Tag Archives: living on part-time pay

What a (positive) difference a weekend makes!

22 Dec

Here I go with another chapter of the Cornell family part-time living saga. This time, though, is a much more positive post.

I decided something had to give to actually give these people some happiness. They were miserable, and their family was falling apart. Therefore, I — just like anyone else should do when faced with a real-life situation like theirs — decided to take action to keep their family together despite the obstacles against them.

The first thing I did was do something to align their days off. The girls had the weekends off, but Jason and Kim worked weekends. The weekdays the parents were off were different from each other’s. So, even though Jason had recently been promoted at the graveyard, I had both of them change jobs. This time, I made Jason take a job at the local grocery store and Kim, at the local bookstore. Both jobs run Monday through Friday, with weekends off. This would give them more time with each other and their daughters. Things stayed tense at home through the week, but when the weekend came, the atmosphere completely changed.

First, they all got some sleep. Then, I spent some of their nest egg sprucing up the house, replacing furniture that the dog and cat had destroyed. This improved everyone’s moods because their home looked a lot less like a slum. I also had them clean house, inside and out. Clean houses equal happy sims on this game — the same as it does with real people.

Here, Jason picks up the trash can the dog knocked over and cleans up the trash pile that resulted from it. Sprucing up the yard made them no longer disgusted to go outside.

Here, Jason picks up the trash can the dog knocked over and cleans up the trash pile that resulted from it. Sprucing up the yard made them no longer disgusted to go outside.

But the big thing I did is make sure they all took time out for one another. Lori and Jason had a simple conversation for the first time in forever, and it resulted in them becoming friends instead of acquaintances. That’s pretty sad when a parent and child become simple acquaintances, you know? But these sims fixed that. Just like people should do if they can possibly squeeze their bank account a bit, the family purchased a small boombox they could use to listen to music (which puts sims in a better mood) and dance. Dancing is a group activity, by the way, which improves relationships among people. Little Megan got the entire family in on a social activity by getting everyone to run outside and play tag with her. This didn’t cost a dime. The family’s relationships, over the course of this particular weekend, excelled. Even the pets got more attention and more time to socialize with both their owners and other pets in the neighborhood.

Just this simple conversation greatly improved Lori and Jason's father-daughter relationship.

Just this simple conversation greatly improved Lori and Jason’s father-daughter relationship.

Teenagers giving their parents a hug. Write that down.

Teenagers giving their parents a hug. Write that down.

Some time dancing with the stereo really created some bonding moments with the family.

Some time dancing with the stereo really created some bonding moments with the family.

Lori had more time to work on her guitar playing, which also provided music to which her family could dance.

Lori had more time to work on her guitar playing, which also provided music to which her family could dance.

 

Megan was in a much better mood and worked on her painting some more. The higher her skill, the more money she can make for the family with her paintings.

Megan was in a much better mood and worked on her painting some more. The higher her skill, the more money she can make for the family with her paintings.

 

This particular weekend also improved Jason and Kim's marriage.

This particular weekend also improved Jason and Kim’s marriage.

 

So, this weekend was quite blissful — except for one thing. Shortly after Jason and Kim *ahem* celebrated their improved marriage and better moods, Kim threw up a couple of times. Hmmm… What’s going on here? ūüôā

Anyway, tune in soon for another post I’m cooking. This sim family part-time saga will take some twists even I wasn’t prepared for it to take!

Current Music: Alice in Chains, “Hollow”

 

 

 

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Sims 3 social experiment update: Everything is falling to pieces

16 Dec

Well, my social experiment involving The Sims 3 has a hypothesis that is turning out to be true: Everything in the lives of my sims living on part-time pay is going to pieces.

I’m not playing like many simmers do and making their lives miserable as much as possible — except for the fact that I’m making live on part-time pay, of course. I’m just not making them fight, catch their significant others in affairs, and that sort. In fact, I fight to make sure all their basic needs are taken care of. That’s been a real challenge though.

