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Thanks and Love

First and foremost:

I'd like to say thank you to Amanda Hopkins for spotting a glaring mistake in my resume. I also owe a bit of gratitude to my strong procrastination skills, without which I'd certainly have sent my credentials out to more than a measly three potential employers.

As it turns out, a subject and verb pair of mine was in some minor disagreement, over what I'm not quite sure. Then Amanda came along, and smoothed everything out.

So, Mrs. Hopkins, I'd like to bestow upon you Heavy Thrifting's first-ever Heavy Thrifter of the Month award. There is no prize, but I will hang a small commemorative plaque in my office; by which I mean my bathroom. Thank you, Amanda, for catching what The Herald's finest could not see.

Next order of business:

I have applied to five jobs today, exactly the amount I set out for myself, and I feel good. Even though I've fallen a little behind my goal the past couple days (see above admission), I am wary of overworking myself and getting burnt out. No, this is too important and I will not allow that to happen. I have accomplished my daily goal. Now I just need to write this thing and get to work.

And now, a brief note to The Herald:

I'm still not exactly sure how much time I've got left with you. We've gone from a "target date" of August 1, to the even more vague early August, and on to late August. As I understand it now, it's to be sometime in mid August. I just want to say: I still love you.

I know you want me to leave as soon as possible; and I also understand that you're simply uncertain of how long it will take to get this whole outsourcing thing going. I sympathize, I really do. It's just... this is impossible for me, you have to understand.

I mean first you want me to go; and I can accept that, I really can. (Even though I know we're perfect for each other. God, think of how well I know you, your ins and outs, what have you. And you, you've got all my settings, bookmarks and save strings.)

So I'll leave.

But I need to know when. For me.

You want me to move on. Fine. Well I'm trying. I really am. (Even though I feel like you're just trying to replace me. And you know it'll never work. It's just going to be the same thing all over again.)

I just... I need to know. Please.

PS: I'll miss you.

Posted by Brayden Simms at 02:55 PM on June 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Four jobs; no job

Braydown_2Although I still have four weeks of remaining employment, I'm already beginning to think as if I'm out of a job. And I need to: Joblessness can wreak havoc on your finances, that much is obvious; but it's also very psychologically challenging, a fact which only increases the importance of being financially prepared.
I need to start thinking on a budget. I've been too lax with the utilities of late, and I've reverted to the ease and comfort of dining out. In other words, I've been financially lazy. Well, I can no longer afford -- literally -- to continue down this free-spending path.

[Aside: You should note that my above usage of "literally" is right on the money -- literally.]

The pamphlet from my financial planner suggests that I map out my priorities. Here goes:

Descending List Of Financial Priorities (Or: Direct Order Of Comforts I Will Relinquish, If Necessary)

  • Eating Out
  • Air Conditioning
  • South Beach
  • Mikes (at the Venetian, AKA The Herald Boozeroom)
  • Car Insurance
  • Healthcare
  • Cable Television
  • Internet
  • Driving
  • Cellphone
  • Eating
  • Cigarettes
  • Rent

[Note: That cigarettes thing is just a joke. Everyone knows I'm the worst-ever stick mooch. But I do of course know some people for which that is the truth.]

First things first, back to basics, back to the grocery store.

Man, staying financially afloat is a full-time job. I guess that gives me four right now.

Four jobs*, and yet, no job.

[*That would be: the job which I'm losing, this here blog, finding a job and properly managing my own personal finances.]

Posted by Brayden Simms at 02:33 PM on June 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (6)

On the Job Hunt

E27_thrift_biz_add_2Meet Elaine King.

See how professional she is? Are those real pearls? (I think they are!)

Can you see me, in the right corner, that balding blur?

(photo by Albert Diaz)

I need a new pant suit. For that matter, I need a pant suit. And jewelry. Or accessories of any kind. That's how the professionals roll. Nobody is going to hire a scruffy blur.

