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Monday, June 22, 2009

Money Saving Monday - Cheap Summer Fun In Dallas

As you might guess, I live in Dallas, Texas. Whether you are unemployed or just trying to save money in the terrible economy, there are ways to have fun on the cheap. This morning on Good Morning Texas (GMT), they had several money saving segments. Some of them we were aware of and others were news to us, here is a link to several summer fun ideas on the cheap.

One of the favorites for the kids is swimming and this weekend we took them to one of the local recreation center pools that also has a water slide and splash area. For the four of us the total cost was $16. Check before you go but, some of the smaller water parks and pools will allow you to bring in your own food. We brought drinks, sandwiches and chips. This week we plan on going to Hawaiian Falls, there are three in the Dallas area; Garland, The Colony and Mansfield. The offer several package options and they allow you to bring in a cooler (always a plus!).

Movies are always fun but, can be very pricey. AMC is having a "Summer Movie Camp" and these $1 movies for charity are from June 17th through August 5th. The shows are every Wednesday at 10:00 am.

Specially with children they need to feel secure and normal and they don't need to be worrying that you do not have money for this and that. So, I hope that this has given you some ideas of how to entertain and have fun on the cheap.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Searching For Jobs While Receiving Unemployment Benefits

In Texas you need to file for Unemployment Benefits/Unemployment Insurance Benefits (UI), you need to file through the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and sign up on line for UI at this link. The TWC requires you to do a minimum of 5 job searches per week to receive your benefits. Personally, I do not like the TWC job search site. I am in a very specialized Engineering field, IC Mask Design Engineer, and there are very few matches under the "job search" page and ZERO under "my job matches." The times that I have found a job match, the position has already been filled.

Back to your minimum 5 job searches, you must keep a record of each search. The provide you with a form that you can fill out but, I prefer to keep mine on the computer and print out a monthly log. The easiest way that I have found to keep track of my searches is to:
  • Make a "job search" folder on your computer
  • Start a MS Word Document (you could use Word Pad, Note Pad or a similar word processing program)
  • Save you document as "Job Searches" or "Job Searches June 15" then you can change the week starting date and month, however you choose to keep your records (weekly, monthly, etc.)
  • Since I use the monthly, I use the same document for all of my searches and just add the date before each entry
Here is a link that I found with a US map to find the correct link for all states at American Service Locator.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Money Saving Monday - CMF Ads And Entrecard

I recently signed up with two ad exchange programs. CMF Ads (Changing Marketing Forever), you can find their ads on the left hand column of my blog under my "Featured Sites." What is CMF Ads you may ask? Well, it is a low cost (even FREE) way to advertise your blog. CMF is quick and easy to sign up and for your site to be approved. This very user friendly site is a must for any blogger and especially for new bloggers to get exposure. CMF is not olny for publisher but advertisers as well.

CMF Ads - Low cost, no-nonsense advertising

Once you get signed up, you choose you ad price. The minimum ad price is 1 credit or $0.25 per 30 day ad. There are two ways to get credits on CMF; 1. accept ads from other publishers/advertisers or 2. buy credits. To buy credits you can choose from 40 credits for $10.00 all the up to 2,000 credits for $430.00. Unlike a lot of other sites that offer PayPal (I have but I am not all that crazy about), they offer several payment options; MasterCard, Visa, Discover, American Express and PayPal. Next you need to get the widget code onto your blog. They have 5 separate options of widgets, I am using the 2x2 widget now which shows four ads at at time.

The other advertising site that I have recently found and added is Entrecard. You can find their ads under the "Featured Sites" as well. One difference that I have found between CMF and Entrecard is that on Entrecard, you earn credits by clicking on other Entrecard sites. So far, just by clicking on other sites I have 5 ads that other bloggers have places on my blog and I have purchaced 12 ads for my blog to appear on other blogs.

There is much that I need to learn about each of these sites but, so far I don't see how you could go wrong with either as an inexpensive way to advertise your blog. As of today, I have spent $0.00 on advertising and increased my blog exposure. These are a Money Saving Monday must have!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Filing For Unemployment Benefits - How, Where & When

If you have been laid off from your job, more than likely you will qualify for unemployment benefits. This can be a bit complicated since there is more than one type of layoff. Take me, I was part of a mass layoff and I am receiving "Severance Pay." Before the layoff took place, the group that I was in was going to be sold to another company. When we were told about the sale, we were split up into two groups (the "sell" group and the "stay" group). The sell group was told that since we were part of the sale we could not; leave the company, find another job within the company and if the sale did not go through that we would be laid off. The stay group were told that they would still have jobs within the company even if the sale did not go through. In the end both groups were laid off and we all received severance benefits. I filed for unemployment benefits the last day that I was "employed" and "working for money." I filed online here is the Texas TWC apply link and I found another unemployment blog that has a great link for most states here on the Layoff List blog.

