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Survive the econopocalypse

Want to keep your head above water in post-meltdown America? Here's some ways to get your own bailout bucks — without a W2.
By LISSA HARRIS  |  June 11, 2009


If you're like the more than nine percent of Americans currently unemployed, your "Yes We Can!" has lately lost some of its gusto. You've hit up everyone you know for work, including your mom, your ex, and your ex's ex. Let's face it: jobs are about as easy to find these days your hedge-fund manager's home phone number. Meanwhile, you're broker than Iceland and you're in need of a serious cash infusion.

Fortunately, a little bit of hustle and a can-do attitude are the ingredients necessary for a moneymaking rain dance. We've put together a few pointers for thriving in post-meltdown America that you probably won't find posted on the wall at the unemployment office. And remember, if these fail you, there's always prostitution and food service (two jobs that require the same skills — just in different uniforms). Get out your umbrellas!

Feed your (continuing) ed
Do you have a little time and dough to invest in a career upgrade? Here are three degrees you can get quickly that will give you an excellent shot at skipping the bread line.

EMT CERTIFICATION It's hard work, and not for the faint of heart, but a basic EMT license will get you onto the bottom rung of the health-care ladder — a field that still has a clear path for advancement, and that's growing at a tremendous clip despite (or perhaps because of) our nation's woes. Northeastern University offers basic EMT classes running from June 30 to September 19 for $1323.

GREEN JOBS The recent stimulus bill included $500 million for green-job training nationwide. The Department of Labor hasn't started doling out the money yet — they're still looking at grant applications — but once they do, watch for green-job-certification programs to crop up across the country. Words of wisdom: be wary of frauds and hucksters.

BEAUTY SCHOOL No clever bastard has yet found a way to outsource a pedicure to Bangladesh. You can complete a part-time degree in cosmetology in six months to a year: try the Elizabeth Grady School of Esthetics in Medford, or the Blaine School near Boston Common.

Bite the bulletin
Before you panic, first hit the job boards. Students: you have a particular advantage here, as university communities are a hotbed of temp jobs, and student-support centers are usually eager to help hook you up. BU, for instance, keeps an online "Quickie Job" bulletin board for registered students, while MIT allows students to sign onto an "on-call list" for babysitting, data entry, and other kinds of temporary work.

Even if you're not a student, you can still prowl university bulletin boards in meatspace. Or try well-trafficked coffeeshops, small grocery stores, and laundromats. If you peel away the apartment listings and expired band flyers (not to mention umpteen pleas for employment from other desperate schmoes like yourself), you should be able to find ads for part-time work with high turnover, such as collecting petition signatures or cleaning houses.

Kiss your grass goodbye
In hard times, the right piece of equipment can make you an instant entrepreneur. (Consider Mad Max, who probably made bank renting out his Geiger counter.) Have a lawnmower? You're in business. Go around your neighborhood looking for shockingly unkempt yards, and start knocking on doors. (Do be prepared, however, to encounter equal amounts of dog shit and absentee landlords.)

Are you the proud owner of a truck, or even a decent-size SUV? City dwellers always need help delivering furniture, especially on fine summer weekends. Advertise online, or hang out at yard and estate sales. (Hint: introduce yourself to the sellers so you don't look like you're casing the joint.) Bonus tip: when you charge your customers, be sure to account for the price of gas.

Throw a pantry raid
Lemonade stands are a Norman Rockwell fantasy. These days, even a 10 year old could tell you that street vending has a shitty profit margin, and that's before you invest thousands of dollars in permits and insurance. But if you're a good cook with a decent kitchen, you can squeeze lemons and make . . . money. Organize communal-cafeteria group-cooking sessions and charge a fee. To get diners you trust — and promote the hell out of the events — use Facebook or other social-networking groups. It's a win-win: you charge other people for the food you get to eat, and you help your culinarily challenged friends stock up on freezer-ready entrées for the week (which will probably save them money, too).

Be an auction hero
Economy be damned: if you have, or can make, anything remotely worth selling, chances are somebody wants it. Yard sales are cool if you need to unload a lot of stuff immediately (what, you need to pay off those loanshark debts?), but you're likely to get better money on the Internet. Try Etsy ( if you're crafty, eBay if you're not, and Craigslist if you don't mind putting up with scads of sketchy, haggling, no-showing assholes.

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  Topics: Lifestyle Features , bailout, Breakups, Culture and Lifestyle,  More more >
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  •   SURVIVE THE ECONOPOCALYPSE  |  June 11, 2009
    Want to keep your head above water in post-meltdown America? Here's some ways to get your own bailout bucks — without a W2.
    Want to keep your head above water in post-meltdown America? Here's some ways to get your own bailout bucks — without a W2.
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 See all articles by: LISSA HARRIS

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