Recession Mama

{May 8, 2009}   Busy, Busy, Busy

By Carla

I don’t have any hard facts on this…maybe a giant think tank somewhere will whip up a study that I’ll be able to reference down the road, but it sure seems like we’re all busier than we’ve ever been, thanks to this lousy economy.

I know for a fact that I’m busier than ever, even though I was laid off from my full-time job. Between the 6-month-old baby boy, the 2-year-old old toddler boy, the house, the laundry, the cooking (and yes, building sandwiches does count, thank you), the job training, the freelance work, all the passionate, in-depth writing for this website, and my hair fiascoes, I’m swamped.

There’s no more Suzanne to help me with the stupid mop, there’s no more eating out 2 or 3 times a day, there is even less quality time with the husband because of HIS new chores, including the lawn (no more lawn help).

We’re constantly whizzing around all day long, busy, busy, busy…too busy to stop and think about just how busy we’ve become. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Probably good. Busy is good. What’s the old saying…idle hands are the devil’s something or other? And I always thought I was busy back THEN…back when I was riding the gravy train, working full-time. Nope. This is worse. Much worse. I mean much busier.

Do you know how busy I am? (Go ahead….I’ll wait……………………………………..thank you) I’m so busy, I’m bringing you this “Best Of” segment today. It’s one of my favorite posts to date and one I think is worth sharing again, even if it shows my orange hair again. Who cares. Enjoy: (click on the link below..but you knew that)

I Am So Much Better Looking In A Bull Market


{April 13, 2009}   Recession Re-invention
The view from the roof of my loft

The view from the roof of my loft

Since Heather, Carla, and I launched this blog, officially, a week ago, I’ve gotten some questions and concerns about my work status. (Even my own mother has said she didn’t realize how many times I’ve been laid off and how incredibly depressing it is!) Well, let me assure everyone that I am working on a show, and I am not here to depress anyone. In fact, the opposite is true. I’m hoping to help and get help with living WELL in this recession.

I want to first explain that I have only been laid off (fo realz) once (the news job in D.C). But I’ve had to look for a new job about 11 times in the last five years. That’s because TV shows end. If I’m lucky, I’ll work on a show for an entire season or two because that show is doing well and has gotten picked up for an extra season . If I’m not lucky, or if I’m just working on a pilot, that show will end in a month or two. Believe it or not, even though I’ve had to look for work 11 times, I’ve only been out of work for only 3 or 4 months in the last five years.

Here’s what I’ve learned from constantly changing jobs:

  • I really enjoy it, and it’s not for everyone. I used to be commitment-phobic. Now, when other people (usually guys) say they’re commitment-phobic, they’re usually telling a girl that they’re not that into them. For me, from the ages of 22-30, I couldn’t commit to cities, jobs, OR boyfriends. During those eight years, I moved NINE times, lived in 8 different cities, and had maybe 8 boyfriends (well… I don’t know if I’d quite call them boyfriends but there I go again with not really committing to them). Well, you get the point. Being a freelance producer fits my personality to a tee. I am a super hard worker, but I do get bored easily. As a TV producer, I am never bored. I’m doing something different every single day. TV is perfect for the A.D.D. personality. And… since I am freelance, I always have the option of moving on to the next show. Now, Fiance, if you’re reading this… I am not commitment-phobic anymore. I have lived in Los Angeles for six years now, and I actually do want stability. That’s why I bought a loft a year ago. Having a mortgage is a BIG responsibility and makes me want to have more of a full-time job… but this is also why I’ve saved up a year’s worth of expenses and why I’m thinking of postponing the wedding. It’s also why I’ve paid off my credit card debts awhile ago, which takes me to the second thing I’ve learned…

  • You do need an emergency savings and not rely on credit cards. It’s too difficult to pay off those cards once you’re working again. And c’mon, when you’re working… don’t you want every penny to belong to you and not to some credit card company? The interest on those cards add up pretty quickly. If you charged a burger on a credit card and didn’t pay off that card for a year…you’ll end up paying something like $100 for that burger! Better be the BEST burger in the world, huh? (If you’re trying to get rid of c.c. debt, read my last post or check out Suze Orman’s site. She has a great system that helped me too.)

  • Network. It may seem like an easy thing to say, but since I’ve started working in entertainment, I have never gotten a job without being recommended by someone else. I’ve never just applied for a position and gotten it. I’ve landed a couple of interviews without knowing anyone, but eventually, they seem to just go with someone they know. And just in case you were wondering, networking goes both ways. If someone helps me, I’m more than likely to help them. I also love having mentors, and I love mentoring. But I don’t always know when someone needs a job so it’s important to put it out there. It’s really no shame to be out of work. Work is work. It shouldn’t be who you are. And if you think you’re not good at networking, take another look at how you network. It’s about establishing relationships, not perfecting small talk or winning a popularity contest. I like to network with good people whom I’d like to be friends with anyway, which makes it easy to ask if they want to go to lunch, have a drink, or send a resume to their boss.

