Seventeen Things to Do When You’re Out of Work

The people around me are struggling with cut hours and layoffs, and cutting back on finances is only part of the effect. My friends are suddenly finding themselves with less to do. More time with the kids is good, but when the kids are in school — watching TV only has so much interest, until you start getting cabin fever and most everything else counters the saving-money thing.

So what to do?

I’ve seen a rise in certain activities, both in my neighborhood and in online interest. Here’s a list I’ve started compiling:

Bake: It saves money because it addresses a need. It takes time. It’s fun to do by yourself and fun to do with the kids. The results are freezable so when you get back to work, you can still enjoy fresh-baked goods.

Read: Joining a reading group, poetry circle, or book swap keeps costs low. It’s mentally stimulating, and it’s something people can get too busy to do.

Barter: Write a website in exchange for lessons;drs help clean out a garage in exchange for some of the useful unwanted junk. Exchange home improvement services because it improves the value of your home, when home values do go up again.

Write: There’s a lot of creative energy out there that gets suppressed in the nine-to-five rush of life. If you’re not busy, hone some skills, edit some old work, polish some stuff that you can start sending out to publishers. More people are reading now, so it’s a good time to see if your contribution might make the cut.

Sew: Find a website with patterns for everything from pillows to neckties, purses to eveningwear. If you have a machine and some time to practice, you might be able update your wardrobe without actually shopping.

Spring Clean: Really, it can be done anytime. Find all those weird crannies you’ve forgotten to check in the past. Give your carpet a super-shampoo with a rental.

Craft: Delve into a hobby and rack up an inventory. The economy will eventually turn around and you could get good return at a booth at a craft fair or online, or you could have plenty of gifts ready for the next holiday season.

Travel: Support the local economy of somewhere, you have the time. Travel frugally, and keep your home utilities low while you’re gone.

Music: Pick up an instrument, that one you’ve stashed away from high school, or your kid’s band instrument. It’s been observed that music and band improve performance in school, so dedicating a bit of time to it everyday can’t possibly hurt your work, when you are working.

Volunteer: Bad economic times for profit companies is only amplified in the non-profit sectors. If you have time to give, give it. Local thrift stores, the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, homeless shelters. If you don’t know where to look, try VolunteerMatch.Org.

Get Political: Participate in city organizations, like the local arts commission, public works and planning, environmental projects. You might be able to establish change somewhere you never knew you could.

Blog: It’s a networking tool, and if you’ve been laid off from something you’ve been doing for just about ever, you will probably have something authoritative to say on the subject. If not, aim for writing about the field you are interested in. Robert Scoble has some tips to help keep you from doing something embarrassing.

Work: For yourself. Start your own business, make something, sell something, do something. Connect people. Write for hire. The worst thing that happens is that you don’t make any money, which is something you’re doing already. The best thing that happens, you never have to look for a job again.

Golf: I stole this idea from the guys over at Wallstrip, but it’s a good one. In other words, surround yourself with people who have a lot of money and might be able to land you a job, or some insight into a job you could get. If golfing isn’t for you, try your friends in other big companies that hold company social gatherings.

Move: Keep your world-wide options open, especially if you have very little, if anything, tying you to the place you are. You can work anywhere.

Exercise: Go to the gym. Go hiking, Go for a walk. Break out the unused treadmill from six years ago. It’s a routine, and exercise is good for your psyche as well as your body.

Job Hunt: Never stop, though it could be easy to give up. David G. Mitchell has some good tips on how to keep up the search.

The point is, stay sharp, know you’re not alone, and don’t disappear into the world of the Miserably Unemployed. Count yourself as one of the Stay At Home or Work From Home crowds. It’s a different routine, possibly no routine, but it’s not a lonely life, and it’s not a stressed one.

As for not being alone, this is just my list of things I’ve seen on the rise. What have you seen or done?

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15 Responses to Seventeen Things to Do When You’re Out of Work

  1. Kathy says:

    Start a garden. Fresh air, a little exercise, and you could grow vegetables to save on grocery bills.

  2. Pingback: Monroe on a Budget » Staying busy when you’re out of work

  3. Randy says:

    “Bicycling is the new golf.” That’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot over the last few years. That might be overselling it a bit, but it’s certainly true that there is some good networking to be had with bike clubs and group rides.

