Friday, October 31, 2008

Know your healthcare options

Fortunately, there are so many resources available on the web these days, you really don’t need a doctor.

Say you’ve got a stomach ache. Google it. Thousands of of websites dealing with stomach aches will come up. After hours of research and cross referencing, you’ll probably conclude you either have indigestion or cancer. Google indigestion and cancer. Read everything you can about their symptoms and cures. Delve into the heartwarming stories about indigestion and cancer. Learn which celebrities have had indigestion and cancer. Find out who their hairstylists are. Chances are by the time you’ve thoroughly researched the topic, your stomach ache will be gone.

But if the ailment persists through the diagnostic process, or worsens, you might want the option of seeing a doctor. Not so easy without health insurance, money or a non-maxed out credit card. This is where the government steps in to protect you, after all the years you've paid into the system. In some states, those in need can qualify for free health insurance for a specified period to be provided by the state or county of residence.

The application procedure is relatively simple.
1) Stand in line for one hour to make an appointment at your county health services office.
2) Fill out pages of forms divulging your deepest darkest secrets.
3) Stand in line for two hours in the bitter cold for an 8AM appointment along with 50 people who also have 8AM appointments.
4) Wait inside in a room with 50 other people for your 8AM appointment to start at 11AM.
5) Discuss your deepest darkest secrets with a stranger.
6) Wait six weeks.
7) Repeat the entire process one month later because they seem to have lost your paperwork.

You could qualify for six months coverage. You might want to consider becoming blind or pregnant in order to increase your chances.

The only catch with the state program is your plan will expire by the time a doctor will see you (if you haven’t died by then). Try to plan your medical emergencies well in advance.

Of course, there's always emergency rooms. They’re obligated by the law and Hippocratic oath to treat anyone who needs it. Just make sure not to bring any ID unless it belongs to someone else. And always act as though you have amnesia, even if your problem is a broken toe. This way, you won't be bothered by constant phone calls and threats from collectors that will make you wish your broken toe had been fatal.

For over the counter medications, see my shoplifting hints.

Helpful generic replacement suggestions for costly prescription drugs:
Xanax, Valium and other sedatives -- Vodka
Antibiotics -- Vodka
Prozac, Zoloft and other anti-depressants --Vodka
Codeine, Vicodin and other pain relievers-- Vodka

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The top five places to be broke in North America

Napa Valley, California—Lots of solvent people flock to the beautiful Napa Valley. But so far, it's a well kept secret among indigents in the know. The weather is temperate enough to sleep outdoors year round. The pace, leisurely. Hotsprings and fountains abound for bathing and laundry. Some of the country’s finest restaurants have dumpsters here, not to mention the culinary institute. And as long as you’re mildly presentable, the constant wine tastings ensure you’ll always be up to date on the latest crop of Merlots.

Wasilla, Alaska—Granted it’s cold up there, but if eating is important to you, it’s the easiest place in America to kill a cheap meal. One moose and you’re eating well for a year (click here for moose recipes). The frigid temperatures ensure you never have to worry about refrigeration. And rumor has it, anyone can move into the mayor’s mansion.

Beverly Hills, California—Great weather with the nation's highest quality garbage can content per capita. It’s also one of the few places in the world where no matter who you are, some reality show director could discover you and make you rich and famous beyond your wildest dreams. And you might even get a free facelift out of the deal.

Detroit, Michigan—If you can overlook the weather and would gladly give up any chance of employment in order to have a roof over your head, then Detroit just might be the place for you. Detroit has over 12,000 abandoned homes, and factories just waiting for someone with a loving touch to squat in them.

Anywhere in Mexico—It’s got great weather and a low cost of living. Almost any pharmaceutical drug you need is available cheap and without a prescription. You might even be able to pick up some work gardening and keeping house for your ex-cleaning lady, Carmen who moved back to Mexico and bought a house after she made a small fortune working for you in the 90’s.

Keeping up appearances--revising your beauty regimen

Probably the most jarring thing about going broke is the effect it can have on your appearance.

Imagine the horror of realizing that those one inch grey roots you’re sporting aren’t going away and you can’t afford to continue paying Monsieur Groovy Pants 120.00 plus tips to fix it. Needless to say, the panic and loneliness are mind bending.

Or worse, imagine those doggone elevens between your eyebrows come back and you start to look as worried as you really are. What do you tell the children?

But poverty really doesn’t have to age you if you’re creative.

If you have scientific tendencies, you can always grow your own botulism toxin. In fact, you may already have some. Check any old jam and jelly jars in your refrigerator (if you still have one). Cans that are bulging can be good sources. (link to source that helps identify cans and jars that may contain botulism). (Link to self-injection tips)

Cut and dye your own hair. Give yourself some really heavy bangs if you feel uneasy using homemade botox.

Sure, it’s a little scary, dying your hair for the first time. But if you’ve watched a few episodes of “Shear Genius”, you probably know all you need to know.

Consider the advantages: Trying new things keeps you young; the rush of fearful adrenaline is exhirating (particularly now that you can’t afford coffee); styling your own hair is one of the few creative outlets you can afford to pursue (if you still own scissors). And the beauty of doing your own hair is, if you screw up, it’ll grow back, unlike your retirement account.