  • Re-invention. This recession, for me, is all about re-invention. Madonna is the mother of re-invention, and it’s really the reason why she still sells out stadiums. With my first lay-off as a national radio news anchor, I had to figure out what I really wanted to do. Within the last five years and a dozen jobs later, I’ve had to learn and adapt to new technology and ways of thinking. I am learning all of the time, and reinventing ways of becoming a better, more efficient producer/writer. Now, I have also never understood people who complain about their jobs. I’ve always thought that if you really hated your job, you should quit. If you were laid off from a job you hated anyway, I think this is the perfect opportunity to find what you truly love and what you are truly meant to do with your life. It’s such a cliche by now that it’s always the most fulfilling to have a job that you would do for free…but it’s so true. Think of this lay-off as a blessing. If you have kids, you can now spend more time with them. If you’ve always wanted to be a stained-glass maker, you can learn how! I have a friend who went to massage school when she thought she was getting laid off because it’s something she’d always wanted to do. Several friends applied to law school, and another friend is starting her own business. Think about what you’ve always wanted to do. What do other people tell you you’re really good at? Write down your thoughts, dreams, fears, and goals. Put together a game plan, a business proposal, or just go for it. I’m trying it out, and I believe my dream and yours will all come true.

Today’s post is from my friend, Pam. She is super stylish and fun! When she mentioned that this recession was affecting her too, but that she was still able to keep having fun…I needed to hear some of her secrets! But first, a little bit about Pam and her recession story:

It was November 24, 2008-just before Thanksgiving when my boss let me know that due to budget cuts in the department…they no longer had the funds for my position and basically gave me my two-week notice. By then, the “recession” was well underway and all around me and all around the country I’d been hearing stories of layoffs and more layoffs-but like everything else, you just don’t think it will happen to you. I’m no stranger to being out of work. I am a freelance TV producer and usually I work on a project by project basis for a few months at a time-then I’m off to find my next gig. But this particular job was a more permanent position…I had been there for seven months and just days before letting me go, my boss mentioned that I would be eligible for benefits soon. So I really didn’t see the layoff coming. Now, I am lucky in that I am not the only or main breadwinner in my family. I have a fabulous husband who works his tush off in the entertainment industry and makes a very nice living for us. But that is not to say that the income I was pulling in did not help us out to cushion the blow of our substantial mortgage on the house we bought less than 2 years ago. And truthfully, my weekly paycheck certainly made my shopping excursions much more enjoyable, frequent and guilt-free.

So, now it is inching on five months that I’ve been out of work, yikes! And although in the beginning it was nice to have the freedom to lunch with my fellow non-working girlfriends (most of whom have babies) and it felt great to be free of work-related stress, I am now starting to go a little stir crazy. Not to mention, being out of work is expensive…the lunches, the appointments and the endless list of errands start to add up. My shopping for clothes has been replaced by shopping for groceries on an almost daily basis so I can make a nice dinner for us and avoid eating out as much. Plus, it’s getting very difficult to resist spring fever and hitting the stores to replenish my spring/summer wardrobe. And I just can’t escape the looks from my husband that seem to say “ummm, aren’t you going to get a job soon?” I’m trying honey, I’m trying.

Pam on Vacation

Pam on Vacation

So how does a girl who hasn’t been working for five months go on vacation? Well, Pam and I had lunch the other day, and she told me that she’s about to go on vacation for free…or nearly free! I needed to know how she’s doing it, and I think she can explain it better than me, so here it is:

Ever since we’ve been together, my husband and I take a vacation over the spring/summer. We avoid the Christmas rush and choose to sweat it out in paradise during the warmer months. This is both a slower time of year for my hubby at work and since it’s considered the “off season” at many resorts, we usually can get better rates. This year as the time came to plan our yearly getaway, we found ourselves over-extended. Partly because I have been out of a job, partly because we decided to do some work on our house and mostly because thanks to the recession, we have been really trying to “tighten the belt” so to speak. So, a vacation wasn’t exactly a priority, especially since we live in sunny LA. Thankfully however, we had thought ahead. Almost two years ago, we decided to switch our main credit card from one that awarded us points on an airline carrier to Starwood points on American Express. This program awards points towards hotel rooms all over the world and flights on many airlines. We found that every time we went to redeem our airline miles for a flight, there would either be black out dates or we would have to use an exorbitant amount of miles for just one flight. On the urging of a close friend, we decided to try Starwood. I am happy to report that thanks to that switch, we will soon embark on a six day, five night vacation at a gorgeous resort in Punta Mita, Mexico-free of charge. (well the room is free). Even better, we were able to use miles from our original credit card to get free flights! Needless to say, we are very excited for our trip and feel proud of ourselves for pulling off our (almost) free vacation. Let me break it down…what would have been a $449/night room at the resort, we are now paying only the tax and service charge per night. And what would have cost upwards of $350/ticket for the flight…we were able to get using 60,000 miles total plus $168.88 in taxes. The points we earned for this trip was money we were spending on our credit card anyway, now we get a vacation out of it. There are no shortage of credit card programs that reward you for your spending… and I’m sure that many of you already partake in one of your choosing. But if you don’t, there is no better time to do the research and make sure you are getting the most out of the money you spend. Bon Voyage!

