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Stretching a Dollar During Unemployment

This article was written by in Frugality. 6 comments.


The recession may be officially over, but that doesn’t mean everyone has seen a personal financial recovery. The rate of unemployment, always the last piece of the economy to improve after a recession, is still high. A friend of mine who was laid off during the financial upheaval finally reached his 99th week of unemployment and no longer receives benefits. He has a job lined up, one that requires training ahead of time. He’ll be officially employed in January. For the last couple of years, he has had to find income here and there and stretch his dollars while going on as many job interviews as possible.

So for those who are looking to make the most of their cash in a tight economy — and even those with jobs could be feeling the pinch — here is a sampling of suggestions from the blog 31 and Holding:

Before the price of your health care insurance goes up or if you’ve met your deductible, renew any medications that have either a high co-pay or you use in frequently but keep on hand. For example, I have a non-narcotic pain patch that I use about 20 a month of on my back. My former insurance had a maximum out of pocket that included prescriptions. My new insurance does not: I renewed the prescription twice as I had met the maximum out of pocket (thanks ankle surgery!) saving $50 a renewal on the new prescription.

It’s been said a ton: ask if there is a generic option for prescriptions. Check into local pharmacies to see if they have options: many offer free antibiotics on some types of antibiotic prescriptions.

Eat ethnic. Seriously. Many, if not most, cuisines from developing nations can be both nutritious, better for you and cheaper. I purchase many groceries from local “ethnic” grocery stores. I’ve picked up a few words of Portuguese thanks to the Brazilian grocery, a bit of Hmong thanks to the Cambodian market saved money as well as put money back into locally owned businesses in my community. Black beans, brown rice and a myriad of interesting foods wait: with recipes abounding all over the internet!

Recycle! Bringing your own bags to many retailers earns $0.10 to $0.25 off per bag. In states where you pay a bottle deposit, return them. I’m stunned at the number of people who toss the bottles they paid a deposit on in Massachusetts.

Create a budget. You don’t need fancy budgeting software: Excel works just as well (although MS Money is also good and comes preinstalled on most windows based systems). Write down everything you spend money on: it’s an eye opening experience.

Know what is tax-deductible if you itemize. Keep track of expenditures for medical bills including mileage and parking! If you met the deductible for medical expenses, this is additional expenditure you can write off.

Read more at 31 and Holding.

Updated September 12, 2011 and originally published September 29, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Brian H.

The generic option for prescriptions is a great money saver. After a recent emergency room stay, my wife needed some pills. I checked the closest pharmacy (since we were out of town on vacation). Then I checked another pharmacy further away. We ended up saving 80% on the same prescription simply by comparison shopping. That’s always a great thing to do despite the time it takes.

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avatar David M

How about cutting out or at least reducing the cost of “necessities”. Like, cable television, internet and cell phones – just a thought. I am amazed at the people who claim to be having trouble making ends meet but they have a Iphone that comes with an $80 a month plan!

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avatar Donna Freedman

Ask the doctor if s/he has samples of the prescription. If you let it be known you’re unemployed you might get the entire 10 days’ worth of that antibiotic for free (and if not, yeah, go with the cheapest med that will do the job).
This has been said before, too, but I’ll say it again: If your town has a library, use the heck out of it for Internet access (more and more have wifi as well as limited public use computers), magazines (you can while away a long afternoon sitting and reading), DVDs (some do charge a nominal fee but many still don’t), CDs/tapes (learn a language! listen to an opera! hear someone read you a book!) and, yeah, books.
Last night I visited a relative who’s elderly and very frail due to several medical issues; she and her son live on Social Security and disability checks plus her small pension. I found out that her check was due the next day and she planned to walk down to the bank (maybe a mile away) because she didn’t have the $3 cab fare. The only money in the house was a single dollar bill. And when I gently insisted on giving her some extra cash (I give her $50 every time I get paid), she fretted that I would “run short.”
When you’re sick as a dog and have just $1 in the house….well, go ahead and complain. (She didn’t, by the way.) But all those folks who are hale and hearty and fond of bitching about how “broke” they are…please be quiet.

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avatar ib

thanks for sharing this. i feel so bad for your relative. but i love stories like this as they can put perspective back in place…..

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avatar eric ♦1,549 (Half-Dollar)

I’ve always gone with generics and never had a problem. Saves a lot of money.

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avatar 4hendricks ♦248 (Cent)

This article was great – I am not unemployed but still need to stretch my dollars – thanks!

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