At first my former employer denied my claim saying that I was receiving "wages in lieu of notice" it was not long before the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) contested the denial and concluded that I was not receiving wages in lieu of notice. Here are the definitions of "severance" and "wages in lieu of notice" quoted from TWC.

Severance - Severance pay that is promised in a written policy or other form of agreement is an enforceable part of the wage agreement under the Texas Payday Law. Under § 821.25(b)

Wages In Lieu of Notice - It is not the same as wages in lieu of notice, which is a post-termination payment that the employer has never previously obligated itself to give. Just like the name implies, it is a payment that is given in lieu of advance notice of termination, and it is not based upon any particular formula, but rather upon whatever arbitrary amount the employer thinks is appropriate to give. It is usually given to "make up for" the lack of advance notice and can be given in a lump sum or in installments. A payment of wages in lieu of notice is not enforceable under the Texas Payday Law, since there was no prior obligation to give it.

Here are some other good links related to unemployment:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Money Saving Monday - DIY Laundry Soap

Today is the first "Money Saving Monday" and I would like to share a DIY Laundry Soap recipe. My wife and I started making this after I learned of my pending job loss and when the price of laundry soap not to mention everything else went sky high.

I found the recipe below on a google search here. There are lots of recipes out there this just happens to be the one that we use. We were both a little bit skeptical but, thought why not just give it a try? After all it does not cost that much to pick up everything that you need and the price per load is much less than what you pick up at the store. We made our first batch and were surised that the clothes were clean, smelled clean and there was half the amount of lint in the dryer trap!

3 C. Water (boiling)
1 Bar soap (grated or chopped) we use Ivory and chop it very fine
1/2 C. Borax
1 C. Washing Soda (we were unable to find Washing Soda anywhere, you can substitute it with "pH increaser" you can find it where your store keeps their pool and spa supplies)
5 Gallon bucket with lid
  • Grate or chop the soap and add it to a large sauce pan (we use an old camping pan that we never use for anything else) with the boiling water. Stir over medium to medium-low heat until the soap disolves and is melted.
  • Fill the 5 gallon bucket half full of hot water. Add the melted soap, Borax and Washing Soda/pH increaser. Stir until everthing is completely mixed.
  • Fill the rest of the bucket up to about 2 inches from the top and stire some more.
  • Put the lid on the bucket and use about 1/4 of a cup for every load, we use a little more for towels or really dirty clothes. You need to stir before each use.
Each bucket costs less than $2.00 to make. In the past six months we have made to 5 gallon containers with a family of four. In our laundry room we do not have room for the bucket to be so, we transfer some of the laundry soap into an old liquid laundry soap bottle.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ways To Stay In Touch, Network & Stay Sane

If you have worked anywhere for any length of time, not having a job to go to every day can start to drive you a little nuts. Sure at first, it can be like a much needed vacation. But, after a while of endlessly looking for a new job, the “vacation” effect soon wears off.

What I and the rest of my co-worker’s a.k.a. co-layoffer’s have been doing is to get together once a week for lunch. 1. You have a chance to get out of the house, 2. You have a chance to socialize with your peers, 3. You get to network face to face and 4. Exchange possible job information.

Tips on layoff lunches:
  • Try to keep the restaurant choices on the less expensive side (cheep), in this economy we all need to save money!
  • Even in large urban areas, try to keep the restaurant location in a centralized area to cut down on commuting.
  • Be conscious of the rest of the groups diets (Diabetes, food allergies, vegans, vegetarians, Muslims, etc.)
  • Finally, if you have a large group, don’t choose restaurant’s that have small areas. You may also need to make reservations.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Professional Social Networking

To be perfectly honest with you, the only professional social networking site that I am currently signed up with is Linkedin. I am looking into others but; Linkedin so far seems to have the most people signed up in my field of Engineering. As I find others I will post them and if you have a favorite, let me know which ones.

Linkedin has several levels of memberships; the Basic “free”, Business for $24.95 per month, Business Plus $49.95 per month and Pro $499.95 per month. I have the Basic and am perfectly happy with this version. I have found and linked up with coworkers that I have not worked with in years. Many of them have found themselves in my position, years of experience and no job. These connections have sent me leads to other potential jobs however, most of these jobs are in the Silicon Valley area and I am not to the point that I am ready to move to California.

Aside from connecting with former coworker’s, on Linkedin you can post your resume under your profile (which can be searched by potential employers), what you are doing now “Looking for work”, where you are willing to work and what field you have experience in. Also, under you profile there is a place for recommendations and you can choose to accept or decline any recommendations that you receive.

The “Job Search” feature is very good and does not pull up a bunch of junk jobs that do not apply like some other job search sites do. If you do a city specific search and no results come back for that area, it will show you a list of other cities that do have jobs within your job search criteria.

Another one of my favorite features is the “Groups” you can search, sign up or start a group that is specific to your field of work. This is another great way to connect with possible new connections and jobs.

With mass layoff’s and today’s economy, it is a must to keep connected with your peers