I know it has been a REALLY long time, but I'm back to doing one of the things I love most in the world: blogging! It's been a long hiatus due to many factors.... most of them not fun. But I won't bore you with the details.
Let me just say that as of Feb. 1, my whole life has changed. I've moved.... AGAIN. Career changes are also afoot. DS and I are still unpacking.
One of the big reasons I haven't been blogging is that I still need to send several of you your prizes for my birthday give-away. I've really felt like I just couldn't do any new posts until I had taken care of that, but it's going to be a while still on that, for which I am sincerely sorry. Thank you all for being so patient and kind. Everything is ready, but let's just say the last several months have been very tough. As soon as I can, I will mail out everyone's stuff.
As the economic downturn has really started hitting our communities hard, most of us personally know at least one person or family who is currently without a steady income. You want to help, but you don't know what you can do. Let me share some ideas below!
Tips for Helping Friends and Family Going Through Income/Job Loss/Family Transition
1. Always remember, little things mean a lot!
2. Be that positive voice that says, "I believe in you!" and "Things will get better!" and MEAN IT.
3. Listen and be there. Bring tissues.
PRACTICAL THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP:
1. Help with moving, if people are downsizing. There are many ways to help that won't break your budget!
- Call professional moving companies in the area and ask if you can pick up FREE used boxes and partial rolls of packing paper for your friends/loved ones. Many companies are happy to do this. I've had especially good luck with Mayflower. Wardrobe cartons and dish packs are particularly useful. Grocery stores and other retailers will often give you free boxes as well-- just be sure they are clean and pest-free. Picking up boxes and packing material for your friends will greatly reduce the stress and heartache of moving.
- Help pack, and bring packing tape, a tape gun, and sharpie markers for labeling boxes.
- Offer to organize a garage sale to turn those things your friends no longer need into much needed cash.
- Or offer to list items on Craig's List for them and then YOU be the one to coordinate with potential buyers.
- Another wonderful thing to remember if your friends have china, crystal or serving ware they no longer need is that Replacements.Com will often pay top dollar for these items! I made $300 selling my wedding crystal to Replacements after my divorce! Just give them a call to see if they are buying: You need to know the manufacturer and name of the pattern. Phone number is 800-727-5223. Replacements will let you know on the phone if they are purchasing those patterns and will email you a written offer to purchase that specifies exactly which pieces they are buying and the price for each. You just fill out the offer form, CAREFULLY box up the goods, and mail the stuff to them. They will send your friend a check. Luckily, I live within driving distance so it's easy for me zip over to Greensboro with stuff.
- Take unneeded clothing to consignment shops to turn these items into cash also.
- On moving day, be there to help with last minute packing. Load, haul, babysit, or do whatever else you can do to make things easier for your friends. In my recent move, I do not know WHAT I would have done without my BFF Todd's help. He took over just like it was HIS move. I am so lucky to have a wonderful friend like Todd!
- If your friend is having professional movers, provide bottled water and lunch for them. If you can afford it, pay the tip for the movers.
- If you are handy, help to disconnect and reconnect washers and dryers, install ceiling fans and lights, reconnect TVs and DVD players, install faucet filters, hang pictures, paint, etc.
- Don't forget, the kitchen is probably closed for the days just before and after moving, so either bring some covered dishes, some easy to heat frozen meals (along with disposable plates, cups and utensils), order pizza, or take your friends out to get something to eat (doesn't have to be fancy!). They are probably exhausted and haven't eaten all day, and in the moving frenzy, food is likely the last thing on their mind.
3. Scour the Sunday newspaper coupons and use them to purchase household supplies such as paper towels, toilet paper, trash bags, food wraps, light bulbs, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, cleaning supplies, etc. at a bargain--- and stock up your friends so they won't have to buy this stuff for a while.
4. Ditto on expensive personal care items such as soap/bodywash, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, toothbrushes, etc. For example, this week at the Kroger in my area, Softsoap brand liquid hand soap is on sale for $0.88 a bottle. I used coupons for Softsoap from the Jan. 31 Supersaver insert in my Sunday paper to get each bottle for only 18 cents!! (E.g., each coupon was worth 35 cents, which my Kroger automatically doubled, making it worth 70 cents. Sale price of 88 cents minus coupon of 70 cents = final price of 18 cents!!) Again at Kroger, Sure Men's Deodorant is on sale for $1.99. With my $1.50 coupon from the Jan. 24 Supersaver, that brought the price down to just 49 cents!
5. Purchase movie passes or gift certificates to restaurants or merchants like Walmart, Target, and office supply stores and give them to your friends. Just knowing they will still be able to go see a movie or have a date night at a restaurant once in a while can give spirits a much needed lift. And Walmart and Target cards are so handy for those unexpected necessities like ... trash cans, printer paper, or shower curtains that crop up.
6. Restaurants.com is a great place to get restaurant gift certificates for just pennies on the dollar! E.g., I just got an email message this morning about a Valentine's special at Restaurants.Com. They are offering $25 restaurant gift certificates for $2 using a discount code at checkout.
7. When I had to downsize from a 2500 sq. foot house to a 1200 sq foot townhouse during my divorce, my sister was an absolute lifesaver. She helped me to get financing for desperately needed furniture for our new home (our grad-student futon had finally bit the dust). When I realized I would need a vehicle (for 18 years we had been a 1 car family), she helped me to get a car loan, too. I was able to make the payments on the items, but with no credit history, couldn't get loans without a co-signer. (Yes, I could write a whole book on Seriously Bad Money Mistakes I Have Made In My Life, but I digress). My sister's help allowed me to get back on my feet and, most importantly, have a reliable vehicle to get to work in! While you may not be in a position to take on credit risk for a friend or relative, you can help them shop and bargain for a reliable used car they can afford, find an affordable new apartment, or serve as a credit reference for them with dealerships, merchants, or utility companies. Offer to take that potential new vehicle to your mechanic to be checked out.
8. If they are comfortable having you assist with untangling finances, have your friend authorize you and then run interference for them with creditors such as SallieMae (the student loan sharks) and credit card companies. With persistence, (e.g., keep asking to talk to supervisors until you get someone with authority to make decisions) you can often get creditors to work with you to lower payments and interest rates, or to close accounts and freeze interest on balances at 6% or lower. SallieMae will generally give un/underemployment deferments on student loans, though you may have to contact them several times for the necessary paperwork. This will not only help to stretch your friend's budget, it will give them greater peace of mind and free up time to attack the job search. Do anything you can to help your friend avoid debt consolidation loans, which can hurt their credit rating and keep them in debt longer. If worse comes to worst, bankruptcy may be a better option as it will allow them to rebuild their credit record faster. Be sure your friend consults a good bankruptcy attorney about their available options before going into debt consolidation.
9. I cannot say enough good things about John Commuta's Transforming Debt into Wealth program. His system really does work, and you can purchase his online course for about $40-- a very worthwhile investment.
10. If you have good word processing, website and/or marketing skills, help your friend re-work his/her resume and/or create a "Professional Identity" website.
Well, these are just a few things you can do to help your friends and family that are going through tough times.
I plan to do my next post on Budget-Stretching Resources.
As always, thanks for supporting DomesticMuse! Your interest and friendship mean the world to me!
Yours in domestic bliss,