For starters, all of their personal relationships are falling apart. Kim and Jason fight off any romantic interactions the other tries to have with them. They’re not even kissing, much less going further than that. Little Megan’s relationship with both of her parents have fallen to “acquaintance” status. Lori’s relationship with her parents is falling off, as well. So, because their relationships within the household are falling to pieces, there’s no way they’re going to make friends outside the household, either. A girl from school came home with Lori, but she had to tell the girl to leave as soon as they got through the door because Lori was going to pass out from exhaustion. Any free time these people have from work and school is spent working on their skills that would make them extra money. For example, Kim is going nuts trying to write on her novel before work every day, and Lori tries to make it to the park to play guitar for tips after school. To top it off, Lori has the “brooding” trait, and her emotional stress is causing her to have to stop what she’s doing to contemplate the meaning of life for at least a couple of hours at a time. Kim has the “neurotic trait”, which basically causes her to freak out often. Jason is a “grumpy” sim, and a bad mood is often made worse by that.

Jason wants a kiss. Kim doesn't feel like it and pushes him away.

Jason wants a kiss. Kim doesn’t feel like it and pushes him away.

 

The house itself is falling apart. Their pets, alone, have caused $750 in furniture damage to their house, and paying to replace all of that would eat the family’s finances. Thanks to Kim scolding her, the dog has lost her destructive trait, but the cat still has it. On top of what the pets have done, the cheap appliances that are all the family can afford keep falling apart. The shower has broken about two or three times during the three days or so I’ve played on this game, and the toilet has gone down the toilet so much that I’ve lost count.

A familiar sight in the Cornell household: Someone having to unclog the cheap toilet.

A familiar sight in the Cornell household: Someone having to unclog the cheap toilet.

 

Sims also have wishes that, if you can make them come true, will put them in a better mood once fulfilled. When they’re in better moods, they produce more (and earn more), and their social interactions are more positive. The problem for me with the Cornells is that, like most sims, their wishes involve buying something. Even if they have the money in the bank account, that doesn’t mean they should blow their nest egg and get it. I can’t even boost their moods most of the time because I can’t give them what they want or even what they need sometimes.

Apparently, this isn’t the case just in the sim world, but in the real world. According to a study from Iowa State University,¬†economic hardship such as low income and income loss increase parents’ sadness, pessimism about the future, anger, despair, and withdrawal from other family members. As this emotional stress increases, they tend to interact with each other and their children in a more irritable and less supportive fashion. These patterns create marital instability and disrupt effective parenting strategies. For the children, it increases risk of suffering developmental problems such as a depressed mood, substance abuse, and engaging in delinquent behaviors. This stress also decreases children’s ability to function well in school and with peers.

Over the next few days, I’m going to try some recommending coping activities I’ve read about in this New York Times piece¬†on my sims to see if it improves their situation. I may also try to find ways to improve their situation, in general, to see if part-time life was the main source of the problem after all.

Current music: Foo Fighters, “Everlong”

My Sims 3 social experiment: Living on part-time wages

12 Dec

I’m a social scientist. Well, at least that’s what my master’s degree says I am. I’ve decided to take on a social experiment that could reflect how many people in our society live — on part-time wages.

The number of people living on part-time pay because they cannot find a full-time job is astronomically growing. Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nearly 8.2 million people classified themselves as involuntary part-time workers in November, according to NBC News.¬†This means that they settled for less work because they couldn’t find more. That’s around double the number of involuntary part-time workers from 2006, before the economy went south. The number of people who are involuntarily unemployed has gone down since it hit nine million in the depths of the recession, but progress has been slow.

Many of these people work multiple — sometimes as many as four — part-time jobs. This number includes full-time workers whose incomes are not sufficient enough to meet their needs.¬†¬†The New York Times quoted a woman working multiple part-time jobs as saying she works 70-80 hours per week. That’s a schedule held by most lawyers or investment bankers, with just a fraction of the pay. People in this situation come from all walks of life and all educational levels. Young college graduates are finding themselves in a bad labor market and with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans to pay off.

