How to Go Broke Without Going Insane

I have experience with this topic.  Many people know that complaining about my financial frustrations has become second nature to me.  Not a good thing, and it’s something I’ve been working on.  I know it’s a bit much.  One thing that I have gotten better with over the past two and half years in New York City is this:  It’s the first of the month and you know when you rent check clears, you will have $10 in your bank account.  It’s a terrifying feeling.  And very frustrating when you feel like you’ve done nothing but work and run around all month.  So I have a routine I will now share in guide book form!

Ginny’s “You worked all month but all your money went to bills” handbook.
Okay.  So you’re sitting at home at the end of the day with the 1st approaching.  No matter how many times you futz with your phone calculator: numbers are still the same.  Why are you against me, calculator??  Unless money starts actually growing on trees, or I find $20 on the street, I am broke.  At least for a week.

Step 1: Sit ups. NOW.

I know it seems counterproductive, you should figure out where to get more money, right?  Shouldn’t you call someone and panic?  Start with this.  Get out a yoga mat, or sit on the carpet, whatever does it for you, and do about 20 situps.  Sit ups don’t feel very good so A. You’re thinking about your abs instead of your wallet, and B. You’re starting to exercise, which has proven time and time again to improve mental health.  Moving into yoga or a few basic stretching moves works for me as well.  You would be amazed how much flipping your head upside down puts things in perspective.  If you finish in child’s pose, hell, you’re in the fetal position, and that was your original plan anyway after looking at your bank account, right?

Step 2: Don’t stay in child’s pose.  Go for a walk.

Yes, I know it’s cold.  Put on a scarf.  All of those “how do I have no money?” thoughts will return, but at least you will be moving.  Walking even around the block with blast you with some cold air, remind you that you CAN get off the couch when you’re feeling like poo, and maybe you’ll even run into some cute dogs.

Thoughts to avoid (or gently tell to go away) while walking:

1. I’m not working hard enough. I doubt that.  Unless you just bought a $300 pair of shoes after turning down work, I’m sure you’re good.

2. I can’t get a job, I must be dumb. We’re in a recession.  It’s cool, we’re all in the same boat.  You’re not dumb.

3. I can’t pay all my bills on time.  The world may end.  Of course it isn’t good to hold off too long on bills.  But if you can’t pay them today, you will pay them tomorrow.  People have waited much longer than a week to pay bills before.   They’ll get over it.

4. This keeps happening.  This is temporary.  You will not always be broke.  Saving money and getting steady work in an expensive city nowadays is hard.  Things will get better.

Step 3: Come home. Assess the situation.

Usually when it comes down to it, all of us are very lucky to not be in a place that we are starving or losing our home.  If you are, please call me.  Ben and I love company.  But I have found through my own experience and my friend’s, that the frustration comes more from working in decently paying jobs all month, not splurging on anything, and still finding yourself in this position.  Let’s face it, this city is a beast to live in.  All of the financial sites I have read suggest saving 6 months of rent before ever being unemployed.  If you can pull that off in the arts, I would like to shake your hand.

Light that cozy candle!

When you get home, make the room feel homey.  Have a candle?  Light it!  Put on some calming tunes and start the kettle or the coffee pot.  A hot drink is also proven to help funky moods.


1.I know with me personally, one of my basic concerns when I’m low on money comes down to food.  It is basic human instinct to fear that I won’t eat because I’m low on money.  Lies.  I just won’t be going to Pret a Manger for an almond croissant.  Life will go on.  But check out your fridge and your pantry and see what was bought before you realized this money issue.

If you have: pasta, rice, beans, and veggies…in my book…you’ll be just fine.  All of these things are very cheap to purchase if not.  I then highly recommend throwing together a soup or casserole for the week that you can chip through at work or while running around.  You would be amazed at how soup come together when you throw everything from the fridge in a pot and  let it sit for two hours.  Also, chopping vegetables releases stress.

Hurricane Soup (inspired by the day before Sandy): If you have onions or garlic, olive oil, and a few herbs (fresh or dried, let’s not get picky here) throw them in the bottom of a large pot.  Turn on a low heat and let the onions turn clear.  It is also best to add the garlic after the onions get going, it likes to burn.  If you have broth or bullion, get that heated and dissolved on the side.  If not?  Through the veggies you have left (even the leaves of the celery!) and let it simmer for 20 minutes.  BAM. vegetable broth.  Chop up all hearty vegetables you have like carrots, potatoes, and celery up and throw them in to hang out with the onions.  Then throw in your “broth.”   This is when you throw in what you want.  A can of beans with the liquid!  A can of stewed tomatoes?  Awesome!  Salt!  Pepper! Vinegar (surprisingly delicious), soy sauce! wine!  Just keep tasting and make sure you give everything enough time to simmer together.  If it blows, just keep adjusting or letting things simmer until it doesn’t.  It’s the magic of soup.