Elaine King has advised me to set small goals, so here I am: I will apply to five jobs every day. So far today I have applied to two. These are both really good jobs, which I am quite qualified for, and which I will never land, because that would be just too easy and wonderful. I doubt I will hear any responses. But that's why I must apply to three more today. And then five again the next day. Mrs. King has told me to prepare for a possible six months on the dole. This dude will not abide; I desire a job in exactly two months.

I'm going to post my resume here for all to see. I appreciate any and all suggestions. What do you think? Do I have any chance of a promising journalism career outside of the hot insulation of Florida's tip?

Download Brayden.Simms.Resume.pdf

In other news, I received a call from Caracol Radio yesterday. Although I was not familiar with them, apparently they are quite the name amongst Latin Americans. They wanted to interview me over the phone. Obviously the language barrier was an impediment, so they provided me with a translator.

Here's how it worked: Some woman (I'm sorry, I didn't catch her name; she probably said it; in Spanish) would go off in Spanish while I waited. Then my translator would, yes, translate it for me. Then I'd respond. My translator would wait. I often felt I was going on too long, that he couldn't possibly remember all I'd said. I stumbled a couple times, waiting for him to take over, but he was patient. Then, when I was finished, he would begin. I can't help but wonder if he managed to correctly translate the subtle nuance of my wit, my sincere and fiery passion for the worldwide labor community, if he was somehow able to accurately remember even a fraction of what I'd said. Occasionally I would hear everyone laughing; I'm not sure over what. I wonder if they were making fun of me. Or maybe my words translated humorously into Spanish. I don't mind; I hope I was able to get our story out.

If anyone caught this radio clip, or perhaps has found some type of Web link to the audio, I would appreciate a heads up. Did my message translate south of the Rio Grande?

Posted by Brayden Simms at 02:13 PM on June 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Financial Planning for the Employment Impaired

Today I had the good fortune of sitting down with financial planner Elaine King of Gibraltar Private. Used to dealing with clients worried over their 6- and 7-figure salaries, I'm sure my pathetic financial situation was a pleasant distraction. Still, she was able to offer a myriad of helpful ideas.

[If you are perturbed by the above construction (re: myriad), don't hold it against me. Take it to the professionals: myriad - Merriam-Webster.]

We covered a lot of ground - and I'm not going on a lot of sleep - so bear with me while I get it all sorted out. For now, I'll go over the basics:

Working with a pamphlet she provided titled "Surviving Financially When you're Unemployed," she suggested that I plan on being out of work for six months. Though the necessity for such a long-term plan now seems apparent, I'd yet to accept the fact of the matter: I need to redouble my Heavy Thrifting efforts, a task which may, much to my roommate's dismay, involve a drastic reduction of our recent A/C indulgence. [Our power bill jumped from $40 to $150 since we've reinstituted this comforting but unnecessary luxury.]

Mrs. King provided very practical short-term advice for someone in my situation, advice that I've personally advocated but which in recent weeks I've let seriously slide: namely, that is, to reduce expenses by any means necessary. I can do this in various ways, through a more equitable insurance policy, by shedding, as I've already mentioned, unnecessary  luxuries (how about selling my car and losing the auto insurance payment?), or by cutting back on discretionary expenses, a task I've historically been known to adapt quite naturally to.

As the above-mentioned pamphlet says: "If you try to live the same way, there's a good chance you won't survive financially."

Point noted.

Today when I go in to work I will speak to HR about the possibility and extent of any and all unemployment benefits.

Obviously this is a very basic overview of the hard task ahead of me: maximizing the efficiency of my expenditures and minimizing spending in the face of a possible six-month period of joblessness. The logistics of moving to another city only complicate the mathematics of this equation, but that's something I need to keep in mind, as I waver back and forth over whether it's best, in five weeks, when my job is officially kaput, to simply pack up and move on, job offer or not.

I've got an Income/Expense Report, a Personal Financial Statement and a Long-Term Savings Plan.

Now I must set myself realistic, daily goals for sending out resumes, networking and finding a job. Goals to come. For now, I must go to work.

Posted by Brayden Simms at 01:48 PM on June 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Brayden being Brayden

Naturally, I tend to lean a bit toward the anxious.

Now, being out of a job can be extremely anxiety-inducing.

