Where to find help when the Economy gets tough!
As bad as the economy has been, saving every penny can become more than a prevention; it can become necessary for 'survival'. But there are options out there for those that need a little 'boost'.
We can't fix the economy being the 'little' people. But we can make sure that we fix things for our families. We just need to know how!
Talking to a lot of people that often enough have faced similar challenges, I learned a few things that came in handy over the years. While some areas may differ with the available services, this should give you an idea of what is available out there.
Free or Cheap Childcare
After PCS'ing in 2005, finally being a happy Single, I faced a situation what a lot of Single Parent faces: Childcare! Having three young children in daycare, I ended up paying almost $1,500 a month with the long hours I worked. A third of my paycheck went to childcare!
One of those days somebody told me about the Childcare program Social Services offers. If your income falls under a certain limit, they will determine if you can receive free childcare from participating daycare centers; or if you have to pay a small fee. My monthly childcare bill went from $1,500 to $350! I think I cried that day!
To find information about the program, you can search online for Subsidized Child Care in your State. The website for NC is http://ncchildcare.dhhs.state.nc.us/parents/pr_sn2_ov_fa.asp.
Some things I learned the hard way:
- Remember when your year is up! If you miss the deadline, you will have to re-apply again. The waiting list is usually months long! And if your Daycare doesn't pay attention, you won't find out until a month or two later. SS (Social Services) won't pay you back for the time you missed! You are responsible for the outstanding childcare!
- Make sure you keep up with your paperwork and show up early in the morning. SS is usually packed with people. If you show up after 10am, you will sit there until they close.
Having a low- or no income doesn't make you a lesser person. Most of us are actually much more talented in finding ways to make things happen. We have to work for what we have! And we earned every single bit of what we have. We may not be rich, but we can proudly say that we know how to survive!
There are ways to take care about your family, even if you don't have much money left after paying bills.
How many of us can say that we never had our car break in a bad moment; or some other unexpected emergency? No reason to dispare just yet!
Almost every medium to large town has some kind of a food program. Social Services, of course, has the 'Foodstamps', but it goes by income and I find the amount frustrating at times.
But there are other places you can go, such as the Christian Outreach Centers, Churches and sometimes even the Salvation Army.
Before your family goes hungry, swallow your pride! You can find them in phone books, get their information from Social Services or the Unemployment Office, or just search for free food and such on the internet. And when all else fails, check out the soup kitchens of the City and/or Churches.
There is no reason to go hungry if all these programs are available to you!
Cloth and Winter Jackets
There are several churches and local radio stations (such as one on N1st in Abilene, TX) that do drives during the Fall to collect winter cloth for those that need it. But if your town doesn't have something like that, see your local Salvation Army.
One of the many great things the guys/girls with the kettles (at Christmas time) do is hand out jackets in the winter. You go to their main office (at least where I live) and fill out an application. Then they send you to their store or other location where you can pick up your jacket(s). They had a great selection when I saw it one winter. And it's totally free of charge.
You may also find some similar things in your local area.
Some churches will also provide free clothing for needy families. And if you can't find that, become a yard-saler or thrift shopper like me. After spending hundreds of dollars the first year my oldest One went to school, just to have him outgrow most of it within two months, I became smart. I went back to my roots and went with second hand and hand-me-downs. The only things I buy new is shoes, underwear and socks. Or, like my Mom does it, I shop in the spring for winter and in the fall for spring/summer. The clearance racks at Wal-Mart have given me many good deals; paying $3 a T-Shirt rather than $6.99.
My favorite deal was a sweater that had the 'fuss' in it. It originally sold for $29.99. First it was marked down to $7, because it wouldn't sell that much. At the end I think I bought over ten at $5 a piece. I love them, because they are so comfortable and stay like that after multiple washings. Now, 4 years later, they still look like they did the first day; never shrunk or stretched out. Best $5 a piece I ever spend!
I do all my shopping with a calculator in my head. If I see a ten-pack of underwear on sale (mostly it says 2 extras or something like that), I will digg out those. I learned to use and love the little numbers on the top left of a price-tag: cents per ounce, price per unit! If the generic brand (usually as good as most name brands) is cheaper, well that's what I buy. If I want Tommy Hillfinger, I go to my local Goodwill, Salvation Army or Thrift-Store!
Goodwill has a great selection and quality, but is often a bit higher than the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army and most church-run thriftstores are full of steals and deals. I know people that will walk in, check the jewelery and pictures and walk out. They find amazing steals in there such as real gold and such; and sell them on e-bay! I have my walls covered with paintings. Some may be real. Some are just beautiful. None cost me more than $15. All are making my house look beautiful!
A few places like the Christian Outreach Center and the Salvation Army will actually attempt to help you pay your bills. The Social Services Office is another solution.
Furniture and Appliances
My Ex bought a $1,300 sectional couch and a $1,800 entertainment center. While the entertainment center is still alive, despite moves, the couch fell victim to lively kids and else. I replaced it with a $300 sectional couch bought at one of Salvation Army's 70% off days. This one was 2 feet longer and had only one mistake: One of the handles for the recliner was broken half off. Otherwise it looked brand-new!
My gigantic, green, micro-suede ricliner was $25 and finally died last month. I have spend many hours in that wonderful creation and miss it already.
When we moved into my current and LAST home, we brought some dressers. God forbid but all bedrooms but mine are upstairs. These $30 each, solid wood, old but great dressers are so heavy that it took us hours and curses to get them up the stairs! But they survived with maybe some more scratches, but no damage!
My $30 cheap Wal-Mart shelves didn't fair so well. They are now reinforced with lots of hardware. I so wish I could have bought some of the old, solid wood ones.
Flea-markets, thrift stores, sometimes used furniture stores, Goodwill and Salvation Army are a never-ending source of great finds. Other's unwanted stuff can give you a great selection of things that will local beautiful and work great in your home. Just because it is second, third or fourth hand doesn't make it a bad thing. Some people have the funds and the lack of appreciation to constantly replace something. I stick with what worked for me for a long time.
As a young adult my tiny apartment was mostly filled with things from what Germans call Spährmüll. People will collect all their unwanted stuff once a month and set it by the road. It's free to take. Otherwise it will be picked up by the truck in the morning.
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