I’ll be joining these ranks very soon. I just took on a part-time job because I haven’t managed to find anything full-time after losing my job. I’ll be working full-time when I do my VISTA job, but it won’t be much money — at all. I’ll soon be making above minimum wage, but not by much. I’ve also had to buy pants for my work uniform I’ll have to wear, as well as shirts with a collar that are long enough to be tucked in. Belts are required, and I don’t believe my studded “metalhead belt” will be acceptable. I’m already incurring work-related expenses before even starting the job. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful to have it, but life isn’t going to be sweet. I’ll also be working retail during the holiday season. Ugh. I’ll also be juggling this with my gig as a stringer. I also just got an e-mail saying my student loan payment is due. I’m trying for a deferment.

I didn’t get a master’s degree for this.

Until I get started at my new job, I’ve had a lot of time at the apartment to either sit and veg out, or try and do something productive. I have to watch every dime, so I can’t be roaming the roads and burning gas unless it’s absolutely necessary. So, I’m stuck here reading, playing guitar — or playing The Sims 3. I got an idea to try out something new with the game that I believe fits in with the blog theme. I created a family that lives on part-time wages.

Here’s how I’m doing it. First of all, I’m using absolutely no cheat codes with this particular game. That way, I play according to one of the things the game teaches — living on a budget, and starting out in life with very little. Playing with no cheat codes doesn’t allow me to play with my sims’ moods, perking them up in an instant when I need them to do something. They have to eat, sleep, pee, etc., just like the game teaches you about real people. Even though I have the Supernatural expansion pack, the sims I created are just humans with no supernatural powers to help them out.

Now, for the storyline. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Cornell family.

Dad: Jason Cornell

Dad: Jason Cornell

Mom: Kim Cornell

Mom: Kim Cornell

Teen Daughter: Lori Cornell

Teen Daughter: Lori Cornell

Younger Daughter: Megan Cornell

Younger Daughter: Megan Cornell

Dog: Priscilla

Dog: Priscilla

Cat: Domino

Cat: Domino

I set up the family this way to basically create a family that, on the surface, seems like something straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Don’t get me wrong. I’m an edgy liberal who, among other sims, have a family that consists of a happily married gay male couple. One is a werewolf, and the other is a vampire. Their teenage daughter is a werewolf, and their younger daughter is a vampire. They live in domestic bliss. I also didn’t want to do what I often do and create really bizarre sims, create sim versions of myself or friends and family, or create sim versions of celebrities. I gave them fairly normal, somewhat boring, ¬†personality trait combinations — but included some that allow for special skill development. I’ll explain more of that later. On The Sims 3, your sims can get full-time work and in the field they want by simply driving out to the workplace at any time and getting a job. Granted, their first jobs in their fields stink, but they’re working full-time in their chosen fields. I decided to ignore this and make them drive out to get part-time jobs. In reality, we can’t always get full-time work, and getting it in our chosen fields is even harder. The teenage girl can get a part-time job, but the female child cannot. Oh yeah, all of these part-time jobs on The Sims 3 are in the evening.

Jason is a good cook, and he wants to be a full-time chef. He is now stuck working at a graveyard. Kim is a good writer and could work well in the journalism track. Instead, she’s working as a receptionist at the day spa. Lori started out balancing school and work at the local bookstore, and little Megan is having enough trouble just trying to keep up with school. I bought them a house within the budget they were given. Unfortunately, I had to download a house (No cheat codes are required for this. I was in the clear.) because no two-bedroom house was within the family’s budget. The Cornells settled into a very, very modest two-bedroom, one-bathroom (very small and to be used by four people) house.

Working multiple part-time jobs isn’t permitted on The Sims 3, but sims are allowed to develop skills that can earn them some side cash. I’m having all members of my family do this for their own survival and to illustrate what it’s like to juggle multiple income sources. I gave them special traits to build on. Jason has the “angler” trait, which means he loves to fish and learns the fishing skill quickly. Fishermen/Fisherwomen can sell their fish at the grocery store. Kim has the “bookworm” trait, which makes her a good writer. Writers can write novels and earn royalties from them. Lori is a “virtuoso”, which means she’ll learn a musical instrument faster. Once she reaches Level 5 of her guitar skill (Skills on The Sims 3 have ten levels.), she can play for tips at various places around town. Megan has the “artistic” trait, which helps her master painting faster, and she can sell her paintings once they are finished.

