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How to Live On $0 a Day: Bailouts for the Rest of Us

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Maybe you have to pay your past due Citicard balance down so you can charge some food on it. Or you need an emergency appendectomy but your insurance company canceled your policy because you need an emergency appendectomy. Or you desperately need a new corporate jet. It doesn't really matter why you need the money, all you know is that life as you know it will cease to exist if you don't get your hands on a big chunk of cash. Yesterday.

Now, if you're the corporate jet guy, you can always go to the Fed and get some help. But what about those of us who aren't too big to fail? Where are our windfall opportunities?

First, the obvious
Make sure that your dog or child doesn't have any unused credit lines from when the credit card companies were giving credit to anything with a name. An acquaintance found thousands of dollars of unused credit on the family dog's (Barkie Von Barkenburg's) forgotten Chase Mastercard. Apparently, Labradoodles are a great credit risk. The funds were a lifesaver, allowing him to buy a month's worth of Celexa, some blood pressure medicine, groceries, a tank of gas and a nice box of Milk Bone for Barkie.

Look for forgotten stock certificates, Oxycontin, Michael Jackson paraphernalia (a potato with his face on it is now going for more than one with Jesus') and sell them on the open market.

Search your mouth for gold crowns (worth almost as much per ounce as Oxycontin). If you're plum out, check your family and friends' mouths while they're sleeping. Wear a scary mask so if they wake up during the extraction process, they'll just think it's a bad dream. A couple of gold crowns could solve a lot of your problems.

Hire a pretend lawyer (or become one)
Lawsuits are a great way to make a buck without actually working (especially for lawyers). Try using this time-honored American tradition with a twist. Forgo the expense of engaging a lawyer or purchasing a neck brace for your court appearance. Just threaten to sue and go for a quick settlement.

You'll have to learn a few fancy legal terms and start thinking like a lawyer, but it's preferable to the consequences. Don't forget to add "Esq." to your name on all correspondence.

Be on the lookout for things that can lodge in your throat and cause damage. Bottle caps, dry cleaning tags and bits of packaging (ie: candy wrappers, the cotton on top of the aspirin bottle) are always good bets. We've already seen what a shrewd businessperson can do with a hot cup of coffee. Keep your eyes open for wet floors, loose tiles and rugs to slip or trip on.

Before you go to the trouble of choking, slipping and otherwise hurting yourself, make sure your target has quick access to money. In other words, your best bets are banks, pharmaceutical and insurance companies.

Sadly, gone are the days when banks gave out free toaster ovens that you could easily electrocute yourself on. But be alert for potentially harmful pens, candies and monthly statements. Not long ago, my bank was giving away free nickels. I still regret not taking the opportunity to choke on mine.

If you don't want to go the corporate route, just hurl yourself in front of an expensive car driven by someone who is text messaging while driving. If you survive, you'll be in for a hefty settlement. If you don't, at least your financial problems will be over.

Cashing in on guilt
Have your parents contributed to your present dysfunction? Have they ruined your life in any way? Of course they have!!! If they have money and they're selfishly spending it on themselves, it's time to start dredging up the past.

Have a coffee with your mom (she'll pay). Share a warm memory of that sunburn you got when you were 2 years old that undoubtedly led to premature wrinkling and a constant fear of skin cancer. Muse how these days, parents lose their children for less. If that's not enough to get her to fork over some cash, you might want to mention that the photo of poor adorable you at 2, all red and blistered, could be worth a lot in a court of law. Or on Oprah.

If you don't have physical evidence, focus on emotional damage. It can be anything from how they spanked you (which made you unable to form lasting relationships), they didn't spank you (you never learned discipline and limits, making you unemployable), they forced you to go to private school (setting you up for unrealistic success and continual heartache), they forced you to go to public school (setting you up for failure and continual heartache) or they forgot to go to your ballet recital when you were four which destroyed your burgeoning career as a dancer. The possibilities are endless.

If the situation is reversed and you're a needy parent with solvent children, use the same approach. Let them know that you gave up a burgeoning career as a dancer/Nobel prize winning scientist/Pulitzer prize winning journalist/pick your favorite profession, to raise them. Make sure they know that their years of poor grades and shoplifting precipitated your drinking problem. If you're divorced, let it slip that it's all their fault. Unless they're callous, amoral ingrates they'll be cutting you a check in no time (do not try this if your child is an insurance company executive). At the very least, they'll renovate the room over their garage for you to live when you're evicted from your retirement community.

The same concept can be applied to non-family members. Introduce a now happily married ex-lover to an adorable child obviously conceived during the time of your affair. If you don't have an adorable child of your own, borrow one from a friend or relative (never try to rent a child or borrow from a stranger unless you need free room and board in jail). If you've ever slept with a politician or celebrity, that's always a great place to start (mention your good friend who works at TMZ). The success rate for this method is much higher if you're a woman.

Extortion is such an ugly word
I prefer to call it "threatening to educate the public." If you have any information on a celebrity, now's a good time to let them, and possibly the world, know about their sick, deviant behavior. Even if the celebrity calls the cops and gets you busted, the celebrity's transgressions will be the focus, rather than your crime. You'll probably get a book deal or a spot on dancing with the stars. Win/win.

Psssst: Conan, call me.
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