Which leads to the beauty and splendor of scarves. Chances are, you’ve still got a few designer scarves tucked away somewhere in the bottom of your drawer. Now’s the time to dig them out. In a pinch, an old pashmina or Ikea dish towel will do.

Here are a few examples of how a scarf can take years off your appearance:

A screwed up haircut can be camouflaged by creative use of the head scarf. (click for tips on head scarf wrapping that doesn’t make you look like a chemo patient, hippie or mammie).

Say you’ve finally scraped the last molecule from your $500 dollar Kanebo neck cream, and your neck is starting to resemble a sharpei, and you’ve already sold all your cashmere turtlenecks on ebay.

Of course, the scarf can also be used to mask other cosmetic issues such as deflating lips, the “elevens” between the brows, even crows feet and drooping eyelids. Use your discretion to determine how liberally you wish to apply your scarf. Always make sure the designer logo is in plain sight. It’ll make you look classier.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Considering real estate options

Judging by the” for sale”, “for rent” and foreclosure signs that are now dotting the landscape with more frequency than Starbucks, I forsee a land with many empty houses and lots of people sleeping in the street. So buck up, you’re not alone.

And while it’s pretty depressing, it does present an opportunity. Once all these people get forced out of their homes, there will be lots of very nice places to squat. Keep your eyes open and be prepared to move in quickly.

But lets assume the worst…you won’t be able to find an available place to squat when you’re finally evicted from your residence.

If your car hasn’t been repossessed, it’s always an option. Maybe Ford had the right idea by making all those huge gas guzzling beasts. They may have driven us into bankruptcy, but they’re easily converted into real estate. You’ll be surprised at how many meals can be prepared using the cigarette lighter (will provide link to recipes that can be prepared with a car lighter). It may take hours to prepare a grilled cheese sandwich, but it’s not like you have a job anymore.

Or follow the innovative example of the impoverished Egyptians in Cairo who have converted a graveyard of ancient tombs into a bustling village. A lot of those tombs are probably nicer and more spacious than my NYC apartment. Some are even rigged to get free cable and wifi. Check to see if there are any nice Mausoleum communities in your area. If there aren’t, consider starting one.

There’s also the tried and true option of the refrigerator box. But remember, as demand rises, it’ll become harder and harder to trade up. This is no time to settle. Try to find that sub zero now, even if it takes a little longer. And when you find it, grab it without hesitation. There are several people already interested in you dream refridgerator box and who knows when you’ll find another one you like half as much.

If you have 100 bucks or so a month to spare, you might want to consider renting a storage container. 10x10 is enough for a bed and minifridge. Not recommended for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia, it’s a great option if you’re broke, but really need to live in a gated community

What to do for exercise now that you had to cancel your gym membership

Look on the bright side. They’ll probably be repossessing your car any day now -- you’ll be getting lots of exercise walking everywhere.

If you’ve responded to your recent poverty by staying in bed, there are several easy exercises that are actually more productive while under the covers. Leg lifts are particularly useful if you’re under a heavy comforter or bed spread, strengthening and toning both the calves, thighs, buttocks and in some cases abs..

I know it sounds like hard work. But you'll thank me if something happens to draw you out of bed. You wouldn't want the firemen thinking you’ve let yourself go.

Shoplifting hints

Shoplifting isn’t for everyone. If you’re young and not white, it’s probably risky, as you’re already under suspicion. But if you’re white, not talking to yourself, semi-respectable looking and over 40 (especially a female) ,nobody will be paying attention to you anyways, so the coast is clear.

As someone who has accidently shoplifted several hats simply because she forgot to take them off when leaving the store, my first bit of advice is, to put whatever it is you’re shoplifting on your head. Nobody will notice . Even with the price tag hanging out and the anti-theft alarm blaring.

Like any endeavor (and misdemeanor), you want to maximize your earnings. So be thoughtful in your shoplifting choices. Instead of shoplifting the generic brand of ibuprofen, always go for the most expensive brand name possible. Or say you need some aromatheraputic essential oils to help you with your depression. Instead of shoplifting the $3.49 citrus oil, go for the $34 ylang ylang. They both elevate your mood, but the ylang-ylang also elevates your theoretical earnings. In other words, shoplifting is no time to think about being frugal.

Choose your target. Don’t shoplift from the mom and pop stores. They haven’t ruined your life. Stick to companies listed on the DJIA. I find that righteous rage is essential to a successful shoplifting outing.

Keep it casual. It’s always best to shoplift right under their noses. Try to act a little spacey and distracted. Bettter yet, be spacey and distracted. Pay absolutely no attention to what you’re doing. Focus only on the products. If something catches your eye, pick it up. Since you’re so distracted, it wouldn’t be the least surprising if you absently put the Pixie lip plump gloss in #48 into your purse or jacket pocket. Who could blame you? Certainly not the security guard who’s flirting with a cashier.

The “duh manuver” is one of my favorite shoplifting techniques. If you’re actually buying a few things, put the most expensive, largest item, under your arm or in your hand in plain sight. Proceed through check out as if you don’t know it’s there. Nine out of ten times, the cashier won’t notice. In one instance, I got away unnoticed with a 15lb. bag of cat litter under my arm. And while that crystallized cat litter can really add up, I still regret not going for the Toshiba 30” flatscreen. Maybe next time.