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You’re Homeless… Now What?

This post is by Barbara Friedberg, MBA, MS, who is editor-in-chief of Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance. You can view my post at Faithful with a Few. We shared this topic: “You’re homeless/poor, how would you change your situation?”


I confess. I’m a worrier. I think I was born this way. Although I’m determined to be a “glass half full” girl, I always have a “what if” plan.

What if we lose our jobs?

What if the market tanks?

What if we have to lower the price on our “for sale” home (already happened)? What if the house burns down?

You get the idea.

I’ve thought about the “what ifs” of a financial catastrophe and how I would make ends meet. With the proper confluence of events, anyone could become poor. After all, look at the recent tsunami in Japan.  In California, earthquake insurance is prohibitively expensive, as is flood insurance in the Midwest. A bad earthquake or flood could cause widespread ruin.

You can plan as much as you want, but, bad stuff happens.


Before I go on with my response, I must give a shout out to two inspirational simplicity figures; Jacob Lund from Early Retirement Extreme and Tom Shadyac the famous movie director of Liar, Liar, Bruce Almighty, and The Nutty Professor (to name a few). Jacob saved most of his income for several years, and left the conventional work force. He lives what might be called an inexpensive minimalist lifestyle.

Shadyac, a wealthy Hollywood figure who previously owned multiple mansions and other trappings of the super rich, drastically changed his lifestyle. After selling all of his multimillion dollar mansions and firing his extensive staff, he now lives in a double wide 1,000 square foot trailer in Hawaii. By Hollywood standards, he is definitely roughing it!

Both men are living the simple life by choice.

These choices aren’t the same as being forced into poverty by situations outside your control. Yet, they illustrate how most of us are living lives with way more than we need.

Although I try to be mindful of waste and excess, I acknowledge that I own and consume lots more than I need!


What if simple living is not your choice, you are just poor? Then what?

Here’s what I would do if I lost it all.

  • I’d remember to be grateful for what I already have; my health, friends, and family.
  • Short term, I’d sell whatever I could to raise cash; car, furniture, stuff.
  • Next, I’d take a room at the YWCA to cut living costs.
  • I’d eat as cheaply as possible; beans, rice, peanut butter, and whatever veggies were on sale.
  • I would get a job FAST to bring in money immediately while I looked for a career job. My top employment choices would be Lowe’s, Home Depot, and fast food. Why? I love the hardware/home improvement stores. Fast food is always looking and they pay more than minimum wage.
  • When I wasn’t working, I’d relentlessly call, write, and contact anyone who might help me find a career job.
  • Every single expense would be cut to the bare bones, no exceptions. Shop for necessities at the dollar stores, haircut at Super Cuts, no new clothes etc.
  • Every day I would wake up and problem solve ways to generate cash.
  • I would ask my place of worship or other social service agencies for help, if necessary.

This activity was both uplifting and confronting. Having a “worst case scenario” plan makes me feel in control and able to handle anything. I empathize with those in need and even feel a bit guilty for my good fortune. In fact, I frequently feel that I could do more for others.

As Albert Ellis, the great psychologist once said, “Except death, every other problem is at worst, 100% inconvenient.” No matter what the challenge, I try to keep this mindset and maintain a solution oriented attitude.

How would you handle poverty or homelessness?

Photo by BlatantNews.

10 thoughts on “You’re Homeless… Now What?”

  1. My first priority would be to get a job because it would build my confidence. I would keep my expenses low so I could save money to eventually get out of this situation. That probably means I would take advantage of support services or friends/relatives to help.

  2. I like how start with gratitude for what you have and then work your way through other hurdles!

    I would also suggest ‘Pursuit of Happyness’! Deals with the very subject! (No that’s not a typo!)

  3. I am going to look at Tom’s and Jacob’s story. The minimalist lifestyle has become more and more inspirational to me. I know my kids and wife would love Hawaii but I don’t know about the doublewide.

  4. @Moneycone, I loved that movie! So inspiring!
    @Krantcents-I agree, getting a job solves so many problem!
    @Latisha-I understand that many folks are not big planners. And if you don’t plan, bad stuff is worse!

  5. Hi Joe, I don’t think Shadyac is living the “minimalist lifestyle” according to normal standards, but more as a contrast with the “hollywood” lifestyle. Living in Hawaii is expensive 🙂

  6. Very interesting job targets of Lowe’s and Home Depot! I like it! Do those stores pay pretty well? I imagine that working at those stores, you would get maybe more opportunity to problem solve by helping customers figure out how to repair things!

    I too sometimes worry about “what happens if the market tanks or if the house burns down.” But, I think it just further reaffirms the importance of having appropriate insurance, emergency fund savings, and fixed income assets to help us sleep well at night!

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