Now you made something, got your mind off money, and potentially have food for the week.

Other ideas: rice and beans- dinner of champions, beef + ketchup + eggs + bread = meatloaf,  eggs + butter + bread: a million things that provide protein and comfort food.

Work and budgeting:

Freelancing and looking for a new job is hard.  Sometimes paychecks don’t show up, work is cancelled, or hurricanes happen.  Assess what factors made this month so hard and choose which ones were in your control.

1. I applied to a million jobs, even ridiculous ones that I know wouldn’t make me happy, but I haven’t heard anything. This is one of the worst job markets since the 70s, so we are fighting against something against our control.  I have temporary job options below.

2. I worked every shift I was given but still didn’t make ends meet.  This may be in your control.  I strongly suggest using Learnvest’s budget maker to see where your money is going.  Having a visual realization of where your money went gave me control, not guilt.  We even found a way to cut down things like our internet bill.  You can do it!  Also, as difficult as it is, ALWAYS pay yourself first.  Throw evern $20 in a savings when you get a paycheck.  It will protect it from going towards the overpriced Starbucks drink fund or the late night bar pocket fund.

3. A natural disaster/sickness/emergency/unpaid project I couldn’t pass up came along.  Remember, you know what is best for you.  All of these things go in the category of taking care of yourself.  Yes, paying your bills is high up on the list of taking care of yourself as well, but a month of extreme budgeting is worth it when you needed to look out for the future.  You couldn’t stop that illness or that hurricane, and sometimes those “big career boosting projects” will pay off in the long run.

4. My paycheck didn’t show up.  I have no shame anymore.  Call them.  You worked.  Goods or services were exchanged.  They owe you money, so nag.

Jobs Jobs Jobs!

On the journey to being an actor, I have built a database of flexible jobs to turn to when money gets tight.  Here are my suggestions:

Temping: I know there are many great companies out there.  Mine is Clarity Staffing.  They have been there for me through thick and thin, through full-time work and morning-of jobs.  I think my agent has signed up about 20 Drew Alums since I joined.  If you want to apply to them, email me, we’ll chat.

Babysitting:  Have any experience whatsoever with kids?  There are many families in NYC, especially stay-at-home moms or artists looking for a flexible sitter that they can have a good relationship with.  This is a fun, relaxed workplace that pays in cash.  If you like kids of course.  If not, I wouldn’t recommend it.  Try out smartsitters or sittercity.

iBid Mobile:  This is a very flexible event company where you carry an iPad around a charity event and take silent auction bids.  You have to be okay on your feet for 5 plus hours and okay with approaching people for money.  But they’re usually all drunk at the event, so it’s much better than flyering on the street.  It’s good pay and very friendly towards actors schedules.  I can get you in touch with someone if it sounds up your alley. I love love love this website.  If you haven’t discovered it yet, it lists full time, part time, and temporary jobs for non-profits.  There are a bunch of entry level ones as well, and all for very interesting organizations.

Facebook:  You’d be amazed at how many leads friends have on short term gigs.  Ben has put out a general message before and has ended up working on new projects for months.  Ask.  Friends like to help.

Treat Yourself

Okay so you’ve done some thinking.  Let it go.  I know you have no money, but that’s what couches are for.  Find that rainy day change and get yourself out to a coffee shop.  This ALWAYS makes me feel better.  If you can’t meet a friend, bring a book or a journal and focus on something else.  Sometimes spending the tiniest bit of money when you think you have none actually breaks the spell that you’re a disaster.  It also gets you out of the house and somewhere cozy.

Let a friend cook you dinner

Going back to that whole food survival thing, I like to know that I have a friend who will have me over when things are crappy.  And most importantly, someone you’d do the same for when they’re having a rough time.  Getting another perspective and a meal can change your whole day around, and make you feel proactive about turning your mood around.  It isn’t mooching when you know you’d cook for them in a heartbeat.  Have a drink, rant, then watch a funny movie.

Last but not least…build some money karma

This is a suggestion I have always liked.  If in your couch digging, you had money leftover after your hot chocolate at the cafe, save it for the way home.  If you live in a city with a homeless population, give the rest of your change to someone you come across.  There are so many things about this that will help.  You are helping someone else who is in a more dire situation.  It can put things in perspective and remind you that there is always room to help someone else, even when things seem like they blow.  Everyone has different thoughts on about this, but those are mine.  So to each his own.

The irony of this whole post is that I am trying to take my own advice with a difficult month after the hurricane.  Even since I edited this yesterday, more opportunities have come up.  Things always seem to in the nick of time.  All it takes is a day to get some perspective instead of panicking.  I hope even a bit of this was helpful or will be for your at some point if the situation comes up.  Now…I have some sit ups to do:)

2 responses to “How to Go Broke Without Going Insane”

  1. Ginny, I love the way you write. This is a great post and so helpful to remember that we have all been here (or are here right now), and that we are not alone.


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