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?