Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fast list of resources and how to grocery shop cheaply

Okay, I lied, but not intentionally--but I wanted to share these resources. If you know anyone else who is facing unemployment or is already unemployed, here is a list of resources you can send them. You can quickly google to find the relevant information. I recommend that people apply to these programs as early as they qualify and do a lot of planning because there are still a lot of expenses that unemployment wages and these other programs will not cover. Careful planning can help extend resources greatly. I'll explain why it's crucial to apply early below.

My list of resources:
-Mortgage assistance
-Nonprofit debt management (whee, medical debts; some debt management is actually a scam, so be careful)
-Free school breakfasts/lunches for kids
-Food stamps (actually a debit card these days, (households with disability often qualify earlier)
-WIC for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have young children (they have increased nutritional needs)
-Utilities assistance (telephone as well as electricity, people on food stamps automatically qualify)
-Section 8 (housing assistance, government voucher)
-Medicaid for children, though there may be a waiting list; also for adults before COBRA expires (apply early)
-Free medical clinics for those without insurance
-AFDC/TANF (aid to families with dependent children; not sure if unemployed people qualify)

It's good for adults with medical problems to stay on COBRA if at all possible to ensure insurability with a new carrier (some still won't cover if you've been treated for a particular illness in the past 6 months). Some drug companies also offer "scholarship" programs or help with copays. Food pantries if needed, discount clothing stores and consignment stores can offer resources for job hunters.

Here's why you need to apply early. Despite all this assistance, even if you live with family to extend resources, as we may very well do if we don't get jobs in a few to six months, money will not go far. Applying early and watching to see when you qualify allows you to hang in there until you can get a job and to stretch every dollar as far as it will go. The maximum unemployment assistance is about $800 a month, and that's limited to about 8 months. For us, this will pay our medical premiums, car insurance, and car. Not covered would be any activities for your children, gas for getting to job interviews, even used clothing/shoes, haircuts (necessary for job interviews), school supplies, personal products or laundry detergent, etc. That's why managing money painstakingly is crucial. And this is why I also believe the concept of the welfare mother is a myth. People just can't do it since unemployment or AFDC doesn't last forever.

I recommend a website called Money Saving Mom for food shipping and coupon ideas and lists of products you can get free with coupons--a Sunday paper will more than pay for itself if you use a store that offers double and triple coupons. Watch store sales carefully--we recently purchased $180 of groceries for $100. Pasta, rice, beans, and potatoes are cheap additions to meals (though be careful not to overdo the carbs). Eggs are inexpensive and good protein, as is peanut butter for those who can eat it. Homemade soups can hold a lot of vegetables with no nutrients lost. Watch for the grocery flyers that come in the mail--when you add a double or triple coupon to a box of cereal, you can get it for $.50. If you or your kids eat meat, watch for it on sale. With these kinds of sales, you can get occasional treats like frozen pizza. In general, though, of course avoid convenience foods. You can make up several meals in advance on a weekend day and put some in the freezer. You can also buy chicken in larger packages, preshred it ready to go in other meals, and freeze it in divided portions; the same with ground turkey or ground beef. Just be careful not to buy more food than you'll use and use what you already have. There are lots of ideas for frugal, cheap, easy, and nutritious meals on the web.

I do plan being back for Blogging Against Disablism Day and will be back soon. We hope that we can get jobs soon and this will be very temporary. In the meantime, I really wanted to pass this on in case there's helpful information someone else needs. I have to say no severance pay sucks. If this had happened a few months ago, we'd have had 6 months of salary too. I would prefer to still be an earning family and keep paying our bills ourselves, taking care of ourselves and hope we will be again very soon.

(Update: we can still make it about six months in the house, but we will be moving to the in-laws immediately if we sell the house.)


yanub said...

I guess the good part of this economic downturn is that a whole lot of people are going to be getting a reality check about the nature of economic luck and how hard it is to rise from the ashes. So, maybe when times improve, folks will remember, and will stop being so hateful toward those who need help.

Anyway, other resources surely include Angel Food Ministries. And, also, Freecycle, which allows people to give away things they don't need. Also, house-sharing is a possibility for some families and individuals. It may seem like an unpleasant option, but if it helps you keep your house, it may be the best choice, if you can find someone decent needing to rent a room.

FridaWrites said...

I've definitely thought about house sharing. It's in our deed restrictions that we can't have more than a single family (people get away with older parents/grandparents) but in this economy who would throw people out? It's just a matter of finding someone to trust, really important since we have small kids. We have an extra bedroom and the kids could share a bedroom. We also have an extra living area. Not sure that would work with trying to sell the house, keeping it clear of clutter, but being able to split expenses/have some income would help.

Lisa Moon said...

How thoughtful of you to take the time to post these resources for others who may well be facing the same situations!

Yanub, good point about the economy perhaps forcing people to rethink their prejudices towards those needing help; I expect a whole lot of different people are going to be needing help who perhaps never expected it would happen to them. Ahh, much like my injury-turned-disability!

Good luck with the possible roomer idea; it is trickier when there are children, but perhaps a quiet college student or mature working person (like a nurse who works long hours?!) might fit well?

Where I live, we have many students from other countries, mostly China, Japan, Hong Kong and Korea. They come here to study, sometimes just English, some come to complete degrees. They are often excellent boarders, quiet and hard-working (and I say this carefully, cringing, not wanting to sound at ALL racially profiling or broad-stroking things!) since it means even more to come to another country to study. Do you get foreign students/are you near a college or university? Just an idea...

FridaWrites said...

I think a grad student or med student or two would be perfect. They'd save money on expensive rents and get a lot of utilities like internet and phone already free. I can find some pretty easily but I just don't want to sell the house out from under them quickly. It might not be a bad idea over the next year or two anyway--we had invited a friend who's a friend to live with us before but she moved to another city.