Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's Not So Simple Any More

Although we can look at a lot of the skills our grandparents and great-grandparents used to survive the Great Depression in order to guide us through the current mess, some things have changed radically. This was brought home to me as I was preparing a set of articles on identity theft for a website on money and credit I am working on.

Back in the 1930's, people generally knew one another, and there was little need for formal identification documents. A person could easily go for weeks or even months without needing to produce one. Most Americans of the time found loathsome the very idea of having to routinely carry documents proving who you were -- it belonged in nasty dictatorships Over There, not the land of the free and the home of the brave.

How things have changed since then. Not only do we have to regularly prove who we are, but our very identity is continually susceptible to being misused to defraud others, leaving us vulnerable to being punished for what someone else did with our name. We have to constantly think about what everything we say and do reveals about our private information, something unthinkable in the 1930's. (If people worried about what they said and did, it was to keep from being accused of sexual immorality or other reputation-damaging activities, not because someone else would take their information and use it to create a paper persona).

Even as late as the 1980's, when I was first beginning to submit stories to publishers, it was considered the normal thing to do to include one's Social Security number on one's manuscript. This enabled the business office to send a check for an accepted story without having to go through the trouble of asking for the SSN so that the 1099 could be filled out for the IRS. But by the mid-90's, I remember being scolded that I was putting myself in danger by doing so, which somewhat bewildered me because other Authoritative Voices were instructing me to put it there.

Although some things do stay the same, there are some things that change, so we need to be aware and avoid getting tripped up by them.

Goodbye SHARE Food of Central Illinois

Illinois and Indiana residents who had been getting monthly packages of discount food via Peoria-based SHARE Food of Central Illinois received an unhappy surprise at yesterday's distribution yesterday. As a result of shrinking participation levels combined with rising costs of food, fuel, and other essentials, they are no longer able to sustain their operation and will be closing their doors at the end of the year.

December 18 will be the last monthly food distribution. After that time, there will probably be a clearance sale at the Peoria distribution center to get rid of the remaining food.

This is an unfortunate loss for families who had been relying on SHARE packages to make their food budget stretch further. However, this does not mean that we are completely out of luck. Most of the area served by SHARE is also served by AngelFood Ministries, another faith-based discount food-buying system working on pretty much the same lines. The Bit o'Blessing box is roughly equivalent to the SHARE unit, but there are also larger Bread of Life and Bountiful Blessing boxes available, as well as various specialty boxes.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Money Saving Advice for the Rest of Us

Are you tired of the oh-so-helpful advice on saving money that keeps showing up in magazines, the sort that seems to assume that you're one of those people who spend money like water? Something that will be useful to those who are already living pretty tight, but need to figure out how to live even tighter?

A friend of mine just posted some information on new ideas on ways to save money at eHow. Take a look and see if any of them are useful to you.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Skills for Survival

When times are good, it's often easier to simply replace something that breaks. The time and money it would take to repair it have their value too.

But as things get tight, being able to repair things when they break can free up the money you would otherwise use to replace them so you can put it to something else. And when you're really struggling just to make essentials like food and rent, being able to fix something is the difference between being able to make it last a few more months and having to go without altogether.

For instance, what do you do when the switch on your table lamp starts to go bad? Or when a sock develops a hole?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Breaking the Experience Catch-22

Even in the best of times, it's difficult to be a first-time job hunter. Employers want people with experience, but how can you get experience if no one will hire you in the first place?

In these trying times, it's even harder for the simple reason that there are so many more experienced people out of work and competing for jobs with people fresh out of high school and college. It's very easy to become trapped in a Catch-22 by which you can't get the experience you need to get a job because you can't get a job to give you experience.

One of the things to consider while still a student is the possibility of an internship with a company in your field. Through an internship you can get experience that's actually relevant to your career plans. Although part-time minimum wage jobs do show that you're able to work on a schedule and under close supervision, they don't necessarily tell anything about how well you'll perform in a professional office environment.

And since times are tight, the prospect of working for no pay, or even having to pay to work, may be financially daunting for students who are already struggling to finish their degrees. But it is possible to get an internship that actually pays you money, although it may be only a stipend to help with travel and lodging.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Taming the Monster of Job Hunting

Although the news media is trying to soft-pedal employment statistics in order to keep people's spirits up, people are still losing jobs and new hires simply aren't keeping pace. Thus the possibility of being out of work and unable to get another job is frighteningly real to many Americans.

However, the situation doesn't have to be a hopeless one. Check out I'm Out of Work, I Need a Job for job interviewing tips and reviews of books on job hunting.