However, earning this extra money is not as easy as it seems. Because skills have ten levels, it takes some serious time to master them. Furthermore, people with the higher skills are the ones who earn big money. Musicians can’t even earn a dime from tips until they reach the fifth level. So the Cornell family, being that I’ve just started working with them, have minimal skills — and make little to nothing with their side incomes, even though they keep trying.

Megan is only a Level 2 painter right now, and her pantings only give the family about $20.

Megan is only a Level 2 painter right now, and her pantings only give the family about $20.

Kim is trying to finish her first novel, so she hasn't earned any royalties yet.

Kim is trying to finish her first novel, so she hasn’t earned any royalties yet.

Jason only caught $15 in fish on this trip because his skill is still low.

Jason only caught $15 in fish on this trip because his skill is still low.

My free Word Press account won’t let me upload the video I shot of Lori’s present guitar playing. Let’s just say she isn’t ready to try and earn ANY tips right now.

Here’s a big thing that keeps your sims from really working on their skills and earning money: Needs. They have to take out time to eat, pee, shower, have fun and keep their stress levels down, and socialize. Couple that with time they spend on work and school, and you’ll see why Lori can’t go to the park and earn tips with her guitar. Your sims’ responsibilities also affect their needs, and their needs affect their responsibilities. For example, the kids have to do homework every night. So after a long day at school, they have to come home and work even more. Teenagers like Lori who have part-time jobs leave for work as soon as they get home, then come home to homework. Lori had to quit her part-time job, even though the family needs the money, because she was too tired to finish her homework after work. Her grades were suffering, and she couldn’t work to build up her guitar skill. That guitar skill, once fully developed, can earn a sim more than what a full-time job would make.

Lori is desperately needing sleep, but she still has homework to finish. She's clearly not happy about that.

Lori is desperately needing sleep, but she still has homework to finish. She’s clearly not happy about that.

When sims’ needs aren’t met, they don’t finish homework, their job/school performance goes to the pot, and they don’t want to work to build their skills and earn money from them. If they’re miserable, they’re not productive at all.

Your sims also can’t afford the best of anything when they’re starting out, but they especially can’t when they’re working part-time. Right now, the Cornells have one car for Jason, Kim, and Lori to drive. Anyone else who can’t get to the car quickly enough has to ride a bicycle. Their cheap appliances are accidents waiting to happen. The family’s cheapo computer fried, and their “bargain John” toilet is a constant source of frustration for them.

Jason is working to repair the computer on his own. Because he has no mechanical skill, he risks death by electrocution. The family can't afford to call a professional.

Jason is working to repair the computer on his own. Because he has no mechanical skill, he risks death by electrocution. The family can’t afford to call a professional.

The Cornells’ pets are nice, and provide them with some relief from their miserable lives. However, one aspect of both pets causes serious problems for them. Both Priscilla and Domino have the “destructive” trait. This means Priscilla is constantly chewing things up, and Domino is constantly clawing on furniture. Priscilla also likes to knock over the outside trash can. Whenever a pet claws/chews on something, you have to pay up money to replace it. Otherwise, your house will look like hell. Because Priscilla ravaged the couch, no one wants to sit on it. The Cornells can’t afford to replace any of the furniture their pets have destroyed, so their home is quickly going to the pot.

Bad, bad kitty!

Bad, bad kitty!

Personal relationships also suffer for the sims whenever their work/school/skills take up all of their time. Couples don’t have time to be romantic, parents can’t spend time with their children, and no one has time to make/keep friends outside or inside the family. Their social interactions also become more negative, especially in romantic relationships. Kim wanted to have some “intimate” time with Jason, only for Jason to push her away because he hadn’t slept. The two want another child (how they’ll afford it is highly questionable), but that’s not going to happen if they keep pushing each other away. Work schedules also affect their personal relationships. Kim works on both days Jason has off. Both Jason and Kim work Saturdays and Sundays, the days their daughters are off from school.

Anyway, this part-time lifestyle could have serious implications on whether or not this family even survives. If you liked this post, I’ll keep the updates on the Cornell family coming!

Current music: Alice in Chains, “Sunshine”