throw myself on the mercy of some places in my neighborhood where I frequent and the people are friendly. For example, is there a bar or coffee shop you always go to where they know you? Do you often hang out in the library? The yoga studio? Um... the bakery? etc Wherever they know your face and/or name and might feel a little bit of fondness for you, swing by and say hey, I'm looking to pick up some part time work for the upcoming holidays (to get around the "oh but you're so overqualified! Why would you want to do this?" question) It can't hurt.

Definitely look for focus group type things, like a few people suggested. That helped me make my rent when I first moved to NYC and didn't have a job yet. Post flyers in local schools offering to tutor. Ask every single person you know if they know ANYBODY looking for a job.

You have to eliminate everrrrrything you don't need to live. Drop your internet service and use free WiFi in parks/public areas. Take the train one way to something and take the bus on the way back, so you use the free transfer.

You are going to be ok! You are strong, you are smart, you are determined!
posted by silverstatue at 8:20 PM on October 15, 2013

How do I explain gaps in my resume (for example, two years of getting an MSW and working as a social work intern) if I leave some jobs off?

Not sure I understand the question completely. If you were going to school, it's not a gap in your resume. Your job was going to school. An internship and even volunteer work is a (unpaid) job and should be listed as such if you weren't doing paid work at the time.
posted by cnc at 9:10 PM on October 15, 2013

Sorry for the profound stress you are experiencing - I know exactly how it feels, and it's a real pain in the ass.

Were I you, I would cash out my superannuation and use that money to move to a much, much, much cheaper apartment (if I couldn't move cities altogether, to one with better job prospects).

I would go on unemployment benefits, immediately.

I would call my credit card company and explain the situation and tell them how much you will appreciate their patience.

I would sell everything I possibly could that does not in some way lead to me being employable/doing work, staying healthy, and staying fed. Computers are quite wonderful in that they cancel out the need for a TV, radio, or indeed even books. If you have a TV or radio and can get some bucks for them, I recommend you sell them for the best price you can.

I would cut my energy consumption as much as possible, downgrade my internet to the bare minimum that will allow me to job hunt/freelance/stay sane, and downgrade my phone plan if possible (you need your phone for employers to contact you, after all).

Any other financial obligations you can put on hold? Gym memberships etc.? Ditch it all.

I would not be paying my therapist until I was much better-positioned, financially. But I know how important therapy can be, so you don't want to burn any bridges there, of course. Frankly, it's a luxury that is going to have to wait, I'm afraid.

With your remaining money, you want to stock up on cans of beans and tomato sauce, long-shelf-life carbohydrates in bulk (pastas and rice and flour), and cheap ground beef if you are not vegetarian or vegan, as well as oil for cooking. I also strongly recommend stocking up on COFFEE/TEA, SUGAR, DAIRY/NON-DAIRY CREAMER, and HOT SAUCE if you've got the stomach for it. I've never been close to "starving", exactly, but I've had to go for weeks on end without anything substantial to eat (once through choice, the other through necessity, both when I had ample fat stores to rely on) and basically lived on mugs of coffee and, when I ate, white rice with hot sauce.

If you smoke, you're either gonna have to go cold turkey, or switch to a cheaper brand, or roll-your-owns. Smoking is a good way to keep hunger at bay, though of course it's not the optimal solution and I certainly don't recommend you START smoking.

I had a pet cat when I was dirt poor. What money I could scrounge together made sure she still had plenty of good, nutritious food to eat, and she did very well. I recommend this approach, but could see how you might need to surrender a pet to a shelter if circumstances become dire enough.

There are likely going to be soup kitchens and pantries in your area, so investigate those too.

Don't be too proud, either. If your boyfriend offers to help, let him help. Nobody will think less of you.

Good luck.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:20 PM on October 15, 2013

Dump the therapist, have your boyfriend help, and if you are in NYC, get DOG-WALKING jobs! A friend of mine was cleaning up, doing that for an entire two years in fact. And it's more interesting than babysitting because you will meet more random strangers who might make very random and wonderful connections for you. All kinds of people from all walks of life need to have their dogs walked. I remember she was getting free weed (from the Bohemian dudes in east village), advice about her resume from a business guy, tickets to the opera, etc...

And if you get crafty and walk multiple dogs at the same time, you REALLY make bank. If people trust you with their animal, they will give your name to others.

Good luck!

And also, definitely go on unemployment. That money is there for you! No shame in going on the dole. Been there, done that.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:27 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I posted a lengthy reply on the thread that was linked here earlier.

I've been in your situation, but possibly worse off because I didn't have an SO to live with and was pretty much homeless.

You can read what I posted in the other thread, but basically, it comes down to this. I know it sucks, but I also know that you are capable of doing what you need to do. Get unemployment. Get food stamps. If you need to, when you apply for food stamps, say that you and your SO do not share food purchasing or preparation duties. Otherwise, they'll count both of your incomes and your "household" may be ineligible for aid. It's an ethical grey area, but you do what you gotta do, and if you're worried about how you're going to eat your next meal, you're not going to be super effective at any other activities of daily living. Plus, you may feel less like a grifter if you can pay for some of your food while your SO covers rent.

Start calling temp agencies. Not one, not three, like all of them that come up for a Google search of "yourcity" + "temp agency". Make a generic resume and a cover letter outline that you can tweak for individual positions. If you apply online, call to follow-up. It's better to apply in person, though.

Start volunteering somewhere. The goal here is to turn your volunteer thing into a real job. Plus, it's nice to feel like people want you around.

