Frugal Living » A year of Unemployment- How 1 Family Made it Through

A year of Unemployment- How 1 Family Made it Through

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How we made it through a year of Unemployment
Guest Post by GardenLabyrinth

Here are a couple things we did to survive aside from the job hunting… We learned our trash could be reduced to once a month pick-up and we compost a lot so it was not hard at all, recycling and yard debris remained on its usual schedule on this reduced service.


We figured this out when a neighbor with a teeeeeeny, tiny can was putting their extras in our can every week. Then I called to ask about a teeny can and learned that I could reduce service…not available in all areas.

Since my husband was aged out of his work in his early 50’s it meant a career change that wasn’t expected. So he posted a free ad for something he really wanted to do instead and got some cash pretty quick just from that. He did exhaust every last resource in his field in our area with job interviews and this was with a positive job recommendation from a former employer.

I started a particular kind of petsitting business and made it totally doable-set all the limits to what I could do with taking my child with me in the hours I wanted and all without a car. This in itself has been so much fun and I made a surprising amount of money from the long trips people take and needed to hire me to visit their furry ones while they were away.


We sold the car and went totally car-free. Instead, we joined a car sharing company (now “zipcar” which is international) and volunteered with the car sharing in exchange for driving hours which was an awesome barter for us-we didn’t even have to pay for gas and insurance anymore!

We upgraded the bikes and added a travel bike for the youngster; got more humble about asking for rides and carpooling, walked more than we used to, and bussed everywhere we couldn’t get a ride.

My husband found a farmer’s market stand to work on Saturdays- a commitment he could honor even if he had full-time work until the season was finished. This resulted in loads of fresh organic veggies every week for us when there were extras at the end of the market day.

Photo by Lou Liebau

For a full year, we never rented a video or bought books etc. Instead, we learned to rely on putting books and movies we wanted on hold at the library and just waiting for them to come in.

We told all our friends and family and neighbors about the job loss and when they asked what they could do we said tell us of any job leads and hire us to do their yard work for cash. This 50 dollars here and there was grocery money sometimes when we didn’t have any. It also made our friends feel like they were of help as they hated to see us nearly lose our home.

Also, telling everyone meant that an unknown source of employment was revealed to us unexpectedly; someone who started my husband off with technical writing projects.

Anywhere there was a reduced rate for low income we tried for it- resulting in a scholarship to a music institute for our daughter at a ridiculously low price. Since we homeschool and already were on a tight budget this was a blessing as we could not afford the classes
before the job loss.

We cashed in a portion of our retirement at the end of one year and the rest the next. We figured it was better than losing a house.

My husband signed up for an Extras Only website that we learned from word of mouth was a legitimate employer for background acting jobs and sometimes commercial and speaking parts. They just wanted ordinary people. Our friends and family had fun gathering up all of the required wardrobe changes to have on hand just in case a call came in.


Went frequented clothing and toy swaps, sold our good outgrown kid stuff to consignment/resale shops for extra cash.

Our local church offered a couple hundred dollar monthly stipend for me to run the children’s program which I was going to volunteer for anyway.

At the last minute, we really humbled ourselves and asked a wealthy relative for one month’s budget as a last ditch effort to not lose the house etc. It turned out she was very supportive and gave my husband the confidence to hang in there (it had been 8 months by then) and she willingly gave more money than he asked for, so we so lucked out there.

It was just long enough to snag the full-time work we needed. I also think you have to overcome the folks who tell you to do the thing you know you shouldn’t-whatever it is. For us, it was people telling us to sell our house (sometimes you have to but we knew we were already in a small house and not good alternative solutions). t

There are also those with lots of money who could help us but didn’t, they didn’t want to at all. That was a little hard. Also, people telling my husband he can’t make a living as a writer because the work is not there, we had to totally ignore that one.

Oh, I almost forgot, I asked someone what I could plant and grow for them to trade for childcare when I needed it and did it!!! Boy did I load that one up on veggies!

One last thing there were a couple times I thought we were as bare bones as we could go and I had every expense in a chart to look at easily and yet somehow we cut it back again and again. It was quite surprising since we are not big spenders anyway.

One strange thing happened to us -we became more aware of suffering all around us and started giving what we had more and more. It was like a huge big awareness landed on us to care for the suffering all around as we needed to be cared for sometimes.


The poorer we got, the more we shared and felt like our family and community got bigger and bigger yet in an intimate way. I started having conversations with the man who sells the street roots paper and would drop store gift cards in his basket sometimes and other things like that, but it was strange when we already thought we were giving people. We learned we weren’t really that giving before all of this happened.

Hope that helps.



This has been a guest post by Garden Labyrinth.
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1 thought on “A year of Unemployment- How 1 Family Made it Through”

  1. Thanks for sharing your story. We’ve been trying to survive off unemployment since covid hit. One thing that I didn’t account for was just how many subscriptions we had for things. $10 a month here or there for things like youtube, tubi, cracken, roku add-ons. We were spending almost $200 a month in little charges.

    They really add up fast when you’re broke. Also, we were spending a fortune on convenience foods and snacks. The kids and I have been making snacks together, batches of cookies and muffins and freezing some to have easy to prepare snacks later on.

    This site has been a godsend for our family.


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