Pam — send us photos of your vacation and show us the receipts when you get back! ~Katy

{April 9, 2009}   Recession Proofing a Marriage


Today’s Oprah was all about recession-proofing marriage. Is that even possible? Now, I’m not married, but I am engaged. Since we all know that couples fight mostly about money and sex, my fiance and I have extensive discussions about finances. We’ve even gone to pre-marital counseling. Now, I’m a realist.  I’ve had to be, and although our financial picture has not changed that much recently, we are closer to each other now, more than ever, in this recession.

Before I worked freelance as a TV producer, I didn’t really know much about money. I racked up credit card debt in college, like a Freshman adding the inevitable 15 pounds. Looking back, I laugh because I think my best friend Ryan and I thought we were rich! We took cabs, instead of the subway. We ate out at nice restaurants a LOT. I mean we were going to Ye Waverly Inn before it became a celebrity hotspot with its own Vanity Fair blog! Now, I even worked my way through college with THREE jobs, so you’d think I learned something about the value of money. But it’s difficult when no one ever wants to even approach the subject.

So how did I learn? Well, essentially by getting laid off for the first time in 2002. I was a news anchor in D.C., and right before the country went to war, this company (which will not be named) laid off the entire news staff. But their questionable decision was my path to a new world — the world of television and entertainment. I loved it. My first job was on a style/fashion type show, and if you know me…that’s always been one of my passions! I know designers like a 6 year old boy knows Hot Wheels. After two years working on that show, the network decided to move it to New York City, and that’s when I began to realize the importance of networking. I also figured it was necessary to have some savings. Now, I was still living with my parents then, and they will always support me. But it was time for me to get my own financial situation under control.

My first step was to figure out how to get rid of my credit card debt. I transferred everything onto a 0% card, and I applied anything extra out of my paychecks towards paying this card off. I, eventually, even transferred my student loan onto a 0% card. I don’t know if that’s a wise move these days because financial experts always tell you not to move your money from secured debts to unsecured ones. However, this really helped me.

My brother also helped. He consolidated one of my student loans with his, paid it off, and I just paid him monthly (without interest). (My brother is really the financial guru in the family. I hope to be him one day.) Soon, after paying off all of my debts, I started saving, and I now have roughly a year’s worth of expenses saved up.

Now, here’s the dilemma. My fiance and I have been engaged for a year now. We wanted to get married this August. But with the recession, we’d like to have an even bigger emergency savings because my savings would only cover me. If we were both out of a job, it definitely wouldn’t cover him. Most of you are probably thinking this is a no-brainer. We should just wait to get married, right? Well, not so simple. A lot of wedding locations, florists, photographers, etc. are offering deals THIS YEAR. And I’m a sucker for a bargain. So, to get married or not to get married. That is the question. And…just in case you were wondering. The question is NOT to have a cheaper, lesser wedding. I’m all about getting the BEST for LESS. I just need some help. ~Katy

{April 6, 2009}   Meet Katy

katyI’ve lived this recession over and over since 2003. OK you’re asking yourself…2003? Wasn’t that when the economy was still strong? How in the world could I have lived this recession already? Well, I’ve been out of a job 11 times in a span of five years! Let me explain. I get paid to be a television producer in Los Angeles. Most of the time, I work freelance gigs, which means I’m working two to three months on a project and then moving on. Sometimes, the production company or television network will pay to give me benefits, and I’m considered “full-time” or “staff” but that never guarantees I’ll have a job for any specific amount of time. The show I’m working on could get canceled or not get “picked up” for another season. So for anyone who’s ever been laid off even once, I get it! I’ve seen the same look of pity amongst my friends and family for 5 years now! Every couple of months, when a show ends, all I hear is…”Oh, no! You’re out of a job again?!” I know that sense of uncertainty, wondering if I’ll ever work again?! But when I land another gig in a week or two, I know I’ll hear people either say, “Congratulations!” or that all too familiar look that tells me, “Welcome back. You’re one of us again.”

et cetera