How I'm Conquering My Bag Lady Fears: My 10-Step Program

By Frugal Duchess on 20 July 2009 9 comments
Photo: mrhayata

What keeps me up late at night? In addition to worrying about past mistakes and my kids and my work, I worry about becoming a bag lady. And I have plenty of company; a lot of women (and I imagine some men also) have secret fears about living on the streets without money or sanity.

Even Oprah and other successful women have 'fessed up to bag lady fears. My anti-bag lady strategy involves careful planning. Here's what my plans include:

1.  Passive income

Basically, I'm trying to establish income sources that will work for me when I'm sleeping. This includes: publishing royalties, ad income from my blog and eventually investments. My goal: to make my money work for me.

2.  Diverse client base

As a freelance writer, I like having a diverse mix of clients. When I first started out, I was overly dependent on one large client (a trade business publication). That one client represented about 80 percent of my revenue and when that client opted to turn my post into an in-house position, I was left scrambling. Now I'm more savvy about mixing it up.

3.  Get an advanced degree

I've started a masters program at a local university. It's a big crunch in terms of money and time. But I'm having a good time. Besides, I'd like to teach on a university level. I've taught teenagers, but I prefer college students. But in order to do that I need an advanced degree.

4.  Cutting back on clothes

I love clothes. I could live in Ann Taylor Loft and Anthropologie. But pretty clothes can't buy me financial security. I've been reading a great book, Why Women Earn Less by Mikelann Valterra. In the book, the author describes how she and her toddler son once encountered a fashionably dressed woman who was picking through the trash. The pretty woman was a bag lady, with great clothes but no home. Now that's one of my nightmares, namely to be very poor, very crazy and very well dressed.

5.  Staying in excellent health

I'm obsessed about staying fit with yoga, exercise, meditation, fruit/veggies, vitamins and a positive attitude. I'm hoping that preventive care will save me money in the long run.

6.  Give to charity

It sounds weird, but I believe that by giving away a portion of my money, I'm creating positive karma/energy that's good for me in the long run. Maybe giving just makes me feel better about myself and when I feel better about myself, I work harder & earn more. Bottom line: If I give money to bag ladies (charities, etc), maybe I won't become one.

7.  Prayer

Master of the Universe, please don't let me be a bag lady!

8.  The friends & family network

Of course, I call them because I love them all so much. But I also know that they love me so much and they'll keep me from slipping off the curb of life. Each one, teach one. Each one, reach one.

9.  Teaching my children

I figure that if I raise my kids to be responsible, loving adults then they will take care of me when I'm older. Oh yeah, and I have to teach them about financial planning.

10.  A sense of humor

Listen, if I'm going to be a bag lady at least let me have a good time. Besides, in the here-and-now, good humor creates good karma which pays handsome dividends in the long run.


Editor's note: Sharon Harvey Rosenberg (The Frugal Duchess) will be joining Wise Bread as a full time blogger in August. In the mean time, she'll be dropping by with a few guest posts a week.  You can find more great tips from Sharon in her book Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money or in Wise Bread's new book 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.

Can't wait until August? Here are other great posts by Sharon on her blog The Frugal Duchess. Enjoy!

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Guest's picture

I feel as if my college education eases any fears related to this. I know that I'll at least get the retail or restaurant job over a person who is a hs dropout.

Guest's picture

Like the other commenter's said, Education does not guarantee anything. That is a myth. It only opens doors in the sectors that you are educated in. If someone in that same sector has more experience then you, then you are out of luck.

Education will not help you get a minimum wage or blue collar job. They want experience. I am a recruiter by profession so I know this. Plus, I have experienced it.

My husband and I and many of our friends are extremely educated and cannot even get jobs at McDonald's right now. McDonald's does not care about our education. As someone stated, they see you as a flight risk and they will not hire you.

Wisebread should do an article on the myth of Education. It is seen as a holy grail in our society but degrees come a dime a dozen these days and they don't have the same power they once had.

As the writer of the article hinted at, It is not good to put all your eggs in one basket. Because I only have professional experience as a recruiter(not counting the yoga I am involved in), people won't even consider me for other jobs.

Guest's picture

No, Kasey, you won't necessarily get the job over the hs dropout. What counts is experience. And sometimes the person doing the hiring is a hs dropout who doesn't want to hire anyone he/she perceives as arrogant.

Guest's picture

NLAC Care House Friends and Family Network are there to help. They pulled me back from the brink when I was homeless. Visit them on Facebook to read more testimonies.

Marie Cosentino
Marie's Saving Site Administrator

Guest's picture

If a restaurant manager has the choice of hiring someone with a degree or hiring someone without (experience being equal), they're usually better off hiring the person without the degree. The person with the degree will leave as soon as a better opportunity opens up, while the undegreed person won't likely have a better opportunity. Why waste all that training time?

Guest's picture

My spouse and I each have two+ diverse ways to make money that do not overlap. He's a professor and humanist clergyman, so he teaches and moonlights doing weddings, commitment ceremonies and the like. I'm lawyer and pianist, so I moonlight gigging and teaching lessons. While our alternates do not pay as much as our main jobs, it's important to us to have a hedge just in case: Though it would not be as easy as when we're being a professor and a lawyer, a clergyman and a piano teacher ought to be able to find enough work to have a decent place to live.

Guest's picture

Even if everything that could possibly go wrong did go wrong I know I would not be on the streets for any length of time. We are avid campers and live in a warmish climate where we could go out doors until real shelter became available to us and we would find a way to work. I have an uncle, who my whole family loves dearly and wants to help, who has lived on the streets for the last 20 years. He is mentally ill but we have been told that we cannot force him into treatment, he has a "right" to live on the streets (thanks to the so called "homeless advocates"). We only get word of him occasionly, if he gets arrested or hospitalized. Often by the time we can get to him he has already been released. I know it is a fear that people have that they will lose everything, but from watching my uncle I realize that even if we did it would not be for long because we would use the resources available to help us up and out of the situation, something many of the menally ill who are homeless seem incabable of doing.

Guest's picture

You can buy great quality, designer clothing on ebay for very very very low prices. some gently used, some new.

Guest's picture

When we put our trust in the Lord who created us in the first place we will have gained something the world cannot give, complete peace. We worry because we do not trust. We fear because we do not believe. We of course must do the physical things to be on the right path but without faith we can do nothing. We should simply put our hand into the hand of our creator, God and just walk along enjoying the scenery along life's way.