This is a comprehensive list on how we are getting by on very little money, trying to live as writers but without any real income. This applies to anyone who has been or is broke. It is supposed to be helpful and humorous.
We (my husband and I and our dog and cat) have no money, hardly any at all, but we are getting by. We are living on the very little money that we make everyday giving private English lessons in Prague. We moved from New York City to Prague five months ago. I was drinking too much, and then I was just too out of it, to know that the dollar was really low and that we would not be able to live off of our small savings. We are writers and we are attempting to live our lives as writers, by writing. This writing thing is something that most of us just can’t do after a long, hard day at work; in my case, as a waitress or bartender, or in my husband’s case, as a carpenter. Here in Prague, though, you have to speak fluent Czech to get a decent job in any of these areas. So we are lucky, because we are essentially forced to live as writers. It is such a tragedy that some people never write or make it as writers simply because they have to work.
I hope that some people can benefit from this piece; either by getting ideas, laughing a little, or by relating and therefore feeling less hopeless. This is an attempt to convey how we’re living. We smoke and we eat just enough, and we wash our bodies, faces, hands, and hair with a bar of soap. We run out to the store with the money we make after every lesson to get something that we really need, like a pack of cigarettes, some milk, or eggs and a couple of rolls for breakfast. This is based solely on my own, present experience and in no way am I recommending that you do things my way, for my way has never proved to be the easy way. I don’t know what it’s like to be really poor with no way out and no one to borrow money from, and I feel terrible that people are forced to live that way. We are out of people to borrow money from but we are not poor people. For us, being this broke is quite a recent occurrence. We are waiting to hear back from my husband’s agent about the sale of his brilliant book. So here is a comprehensive list on how we’re getting by on nothing:
We stay home almost all of the time. If you don’t leave the house, you can’t spend any money.
We buy what we can in economy size. It’s always cheaper in the long run.
Buy Pet Food Cheap
We found the cheapest place to buy pet food. This pet shop sells the cheap crap and the good stuff. We got lucky here; they open the big, economy bags, which are just too big for single people, old people and people without cars to carry home (and too expensive for us), and they break them up into their own plastic packages and sell them. So we buy, say, two bags of crap and two bags of the good stuff, take them home, and mix them up. So our animals eat balanced and innovative meals, just like us.
We now have simple pleasures, such as walking in the park or in some unexplored part of Prague, reading, playing chess, and Internet related adventures.
Cover Important Expenses
We make sure we pay the Internet bill, which is six hundred Czech crowns (35.58 U.S.) a month. The Internet is a magical universe where we read the news from many sources, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, our emails, an array of short stories, Czech language sites (to help us learn), where my husband writes his blog (Colin Broderick), where we listen to This American Life, where we can play with a thing called
, and so on so forth. Our Internet experience would be an extensive list.
Do Laundry Differently
I do our laundry with dish detergent (which was an economy size purchase). Seems to work just as well. Why is laundry detergent so expensive (everywhere)? We were lucky enough to get a washing machine with our apartment. I hang all of our clothes around the place, particularly on the heaters. I shake massive amounts of dog hair off of clothes and sheets on our balcony. Yes, we are very lucky because we have a balcony.
This curbed our main expense.
Buy Cheap Cigarettes
I normally smoke (and love) “Gauloises”, but these days I smoke “Start’s”. Start’s are thirteen Czech crowns cheaper than Gauloises. That is seventy-three U.S. cents cheaper. I’m not joking, seventy-three cents is precious to us right now.
Don’t Eat Out
We obviously have not gone out to eat anywhere, not for a long time. I never thought I would, but I got used to it. I dream about seared tuna, sushi, hummus and falafel, or even a small box of pizza. But honestly, I really do enjoy our simple and cheap homemade meals, and more importantly, I know that it’s temporary.
- I am so lucky because it seems you can still get a “loosie” in Prague. A loosie is a cigarette sold from under the counter from an already open pack for small change. I doubt if you can get one in New York anymore, but they were everywhere when I was a teenager (over ten years ago).
Look For Cheap Offers
We eat cheap breakfast cookies with our coffee in the morning called “Dobre Rano” (“Good Morning”). They are delicious. In New York I would buy myself a muffin or a cookie, or even cheaper, a Nutrigrain or Snickers bar. The idea is to briefly curb that initial hunger, by eating something small, and then try and hold out for as long as you can. The less you eat and the more used to not eating you are, the less you need (and the more grateful you are for what you have). We eat eggs with onions and potatoes and rolls, or pancakes made from flour, eggs, milk and sugar, everyday for lunch. We eat simple, cheap dinners like pasta with onions (with tomato sauce on a good day), potatoes and fish sticks, big pots of vegetable soups. Here in the Czech Republic, there is a whole array of great powdered soup packets available. I’m sure there are some good ones in the U.S. And vegetables are cheap, and so is the marvelously fresh bread.
We buy our stuff at the supermarket rather than the potravinys, which are the small, inclusive shops that dot so many of our streets. Just like New York, shopping at the grocery store is always slightly, if not significantly, cheaper than shopping at the deli.
My husband is cutting my hair tomorrow with some dull paper scissors. We’ll see how that goes.
Switch It Up
If you are tired of recurring dinners, there’s always a way to switch it up. For example, today we had about seventy Czech crowns, which is about four dollars and fifteen cents (U.S.), and we had to figure out dinner. We had a can of corn at home, which is always a smart buy. We also had two large carrots and some bread at home. Yes, vegetables are the key to broke-ness; they are cheap, yummy, filling and good for you. And bread, dear God, how much I love the bread. So I bought some imitation crabmeat sticks, which are available in every supermarket here, some kind of mayonnaise fish salad and two nonalcoholic beers. At home, I fried up the crabsticks, boiled the carrots, heated the corn and piled fish salad onto two thick slices of bread. It was one of the best dinners I ever had.
Use Home Remedies
I ran into a great website about uses for olive oil a little while back, which really helped me. My hands had been itchy from our cold, often brutal winter, doing the dishes, washing my hands often, but I ran out of lotion. So I put a few drops of olive oil onto the roof of my hand and rubbed it in. It worked beautifully. Then, the cat threw up some hairballs, so I dropped some olive oil into her food (and brushed her), and that was it, problem solved.
t Bar soap is not good as a supplement for shampoo or face wash but it’s better than nothing.
That’s it for now. I need to get this out there, because maybe I can make a little money of it.
Published in: Personal Finance