Paycheck to No Paycheck

Share your Great Recession survival strategies for getting by on next to nothing.

Emily Yoffe

During the Great Depression, thousands of the suddenly jobless found themselves a new line of work: selling apples on street corners. These fruit sellers, with their heart-tugging signs–“Unemployed Buy Apples 5 c Each”—are an enduring image of bad times. There are no apple sellers on street corners (yet) as we continue to slog through our own great downturn. But the numbers of people trying to live on reduced or nonexistent income are staggering. Today 14 million people are unemployed, more than 9 million people want to work full-time but can only find part-time employment, and 2.5 million would like a job but aren’t even looking, many because they’re simply too discouraged.

One result of this economic calamity is a burgeoning number of foreclosed homes, and the highest number of people living in poverty since the Census Bureau started tracking the poverty rate 52 years ago. But what the statistics don’t tell are the stories of how Americans make do month after month, or year after year, in straitened circumstances. So we are turning to you, DoubleX readers, to tell us what it’s like when your income dwindles or dries up. What are the first things to go, and what are the things you can’t bear to give up? Do you supplement your grocery shopping with trips to the food bank? Have you sold your valuables? Do you score free stuff off Craigslist? Have you joined the underground, or cash, economy? Do you barter? Are the kids on their own when it comes to paying for college? Have you signed up for Social Security earlier than you wanted to?

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Pawn Shop Businesses Benefit In Rough Economy Pawning your valuables? Bartering with friends? Slate wants to hear from readers who are finding creative ways to get by with reduced incomes.

Photograph by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.


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