Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Pinch

Lord knows the times are hard for everyone at the moment (though the local pawn broker seems to be doing a roaring trade) but for the Blake household the shit has finally hit the fan, disintegrated at speed and then ricocheted around at a full 4D 360 degrees and coated absolutely everything.

I’m not going to reveal the harrowing state of my finances in detail but as some of you know I was already scouting around for a 3rd job (on top of my full time local authority post and my part time web design business) to help cover the shortfall we were experiencing.

We seem to be one of those families that has fallen in-between the cracks of social welfare. We can’t afford to have Karen not working but neither can we afford to put Tom into full time child care if Karen works full time. Therefore Karen works part-time and Tom goes into childcare part time. Which we still can’t afford. But as we can’t afford the full time child care even more we’ve no choice... It’s not even a vicious circle. It’s just a vicious hole.

I’ve had no real luck with acquiring a third job so far though was offered a post at a school – cleaning – for 17.5 hours a week last week. Unfortunately it would have meant me leaving the house at 8.30am to fulfill my full time employment obligations, finishing at 5.30pm, walking 2 miles to the school and then working through until 9.30 at night 5 days a week.

I was sorely tempted as we need the money so badly.

Karen however put her foot down. Something about loving me and not wanting me in hospital with exhaustion by Christmas and on the mortuary slab with a heart attack by Easter 2010.

Thinking about it, I suppose, she had a point. I’d be half dead within a month and wouldn’t have seen much of my family for the duration – which at the end of the day is who I’m doing all this for.

So I turned it down.

But I’m now wondering whether I’ve looked at a gift horse in the mouth and bitten the hand that was offering me food.

My little web design business has effectively bitten the dust.

I had two regular clients whose commissions each month added about £200 to the family coffers. The first is an amateur photographer and I’d built him a site to showcase his work. The other had various recruitment web sites and supplied me with the bulk of my work. They had bloody good rates from me – a darn sight cheaper than anything a high street internet business would have offered them. And both were making a decent amount of money from their sites – in fact the recruitment people have bought themselves new premises and new sports cars... or so my insider mole has told me.

However it seems Mr Photographer has acquired a new friend who is Flashed up to the gills (I can’t afford to buy a book on Flash at the moment let alone go for retraining) and is happy to work for the fiscal equivalent of peanuts. This is fine. Mr Photographer is not a business, he’s an individual. It’s his prerogative. Though I am hurt that after a long association he hasn’t had the decency to actually tell me that he’s dropped me in favour of another web designer. Instead I’ve had to find out through a mutual friend who is as disappointed in his actions as I am.

What really cheeses me off though is that Mr Photographer has also sold this new cheaper web designer to my other clients who, being chancers of the highest order, have also dropped me – again without any notification or “thank you very much for your services but this is goodbye”. And given their untrustworthy business nature I’m now very doubtful that they’ll pay my last invoice – thankfully they’re only into me for £90 but it’s £90 I desperately need.

My family’s one and only lifeline has effectively been severed just to save someone else a few pounds.

I know. I know.

It’s business. I shouldn’t take it personally. It’s not like we had a binding contract.

But I am very upset by it all and am feeling rather defeated and shat on at the moment. Acquiring new business in the current climate is extremely difficult. Acquiring a client who requires regular work is virtually impossible. It’s a real rarity.

I have no idea what we’re going to do. It’s no longer a case of us having no money.

We have less than no money.

Our only hope now is my aunt’s will and a bunch of solicitors who are content to swim slowly through toffee to get it sorted out.

I only hope we can keep our heads above water until the lifeboats reach us...


The Sagittarian said...

Oh Steve, what a pickle! Maybe the cleaning job will still be there if you're quick?

Steve said...

I think I've burnt my boats and thoroughly detonated my bridges with that one... but I physically couldn't do it anyway, Amanda. A 58 hour week is beyond me - I haven't even taken the hippocratic oath!

KeyReed said...

You seem pretty IT savvy. Why not insert a postcard advert in the local shop window [or a door to door 'mailshot by hand'] offering to give people basic computer training, install software, etc. There are plenty of silver surfers out there who may jump at it if reasonably priced. They don't have to sign up for regular lessons.
If you can offer something at the right price I feel sure people will follow it up. Although I am IT savvy too I don't have a webcam or skype (so I can't chat to my daughter at uni and see her - although as she put them on her own laptop I guess she could show me how to do it).
Tenon Towers is bombarded with postcards offering gardening services (some of which I have used although some are 'cowboys' I expect). If you can make your 'mailshot' attractive, who knows what might come of it?