I also found it helpful to plan for the worst-case scenario. For me, it was having to leave a city that I really loved and move somewhere that I really don't like much. When I was doing the catastrophizing, I kept thinking that it wouldn't really happen, but when it did, I was at least on the way to being emotionally prepared. It still sucked and I'm not going to pretend otherwise.

Next, it's good to set aside particular times to work on job applications or resumes. Like, 10 AM - 2 PM or whatever. Otherwise, I found that I ended up frantically slapping together some half-assed terrible application at 11:30 PM and then feeling like crap afterward. I even spelled my own name wrong on one of them. Give yourself time to do things you like. Unemployment, despite how it's portrayed in early 90s sitcoms, is super stressful. Schedule your time so you're not just sitting on the couch, but do take time each day to decompress. Cry while watching Hugh Grant movies if you need to, work out if that's your thing, read a book. Even just taking a walk can clear your head.

Best of luck!

P.S. Totally agree that your therapist is behaving abhorrently, and I don't think you'd be out of line to just ignore her until you're in a better place financially.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 9:56 PM on October 15, 2013

You should really consider going by a food bank. You talk about not having money for food and you're trying to get back to work. People like you are exactly why food banks exist. There is no shame taking that help, and some day in the future when you're doing much better financially you can pay it forward.
posted by azpenguin at 10:13 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Maybe when the dust settles, you can contact a lawyer and try to get some of your money back from those extortion, I mean therapy sessions.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:18 PM on October 15, 2013

Let the therapy $$$ ride, that's the very last thing to be covered. Contact therapist, explain that you haven't the money and you're laid off and you thought it was covered and blah blah blah. I'm not saying bail out on it totally, but it's the very last thing in line.

Accept your sweeties graceful offer. He's a gem. No need to bow or scrape or whatever, but do let him know how you appreciate it. (I'd bed you'd do it for him.)

As so many uphtread have said, sell anything salable on craiglist.

Cash in your chips on the retirement acct. You'll take a bit of a beating but it will get you liquid, it will give you some breathing space.

Minimums on credit cards just now, and if you can't make that do make certain that you contact them ASAP and let them know what's kicking; the last thing you'll want is for them to think you're bailing on them.

You're going to find work. You are going to pull a rabbit out of this hat. If you can disengage from the fear that's in it, you'll find that it's actually exhilarating; you'll learn about pieces of yourself that you did not know were in there.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:20 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Re: paying for the therapy and credit cards, now that I have a few more minutes, there's a notion that when you're broke, when you can't pay for everything, you need to look and rank everything in your life that requires money. Debts, yes. But also rent, food, car repairs, medication, whatever. Necessary things at the top. Then important things. Most debts? Go very near the bottom of the list. Start at the top and count out how much money you have that month. Draw a line where the money runs out. Tell everybody below the line that you're sorry but paying them this month isn't going to be possible, you'd like to but you can't. Work arrangements out as necessary.

The worst that happens from not paying your debts is either garnishment or bankruptcy, neither of which are going to happen immediately, both of which are generally not serious concerns to people who don't have jobs or assets. Buy food first. Make sure you have clean laundry for job interviews. Etc.

If you are up to it, you can call your credit cards and tell them the situation and ask for some kind of leniency re: putting you into default; some of them will work with you. None of them will sue you for, well, months, at least. Years, in a lot of cases. They will call you. They will try to nag. Remember the line.

Do not cash out your 401k until your ability to buy actual necessities comes on the line. There are certain assets that creditors generally cannot easily get at, and that's one of them. But absolutely do so if the alternative is not eating/getting evicted/that kind of thing; just don't do it to hand the money over to Chase or whoever.
posted by Sequence at 4:30 AM on October 16, 2013

Google. "Standardized Test scoring jobs" for possible work.
posted by vitabellosi at 4:36 AM on October 16, 2013

Become a taskrabbit.
posted by millipede at 6:43 AM on October 16, 2013

Re: tailoring a resume. My guess would be that you move the education section to the end of your resume and list that you were in school, but not what for:


Masters in Social Work, University of Fanciness, 2010-2012
Thesis on why social work is so academic and how employers see MSWs as overqualified. Particular emphasis on statistical analysis of measurable data related to marketability and MSW degrees.

Bachelor of Arts, University of Firstchoice, 2006-2010
Dean's List 2006-2010; senior thesis on the implications of listing educational achievements on resumes; Entrance scholarship recipient

Rather this, after your applicable experience, just to show you weren't in jail during those years:

University of Fanciness, 2010-2012

University of Firstchoice, 2006-2010
posted by girlpublisher at 7:52 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sell anything you don't need (do you have a car? can you get rid of it?). Cut your expenses to the bone. Debts? Minimum payments! Cancel any recurring-fee based expenses. Eat your way through everything in the fridge, then buy staple only (eg: a big bag of rice). Check out temp agencies for short-term jobs.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:14 AM on October 16, 2013

I don't see anybody addressing the Cobra payments.... I'm actually surprised that you even have the cobra paperwork after only 3 weeks, but if you do, that's fine. Read it carefully. When I got laid off, there was a 60-day grace period before you had to sign up, and there may have been a few more weeks after that before you had to pay. And the coverage was retroactive. So at 3 weeks, you don't have to make the Cobra payment - that can be put off for another month at least, and if you get a job with insurance, then you don't have to accept the Cobra at all. Just let it go (again - read carefully. The standard "uninsured" period is 63 days, which is 2 days past when you need to sign up for Cobra, so if you get a job quickly and you don't have any doctor bills in that time, just don't sign up for it).
posted by CathyG at 12:22 PM on October 17, 2013

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