Making the Most of Under- Employment
By laura ziesel
January 9, 2012
When my husband and I moved to California a year and a half ago, we had no jobs lined up, only a spot in grad school. Upon arriving, we settled into our new town and immediately started applying for jobs. After we arrived in California, it was about two months before we found work, although even then I was underemployed and continued looking for work. But we look back upon those months as some of the best we’ve had. Although money was tight, we decided to make the best out of our situations.
Most likely, you've been in a similar position, or you may find yourself in one in the future. Though the unemployment rate is on the decline (the most recent jobs report finds it at 8.5 percent), 59 percent of Americans still believe the economy is worsening (according to a new Gallup poll). And regardless of the state of the nation, twentysomethings are still likely to encounter tough times, big moves or life changes—like going back to school or having a spouse do so—that leave them with a little more free time. Here are some of the things we did that helped us not only survive, but thrive:
Learn to live on very little money.
We achieved this mostly through becoming coupon masters. We studied our store circulars, made use of the great resource of Money Saving Mom and learned how to get many products for free. Now that we’re both in grad school and working, this skill still comes in handy. In addition, it forced me to learn my new city very quickly.
Host a TV or movie marathon party.
During our months of unemployment, we planned a fun day for a Lord of the Rings marathon. We didn’t have friends in our new town at this time, but if you do, invite some close friends. If you don’t have the DVDs you need, make use of free trial memberships for Blockbuster, Netflix or another movie rental company, or try your local library.
While we were unemployed, my husband lost 40 pounds and I lost 25. We had time to cook fresh, healthy meals and we made use of trial memberships at the local gym. We also went for bike rides, long walks and played tennis. These activities not only led to physical health, but they lifted our moods. I know that many people gain weight during unemployment, but you can buck the trend. And, to be frank, one of the best ways to save money is to simply eat less.
Become a great cook.
Learn to make soups, sauces and other things that you typically buy canned from scratch. Try to make demanding recipes that you’ve never had time to learn. Beef bourguignon, anyone? Learn to make your favorite dishes from your favorite restaurants at home. (I plan to tackle Tikka Masala next summer.) Not only will this save you money, but you will hone your cooking skills and reap the rewards for life.
Tackle a project you’ve never had time to do.
Build a bike, start a garden or write a book. Pick something that engages the unused parts of your skill set. I tackled a family tree project, and I guarantee that my husband was glad I had something to occupy myself with.
Volunteer your time.
You might not have funding to contribute to great causes, but you do have the time. Clean the local park, visit the local nursing home or email your church’s pastor to ask where they need some hands on deck. Explain your situation so that people realize you might have to reassess your commitment when you find a job.
Foster important relationships.
One of the reasons our months of unemployment were some of the best months we’ve had since being married was because my husband and I were able to spend a lot of quality time together. Those months were like a second honeymoon for us. If you are unemployed and your spouse is not, ask him/her how you can serve them and do it. Married or not, seek to serve and love others in your life. Call your grandma and ask her questions about her life. Email an old teacher and thank him for his contribution to your life. Write a snail mail letter to a friend. Pray frequently and spend time listening to God.
Have you ever spent time unemployed or underemployed? What did you do to make the most of that challenging time?
Laura Ziesel is a seminary student at Azusa Pacific University and a freelance writer and editor living in sunny California with herhusband. She blogs on matters of faith, gender, church culture and moreat LauraZiesel.com. She is also a contributing writer for The Redemptive Pursuit, a weekly devotional for women. You can find her on Twitter @lziesel. This article was reprinted from her blog with permission.