Living On A Prayer

Cheap Skate
I went to the Far East last Summer and travelled throughout Japan. I planned to stay in Japan for much longer than I actually did. The cost of living there is ruinously expensive. A Starbucks coffee is around £7 / $11. The cheapest hotel rooms, shared with 2 other occupants, comes in at a costly £25 a night / $39. A small beer will set you back around £4 / $6. In a bar your looking at £6 / $9. Sounds like much fun. NOT. No wonder the Japanese are so skinny. They can't afford the rent and food. You pay the rent or eat. You can't have both. What the heck. Pay the rent and skip a few meals.

I'm not sure I can afford to live in Japan. The economy is slow. My Japanese is poor. Chances of finding a job are low. What to do? I'll go back to England and find some work. The economy cannot be as bad as it is in Japan. Wrong. How wrong can I be? Err very wrong. Anyhow, I won't have to get a work permit back in England. I can work legally without duress from the Government.

I love Japan. Its a great country. Things did not quite work out as I had hoped, and I decide to fly back to London. When I get back, I have a small amount of savings and bank on finding a job pretty quickly. Could I be more wrong?

Four months pass and no work. I apply for 10 to 20 jobs a day. Thats around 100 vacancies a week. As its via email and CV (resume for you American folk) attachment. I can easily do 100 job applications a week.

I hear back from around 3 or 4 a week. The economic slump continues. Things are worse here than I had feared. Maybe coming back was not such a great idea.

Its been many years since I did a job interview. I'm now doing around 2 job interviews a week. As with all things, I'm rusty for the first few. Not so much nervous, as unsure of what to say, in response to their probing.

After each interview, I make notes, and try to recall what they probed me on. I go online and research interviews questions.

The 50 most common questions you get at interview. I skip the last 30, and work on the first 20. I print them out and carry them around with me. I prepare answers in advance. These dudes are not gonna ambush me. I'm gonna be prepared.

I rework my CV. I sign up with the 6 top online jobsites in the UK. I'm getting around 50 vacancies a day. I'm responding to 10 or 20 daily.

Its lunchtime. Walking back from the train station my mobile (cellphone) rings. Its one of the jobs I responders. Yeah, I'm interested. I agree to a 4pm appointment. Its a first interview.

I arrive 30mins early. Not a problem. You ever been late for an appointment. Your mind is unsettled. Your heart is beating. You whole psyche is unsettled. I like early. Its easy. Stress-less.

Late is painful. Give me early any day of the month. I am given a test paper, that a 12 year old could pass. I cannot believe any job applicant can fail this.

I pass the math, english and grammar tests and wait to be interviewed by people from personnel. I  sit through a gruelling 3 hour interview session where I am systematically interviewed by 5 different people at different levels within the company, right up to board level (yeah, its not that big a company). I am told I meet the strict criteria and I'm on the team.

They will email me job description and employment details the next day and ask if I can respond immediately. ie within 1 or 2 days of receipt.  I respond same day.

A few days later I get an email with a formal job offer and details of when I can start. As its before Xmas, the next induction will be in January. Third week of January. Damn. I have to kill time over Xmas. I accept the job offer and now have to bide my time till I start work.

I'm doing little else, so I continue to apply for jobs online. I have a suspicion the job may fall through. In the mean time I apply for and attend several other job interviews. This may seem crazy. Why bother? The answer. The more job interviews you do, the better you get.

At each job interview, I learn something new. I record the questions I'm asked. I note their attitude. Their emotional thrust. What seems to be important to them. What questions they ask, the previous interviewer did not ask? Slowly, I improve. I refine my CV (Resume).

My CV is refined and refined till its now like a dolphin surging through still water. I continue to polish my CV, till it's a complete sales tool. It has one function and one function only. To get me the job interview. To get me in the door. That's why the CV exists, to get you in front of potential employers. No other purpose. With the CV finally polished, I switch attention to my covering letter. This is a back up sales tool. Providing support, but a sales tool never the less.

I go to job interviews and now I'm confident, assured, I understand the process and I understand what they want. I deliver.

I hear back from the company about the job offer I received in December. They have reviewed their  employment policy. I am without a job, agaiin.

I search the local papers and find a company in need of telesales. I go interview and land a position. The pay is poor. Really poor. Last time I earned this kinda money, I was still wearing nappies (diapers). I have no choice. The economy is flat. Jobs are scarce. Pay is low. I'm lucky to be working.

I read in one of the trash rags, that unemployment is rising and hits a 20 year high of 2.7 million. I shut my mouth and gratefully accept the job.

So here's where the blog starts.

I have no money. Just got back from touring the far east. I land a poorly paid job. What am I to do? I sit on this thing and await inspiration. It hits me. When I was on the road in Japan, I lived like a pauper. Frugal was my mantra. If I could not afford it, I didn't have it. If I was low on funds and hotel rooms were too expensive, I slept on the streets, in bus stations, train stations, parks or temple grounds. If I could save £25 for a hotel room for the night, the park bench was cosy and comfortable. Ya woke early, but hey that was okay. The birds rise early anyhow. You can hear them sing at 5am.

I would now apply the same frugal attitude till the economy had improved and I found a better job. We are mired in the worst recession since the 1930s.

So here's the deal...

For the next 12 months, I am gonna be the embodiment of frugality. I will be frugal personified. Don't know quite how I'm gonna do it, but I will. Its not such a big deal. I don't live the high life anyhow. But it will be interesting.

From here on, I will live by the cheapest means I can and document it. Along with my thoughts, feelings and justifications for doing so.

I will record as best I can .

The guiding principles will be...

To save as much money as I can.
To spend as little money as I can.
To continue to live as best as I can.
To cut back on spending, as much as I can.

I will try to buy the cheapest items where possible.
I will try to buy the lowest priced alternative where possible.
I will investigate alternatives accepted spendthrift practices.
I will seek out thrifty alternatives.
I will avoid spending money, where I can.
I will avoid luxuries, at all times.
I will try to live with the clothes I presently possess.
I will try not to buy any goods unnecessarily.

I will document it throughout the next 12 months, in the hope that it may help others, show what is possible, and see just how much we spend unnecessarily. Spending is often driven by impulse and clever marketing.

Here goes to the next 12 months of fiscal sanity, online.

Bon Voyage.