99 Days At The 99 Cent Store, WEEK SIX: Job Hunting Without A Makeup Budget

I don’t go crazy when I need to use an extra paper towel because I know I can get more at the 99¢ Store, but items like face wipes are now conserved like war rations -- rare and cherished treasures.
Publish date:
January 15, 2013
career, money, makeup, jobs

I landed back in L.A. around 5pm on New Year’s Eve and let me tell you something: Stepping out onto bare concrete, not a layer of ice to be seen, into beachy, smoky carnival air, suddenly feverish in my wool coat, I fell in love with this place all over again.

The weather is only one of the hundreds of reasons why Los Angeles is my spiritual home. Standing curbside at LAX waiting for my ride always brings that into sharp relief, and –- despite returning from what was probably the most warm and fuzzy, contented family visit since moving out –- this time was no different. I love the diversity, I love the acceptance, I love the aesthetic, and I love the wide range of creative endeavors; it’s the gritty utopia of my adolescent dreams.

Though the people-watching at ground transportation was fascinating, even more thrilling was to spot my boyfriend, Jesse, driving around the bend with my sweet puppy riding shotgun. I hoisted my heavy carry-on, a leather duffle bag on its last leg, into the backseat like a dead body. Ah, to be home!

It’s been a year of hits and misses, but I have to admit the last few hours of 2012 were sublime. We finally exchanged Christmas gifts before inviting some friends over to ring in the new year and make fun of the hours-long commercial that is the “Rockin’ Eve” telecast.

Strictly adhering to my budget, I gave Jesse six homemade coasters personalized with pictures, maps, and special sayings, a little tin of Life Savers (which is what he consistently is for me), and a hilarious vintage book called "The First Time" that recounts the first sexual experience of 28 well-known people –- like Liberace, Maya Angelou, and Nora Ephron.

The book was the result of a particularly embarrassing garage saling experience, in which my dad purchased "The Joy of Sex," "The First Time," and a couple other randy reads off of a neighbor, setting my 9-year-old cheeks ablaze. Luckily we moved shortly after.

Anyway, I’ve grown up and now Maya Angelou awkwardly losing her virginity seems like a must-read, so I decided to pass some of my dad’s weird sex lit onto my beloved boyfriend and bedfellow. Analyze that, Freud!

My presents from Jesse were very sweet, but had a notably higher retail value –- i.e., a Kindle. However, interestingly true of all the gifts I received, I was most delighted by the simple things that I’ve been going without. The socks, toothbrush, and trail mix in my stocking from my mom were exponentially more exciting since I can’t buy those same-quality items myself. Jesse also gave me two bottles of Diet Mountain Dew and a gram of weed -– to which I gave my most vocal response of the season.

I think that has something to do with the dwindling of my own standard supplies. I don’t go crazy when I need to use an extra paper towel because I know I can get more at the 99¢ Store, but items like face wipes are now conserved like war rations. Things that would have been purchased on a regular Target run are now rare and cherished treasures.

Which reminds me, I’m also almost out of foundation –- not a day-to-day issue, except for the fact that I’m starting a job search. Say I get an interview, I’m either going to have to dig out my Ben Nye stage makeup for a cakey Joan Rivers-esque façade or rock it barefaced to give the distinct impression that I NEED MORE VITAMINS!!! Should be sort of a fun conundrum to throw into the mix, right?

I wrapped my first Hollywood writing job, as the Writers’ Assistant, in September, and at that point I decided no matter where the chips fell -– whether the show came back or not, if I was rehired, whatever the case may be –- that I would give myself until the New Year’s to start looking for another TV gig.

So my time is up and the search begins. The only thing keeping my job seeker’s anxiety/depression at bay (mostly anxiety, depression for me is a mid-day nap) is this fact: through this glorious test of frugality, I’m learning to live on considerably less money than ever before in the history of my being an adult. This week, for example, my discretionary spending was a mere $32.48 –- the only non-99¢ Store purchase being postage for lit journals submissions (somebody please tell these people about email).

There’s also a bit of solace in my steadfast belief that 2013 is going to be a great year. I’ve had my eye on it for a while now. And even though I’m way underemployed and don’t know exactly which direction my ship is headed, I’m optimistic that this year is going to be a smashing success -– not to blow sage dust up your ass, but I can feel it.


P.S. Call me, Hollywood!

Follow me every penny-pinching step of the way on Twitter @courtneykocak and Tumblr.