Steve said...

Tenon_Saw, you know that's not a bad idea at all. Thank you!

The Joined up Cook said...

Expect the unexpected.

I started taking my pension and winding down a couple of years ago.

Then I decided to sell my business and take a little part-time job to meet the shortfall.

Great - BUT - the part-time job, which I enjoyed, has buggered up my knees. (It's on-line delivery driving; a sort of Postman Pat with groceries; no responsibility and a bit of exercise.)

So I'm on the sick because I physically cannot do that job and will have to leave it because my knees just can't take it.

And I'm committed to selling my business. I want to anyway.


I'm applying for other jobs - at 55 - and have just put my details on 'Monster' a job website.

Already had 3 phone calls.

Have a look. You can filter in or out all kinds of jobs, requirements etc.

Steve said...

Thanks for that AWB - will do.

Suburbia said...

I have not ideas or advice to give, but take care of yourselves, your health is priceless.

Anonymous said...

I was going to suggest the same as Tenon_Saw, it's something that would be interesting and easy for you to do ( I imagine).Reasonably priced with no long term commitment would be very popular I think.

I'm sorry to hear that you're in such a bind right now. I agree you cannot possibly work 58 hours a week and hardly see your children.
If you want to do that you should move to Japan.
What has happened over there, that 2.5 jobs is not enough to live off?
Maybe when you graduate you'll have better prospects?
A lot of people here are stuck in the daycare costs Vs work trap, I know it doesn't help you now but when your son starts school it'll be better wont it?

Steve said...

Suburbia: thank you - sometimes you forget the basic priorities when things get tough.

Missbehaving: the UK has been getting this way for quite some time. It's almost like we penalize people for having kids. I believe things in Holland and Sweden are much different with parents being supported to stay off work for at least 2 years so they can look after their kids. I never thought I'd ever want to leave the UK but I am seriously starting to consider it at the moment. It's impossible to live like this - Karen and I are on the go constantly and don't seem to see any reward for it. Mere survival isn't enough.

KAZ said...

Commiserations Steve - very upsetting for you.
I think you were right to refuse the cleaning job. There was a nurse on the radio this morning talking about fighting viruses - for obvious reasons.
She emphasised the need to avoid getting run down and stressed. It's people in such a state that invite the virus in.
Is a 'working from home' job possible - telephone or internet?

Steve said...

A working from home job, Kaz, would certainly be the ideal. I think I need to put a few ads in shop windows - hit the streets like Sir Alan Sugar in his younger days - and drum up some trade. I'd like to point out that I am not considering prostitution (I think I'd make a loss).

Owen said...

Steve, although I have no real suggestions, I am sending all possible positive energy your way; and sometimes salvation comes from unexpected directions...

Perhaps Somalian piracy isn't such a bad idea after all? Maybe those guys need a web site created for them to better coordinate their activities? And they pay in cash.

With your writing skills, perhaps you have a few novels in cartons in a closet... time to get them off to an editor, you may be the next Ms Rowling?

All tongue in cheek aside, I hope you find solutions quickly; you are far from alone in feeling like things could go badly wrong with little warning these days... I'm hearing too many horror stories from the USA these days.

Chin up and keep the aspidistra flying, as Orwell said !

justme said...

It does seem ridiculour that one full time job with a local authority should not bring in sufficient money for you to live on! But Karen is totally right.....the cleaning job was NOT a good plan.
Fingers crossed that the will getds sorted soon and gives you some breathing space. You sound like you copuld do with a holiday too. But at the end of the day, I suspect you need a new, better paying full time job. There ARE still jobs out there. Despite the recession.
Meanwhile, there are some good ideas in the comments here.
Best of luck with it all.
It is so lowering and depressing having to worry about money.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of people seem to fall down the gap. It is horrible. But like Justme I think the cleaning job would have been a terrible mistake.

I am not sure what to suggest. Any sort of private coaching is lucrative. If I want to fill my coffers at short notice I do a few hours of private ski coaching. Perhaps your commenters were right re the IT help for silver surfers. If you marketed it well you might find you attracted a lot of customers and it is something you could do at hours largely to suit you.

But worrying about money is awful. Let's hope the legacy comes through swiftly. But it is certainly not on if you can't eek a living when you have two people working.

Big hugs, Steve. I wish I had some bright ideas but I am too tired for any ideas, let alone bright ones!

Steve said...

Owen: thanks muchly for the positive energy. My novel is a couple of chapters away from completion so hopefully it'll be another coal in the fire over the summer...

