I've learned some priceless lessons the past year and a half as I reached the 18th month of unemployment.
For others in the same boat, here are a few tips:
• I limited my leg shaving to twice a week. No, I didn't self-combust or fall out of grace from the World of Ladydom. Panty hose or slacks keep my stubble a secret and my razor lasts me a good part of a month. Instead of the lavishly rich and creamy shaving cream, I now use the cheapest bottle of hair conditioner, 99 cents at the Dollar Store. One bottle of conditioner lasts close to six months!
• As a marketing director by trade, I understand that the "wash, rinse, repeat" mantra on the back of shampoo bottles is a marketing scheme to get consumers to use the product faster, thereby creating a need to purchase more product. What I've learned, instead, is to use just a bit more the first time, and let the shampoo sit on my hair while I wash my face, rinsing both together (also a way to conserve water). Wait at least 30 minutes after the shower before you run that blow dryer. It takes less time to dry your hair and saves on the power bill.
• When I shopped at Sam's Club, I would buy a six-month supply of toiletries and sundries. Being forced to buy only on a need-to-have basis, searching for price specials on things like mouthwash, floss and toothpaste, can be a chore. However, the old standard baking soda not only cleans the teeth and freshens the breath, it's a natural abrasive for polishing those teeth. As for those expensive whiteners, I rinse once a week with a capful of peroxide (per my dentist's advice, more than that could be counterproductive). Cheap and effective!
• I switched to the cheaper brands of toilet paper and my backside does not protest.
• For those of you who slather on lotions, I have two words for you: while wet. Lotions spread more easily when you've just lightly toweled yourself off and it's absorbed more completely as well. I have another two words for you: olive oil. Years ago, I had a client in her late 60s, and she had immaculate skin. Her secret? Olive oil. I still use it today.
• I love a clean-smelling home and I used to have a cleaner for every purpose and a purpose for every cleaner. I now use distilled water, ammonia and vinegar for windows. For bathrooms, distilled water and bleach. For greasy kitchens: distilled water added to Dawn detergent with a little bit of bleach. The best sanitizer of all: distilled water and peroxide in a spray bottle.
• We've all fallen prey to becoming lazy in the kitchen over the years, preparing boxed foods, serving frozen desserts and microwaving just-add-water meals. Those foods have become a luxury to me, and a good thing. I am now the mother I left behind in Iowa. Hungry for a chocolate cake a few months back, I opened up the cookbook and found an amazing recipe for a chocolate devil's food cake, complete with creamy chocolate icing. Since then, I always keep a supply of flour, sugar, eggs and baking powder, and the supply of desserts is now endless in my house. I never waste a bag of apples, or overly ripe bananas — they all get baked into some delightful treat, all at no additional cost.
• I started a garden. It is therapeutic and a great way to feed your family.
• I've relearned to connect with grandchildren via puppet shows, late-night flashlight stories, board games, picnics and crafting, instead of going to movies, shopping and eating out.
I'd say that being unemployed has been good for me. In reality, I need for nothing. I may want for something a time or two, but I need for nothing.
The basics I left behind in Iowa 22 years ago have come in handy. Being unemployed connected me to my roots and the girl I was before I moved. There's no better present than knowing who you are and living it fully.
Darcy Maness lives in Pasco County.