However, being out of a job, and Brayden being Brayden, working a full-time job, with another job on the side (this monster right here), while looking for a job ... that's just asking for it.

People have expressed surprise at my surprising lack of bitterness toward The Miami Herald in this ordeal. To them I express the following two sentiments:

1) They are still paying me. In fact, technically, I am being paid to explain this to you. Thank you, Ma Herald.

2) [And this is obviously the more important of the two] The Herald, to me, is not some faceless company, but many faces, friendly faces I see every day. When I think about The Herald I don't think about the publisher (although I would if you took an interest, Mr. Landsberg. It's just that we've never met, and I'm not acquainted with your face. We could have a sit down, if you wanted...) or the executives making the decisions and the shareholders screaming for them. I mean the people I interact with on a daily basis: my supervisors, my friends, the Business desk, the copy chief, the kid who runs the cashier in the cafeteria. I love these people; why would I allow this bottom-line informed, seemingly unfair business decision (are they ever fair?) to get in the way of that?

Posted by Brayden Simms at 01:57 PM on June 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Just. Breathe.

Today was the first day of my weekend. Except that I got called in to work. And I had to wake up at 11 a.m. (this is obscenely early for a newsman such as myself) as a favor to a coworker. So I didn't have as much time as I had hoped to work on my resume.

Still, I was able find a couple hours to dedicate toward this necessary evil, before work of course (I wouldn't dare finesse my resume on company time, even considering the fact that I've been notified of my imminent departure). Then I printed it out and a coworker got sight of it. Now I'm rewriting it completely.

There's so much speculation in the newsroom as to who will go and who will stay. Rumors travel at breakneck speed, but we won't find out officially until tomorrow. I've heard that some people's jobs will be spared, because of those who have taken voluntary buyouts. My job can't be saved, unless the bulk of the newsroom opts to walk; even still, it's heartening to learn that some, who may have been thought axed for certain, will still have their jobs.


So this blog is getting a lot of unexpected attention. I'm having a bit of a hard time keeping up with it all, not to mention working non-stop since this all began, trying to polish off my resume and wrap my head around finding a new job and maybe a new city, too.

My mind is working a mile a minute. And I haven't had a minute's peace. Tomorrow (that is, Wednesday ... so, today?) is the second day of my weekend. With any hope, I'll not be called in again, and I'll be able to sort through some of this chaos.

For now, check it out: The Guardian's Media Monkey has such kind words for me, you'd think we've been friends for life.


Posted by Brayden Simms at 03:49 AM on June 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4)

This is my happy face

What a day.

Gawker.com and Neatorama.com linked to my blog today, bringing our story to a wider audience; an audience which responded by sending all sorts of sympathy and good will over the river and through the tubes to me. To which I must say thank you*.

But the reality of this situation, as far as I am personally concerned, is actually beginning to appear downright rosy.

I'm probably more surprised than anyone at my uncharacteristic optimism, but this lay off is shaping up to be the best thing that's ever happened to me.

All of a sudden my future holds infinite possibilities. Each minute I edge closer and closer to fully embracing the chaos of this moment, to accepting this sudden and unexpected reconstruction of the status quo.

The overwhelming response to the question of "stay or go" has been: Go. The question now becomes: Where? As of now, it remains to be seen. In a couple of months, I suppose, hypothetically, I could be just about anywhere.

A couple years back I spent a few months sub editing for Wolters Kluwer in London. A friend of mine just left The States for a two-year stint in Ghana. Abu Dhabi is offering very competitive salaries -- though still not enough, I'd postulate, to lure me to the Middle East. I heard through the grape vine that jobs are ample in India; I know of at least one I'd be perfectly suited for. And then Murdoch is flush with cash now, so any of his many rags (no offense, big guy) would probably make a fine option.

My meeting with financial planner Elaine King has been pushed back till Thursday, so I have a couple days to stew. Which is good, because there is a lot of work to be done.