Justme: I think a newer, better paying full time is certainly part of the answer... finding one and being offered one is part of the problem! ;-)

Gina: thanks for the support and hugs! Karen and I have spent a nice day together today - a little time for ourselves and a little time away from the money worries - it's helped my mood tremendously.

The Joined up Cook said...

There are other sites too; have a good CV tool.

There is as well.

Both of these have a very good filtering system to enable you to home in on what you want - and for potential employers to find you.

I've had enormous fun this morning.

Good luck.

Steve said...

Thank you AWB, I shall check them out this weekend.

Inchy said...

Mate, I thought that I was in a bad place, but I now see that I had it pretty easy compared to you.

Just do whatever it takes to get through and remember, ebay is your friend.

Steve said...

Thanks Inchy - nice to know you're still out there.

Nota Bene said...

There seems to be plenty of better practical advice than I could offer, so instead I'll add myself to the list of people offering moral support. Maybe, just maybe, if there's enough of us, we can make something happen. Here's hoping that your many skills generate the rewards you clearly deserve

Steve said...

Nota Bene: moral support is often the best kind and I'll take as much as I'm offered. Big thank you.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I am so sorry to hear you are going through the mill Steve. And particularly that your web design business has bitten the dust. Is it worth a modest advertising campaign to get some new clients?

Karen is right that your life and health is more important than money though.

I am effectively living on my credit cards until I get another job, so know the feeling.

Hope all comes good with the legacy and it will buy you some time (& maybe some flash training to help you stay ahead of the game on the web front - makes sense to build on what you have rather than looking for an exhausting 3rd job/cutting into your family time even more, plus it is something you presumably enjoy and derive a bit of job satisfaction from).


Steve said...

Thanks Laura, I did actually think of you when I wrote this post and was aware that I have a lot to be thankful for - my job might not be ideal but at least I have one. The legacy is a bit of a curse... it's tempting to think "hang it all" and just live on credit until the good times arrive but I'd much rather do something to stop the rot now rather than give a pot of gold to my creditors further down the line. I'm trying to see the loss of my web clients as a good thing too: I doubted their integrity and the work was repetitive and cynical. Really I'm better off without them - at least morally.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

The silver surfer help idea is a wonderful one by the by. Why not see if you can hire the IT room in your FE local college one evening a week to run a class? Am sure you would get some knock-on web biz as a result as well.

My mother used to hire school gymnasiums to run yoga classes in the evening and did really well. In fact she found that running three classes a week WAS equivalent to what she would have been paid in a full-time job and was able to be full-time mother the rest of the week. Mind you she was the first to start teaching yoga in Northern Ireland - think there's a bit more competition now.


Steve said...

Hi Laura: I must admit I'm currently mulling over the silver surfer idea and seeing what I can come up with... I'm very grateful for everybody's wonderful suggestions. I'm thinking of renaming this blog The Recession Buster...!

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve

So sorry to hear about your current difficulties, nothing worse than worrying about money and trying to keep everything going.

I agree with suburbia, you must look after yourself and not drive yourself to exhaustion. Your family is so precious! I know you will keep on trying and am certain you will get it.

Let us know how you get on- fingers crossed !


Steve said...

Thanks Janete, I always remember my nan telling me that happiness and health can't be bought for love nor money and are therefore the most precious things of all.

skatey katie said...

love all the suggestions here steve.
i am almost salivating at the thought of us having a double income next year - for the first time in 17 years. i can earn $NZ200 a day relief teaching even if i can't get a "real job".
and then i will not be cooking anything else with lentils lol X

Steve said...

Good for you, Katie, it'll be well deserved when it comes. Sadly my degree doesn't automatically bring an increase in earning but hopefully it'll improve my chances of applying somewhere successfully that can offer such a thing.

paul said...

hi steve, hello, i'm a friend of anna from cornwall...just read your stuff, the grand dad money thing and the web business biting the is hard for many good people at the moment and i think a lot of people take it on themselves as being in some way at fault, not working hard enough, being in some way to blame.
this however is not the case.

this whole thing that is happening, recession etc. etc is just the result of "dis-organised crime. try not to take to heart, difficult, i know.i say this because things are crazy and upside down at the moment, and i don't think any of us can work our way out of this, because they will just take more and more. there is work around but there's just no money in it.
stay positive, we will all get through this...

any way lots of luvanstuff. paul

Steve said...

Cheers Paul, thanks for dropping by - please do so again (Anna too)! How is Anna - I really must get my arse into gear and send her an email and some pics. Please do give her my love.