  4. justme says:

    should this be called what to do in your idle time?

    being out of work makes me think you should be out looking for work.

  5. M E 2 says:

    I’m with justme. This list is great if you’re retired. But if you are unemployed? Seriously, where is look anywhere/everywhere for work. Of any kind. Period. @@

  6. Ann says:

    @justme and me2

    If you’ve ever been unemployed you know that searching for work is half the battle. The other half is keeping busy so depression doesn’t set in.

    What do you do when you’re out of work to keep your spirits up and stay accomplished?

  7. I agree with justme as well. I was laid off last summer (but thankfully found another job in about 4 months) and my old company sent me to one of those outplacement seminars. The seminar was crap and I left at the first break, but they did say something very important: “Your full-time job may have been ??? before, but you don’t have that job anymore. Your full-time job is now to find another job.” Sums it up pretty well in my opinion.

    I know when I was unemployed I didn’t really have time for any of the things you listed. It wasn’t until the period between my acceptance and starting a new position I had time to do any of these more leisurely activities.

  8. Kristian says:

    Seems that quite a few people are missing the point, and the last part of the article. I expect the same attitude that would let that get by you would make leaving the seminar early seem a good idea too.
    The point seems to be that if you arn’t lucky enough to get hired in a few weeks time you may just start running out of clear options, a state of being that can soon lead to a negitive view of one’s self-worth. These look to be a few good thoughts about how to combat that.

  9. Justin says:

    I got let go and after that i learn to cook. Its great to learn new crafts but i do need to find another jon yikes!!! I wish I could do all these things but reality dictates if I want to roof I need to work. Bummer maybe in my next lifetime 🙂

  10. What great suggestions, not just for times out of work but any time a little extra space in a day or a week comes up. I work for UniversalGiving, which is another great resource online for volunteering opportunities.

  11. Meaghan says:

    These are great suggestions especially when times are tough for so many. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Cindy M says:

    Along the lines of this discussion, it’s funny how things you didn’t plan on can work in your favor and help somebody else out in turn.

    I’m still employed but am making myself aware of possible other employment options, what with pay cuts and other possible problems in my field. I have always tried to sock money away as I can, looking down the road at a possible car purchase or whatever emergency might come up. Anyway, my brother-in-law is redoing my whole kitchen for me at a price I can’t say no to (he needs the extra work this winter and would normally charge twice what I’ll pay him), something that was definitely way down on my list of priorities but needs doing. As I got this house for a deal because of the work it needed, I figure I can’t lose should I have to put it up for sale, you never know. We both are happy with the deal, and he’s doing a great job. Plus I’m cleaning out the garage, closets, etc., to make room for him to work in and getting rid of stuff I don’t need. The activity especially this time of year really does help the mood, even with 10 inches of snow out there.

  13. Anna S. says:

    Here’s some more: Even if you are out in the community doing unpaid things, it is a way to network. You might find a freelance opportunity or meet someone who knows of someone else who is looking to hire.

    Sing: You can’t be sad if you sing. I think it releases endorphins. Get together with a group of people and a piano and sing old popular songs, join a chorus, do karaoke.

    Play games: Invite a group over to play games (Pictionary, Boggle, Trivial Pursuit, etc.) and make the night a potluck. Provide a pot of vegetarian chili and have everyone else brings snacks or a side dish. You’ll have fun and forget the dark days outside.

    Do community theater: Even if you don’t want to act, they always need people to sell tickets, build sets, make costumes and props, cue people. You’ll meet folks and get invited to the cast parties. And you might be able to network a little.

  14. Anne says:

    For those interested in the writing options, writing online for sites such as or Associated Content could also net you a little bit of cash.

  15. Gail says:

    One of the things I’ve seen so often on frugal boards is when the finances get crunched there is always the weeping and wailing about how they can’t give up their cable TV, a very costly worthless money pit. If people would do some of the things on this list, they could save so much and have more and varied interests that they could turn off the TV and not miss it and thus save money. I would think too that when you get a chance to apply for a job, that it would look so much better on your application or resume under personal that you sing in a choral group, do freelance writing, volunteer somewhere than just leaving a blank as most eployers aren’t interested in your TV consumption.

    Yes when you are out of work, you need to be looking for a job, but many of these activities will also help your mental mood ad mentioned but also you never know who you might get a chance to network with.

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