[*This extends to everyone, up to and including Herald reporter Jim Wyss, who today, randomly and much to my delight, bestowed upon me a two-foot-long aluminum toilet-paper tube apparently named "The Rod of Power." (This latter fact was gained through reading the Post-it note stuck to the tube, upon which this phrase was written, in silver gel-pen calligraphy.)]

Posted by Brayden Simms at 02:16 AM on June 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Straddling my past and future

Yes, I've been laid off. It's strange, to realize yourself as such a small cog in the corporate machine. It's a bit scary, to be out of a job, in an industry particularly lacking of jobs. And it's all so sudden.

Still, however strange, scary and sudden this move has been for me, I am forced to admit that I am one of the lucky ones.

Still knee-deep in the Herald layoff process (I am one of the few employees who know for sure their sad fate; the rest must wait a few days longer for confirmation), I must be thankful of my relative ability to adapt to this unfortunate news.

After all, I am young; I can relocate for work and am still able to be somewhat flexible in my future career path. The generous severance package given to me by The Herald should be enough to allow me to stay on my feet while I find another job.

Not everyone at 1 Herald Plaza has it so well.

Many have kids, husbands, wives, and are therefore tied to South Florida. Due to the dearth of media jobs in the area, and the fact that all three major South Florida newspapers (The Miami Herald, plus The Sun Sentinel and The Palm Beach Post) are in the process of considerable downsizing, many of the Herald newsroomers, I'm betting, will never work in news again. People are scouring the Web for job postings. Secretaries seem to be in high demand. Retail seems to be another option.

I've heard it since I started freelancing for The Herald in 2004: Get out of this business before you begin. So I won't claim to be shocked or awed by these mass, widespread cutbacks. I just happen to be stubborn. It's a good thing for me that I'm also flexible.

I thought I had a couple years left in South Florida, but now I just don't know. I'm conflicted, torn between wanting to spend a little more time with my parents, and chasing a career that may never amount to anything. I feel now, more than ever before in my life, that I'm standing at a precipice, straddling my entire past and an uncertain future.

I'll be meeting with my financial planner on Wednesday. I can't wait to hear what she has to say about my situation. What do you think?

Should I stay? Or should I go?

Posted by Brayden Simms at 07:09 PM on June 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (9)

It's the return!

Here we go again.

Details to follow. For now, follow this link to read why I'm back, and why, soon, I'll be even further gone: I've been laid off; now I'll try to save money.

Posted by Brayden Simms at 11:14 AM on June 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Reveal

Adios_2 Penny-pinchers, our journey to spruce up "Your Pad on a Penny" officially ends with this post.

It's been an amazing ride.

We tackled ways to revamp your patio for $100 or less, how to make coupons your BFF on shopping ventures, how a gallon of paint can transform a room and in turn, lift your spirits.

By the way, most paint shops resell botched paint or what they call "oops paint" at a dramatic discount. One man's pink paint snafu may be the just the pink you need for your daughter's room, so ask to see the paint mistakes of the day.

                          Here is my List_3 top ten list of budget-saving tips to carry with you as you go forth to decorate.

And of course, we met Pearl, our makeover winner who yearned to have her black and gold lacquer decor banished from her life and replaced by a room that more hotel chic.

We were challenged to get it all done - labor, new furnishings and accessories for a VERY large space on a budget of $2000. In the end, we were over budget by $300, but Pearl is decidedly happy and nearly gave me a beat-down for suggesting we return some items
Here's where we started: 

This is how we end: Pearlreveal

Many thanks to Pearl and her trusty helpers: Aaron and Kayla.

Many more thanks to the Oasis team, my partner Ralph Forde - who made a custom media unit for Pearl - for free; and to our amazing assistant Asanyah Davidson, who keeps us sane daily. A slide show of the makeover will soon be available on our website: www.oasisied.com

We’ll take a break from the penny-pinching, but please continue to revamp those pads on a penny.

The Herald’s own Brayden Simm’s returns to the No-Spend Zone on Monday with his Heavy Thrifting blog. I have a hunch he’ll be able to stick to his budget, unlike your often challenged penny-pinching decorator.

Posted by Nicole White at 07:28 AM on June 22, 2008 in Savings | Permalink | Comments (0)

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