Survival Tips

How We Survived the Longest Government Shutdown

How we survived the longest government shutdown

Today Mariajosé returned to work… after 35 days of furlough. Ale has been on unpaid maternity leave (thank you government job) since December, so the government shutdown hit us extra hard. Something we should mention is that aside from being co-workers, bloggers, and friends, we are basically roommates. With us both not working the anxiety kicked in as we wondered how our bills would get paid. Since we’ve been federal employees for many many years now, government shutdowns and furloughs are nothing new - some years we even had scheduled furloughs -but this time it was totally different because our livelihoods were threatened - yup, seriously… when you gotta live 35 days without pay and more than your mouth to feed, you go into survival mode. You may have seen or heard different stories on the news or on your social feeds, but this is our story.

This is how we survived the longest Government Shutdown.

broke bank account balance
  1. Finances - Made a budget and stuck to it

    Our financial situation took the hardest hit during the shutdown. It’s already hard enough to live paycheck-to-paycheck, but when that paycheck is taken from you during the holidays while all your bills still need to be paid, you may want to cry. We had to sit down and figure out how long our last dollars would stretch and set a hard budget to stick to. Suddenly items that we thought we needed became luxuries (goodbye Christmas presents and Starbucks runs), so we prioritized the bills. Being the major foodies that we are, this was definitely the hardest part because  we couldn’t eat out anymore.. Whereas in the past we would create budgets and make false promises of how we would meal prep at home to save money, we really had no choice but to eat at home and so we….

2. Started the Arroz y Frijoles Diet… ¡hay comida en la casa!

furlough frijoles

Hay comida en la casa is a Latinx saying that our parents tell us whenever we want to eat out whether it be a restaurant or McDonald’s, the answer is always the same “hay comida en la casa” which translates to “There’s food in the house”. But our eating habits changed drastically to more than just there’s food at home, specifically to there’s rice and beans at home. And so began our challenge to reinvent the rice and beans diet in as many ways as we could think of. We tried everything from pinto to black beans, plain rice to coconut rice and every combination you can think of together and separately. We stopped asking what there was to eat….but then the glorious day came when we….

3. Signed up for our local food bank.

food bank haul

Now, this was hard to do….it first meant we had to set aside all the extra pride we carry as members of the Latinx community. For the first few weeks, we were not ready to admit that we needed help and that we were hungry for something other than rice and beans. But as time went on and there seemed to be no resolution in sight for the government, we decided it was time to ask for help. Ale made her way down to the local food pantry and came home with items we hadn’t seen in a while….fresh fruit and veggies!! Praise be!! Although, the shutdown is over, we are so grateful there are places like our local pantries that help us when we are in need. If you are in San Francisco or Marin and should you or anyone you know be in need of food please visit San Francisco Marin Food Bank to find the closest pantry in your neighborhood, most only ask for your ID.

4. Hiked, and hiked, and hiked, and hiked!


We suddenly had all this time on our hands and no where to be, so naturally we started hiking regularly. Ale was still trying to complete the 52 Hike Challenge she had started the year before, and we had been eating so much rice we definitely needed to get out and move. The hikes forced us to get out of the house to avoid falling into heavy depression and the fresh air from the outdoors brought about a sense of renewal. We hiked rain or shine, baby no baby, etc. We completed short hikes to get us motivated or sometimes made a day of it and packed food to eat on the trail. Some of the trails we hit up were Sunol Little Yosemite, Sweeney Ridge, Glen Park, San Bruno Mountain, Crystal Springs Sawyer Trail, and Joaquin Miller Park. It definitely became part of our self-care routine and we loved it.

5. Traveled


We want to preface this by saying the trips we went on were planned long before the shutdown, and in both cases cancelling would have caused us to lose out on the money we had already spent. And so, with limited funds we set out on what would turn out to be some fun adventures. Mariajosé road tripped with her parents through snowy landscapes up to Bend, Oregon to visit friends before  crossing through scenic byways of the Willamette National Forest along Hwy 20 towards Portland, Oregon to attend her Tia’s wedding. As a family, we went to Tahoe over the MLK weekend and had a blast (look for a blog post coming soon). We didn’t have much but made the most of it and used the time to connect and build as a family.

6. We started a blog!

the blog is here

Yay! After wanting to start our blog for so long, the shutdown finally was the perfect push for us to launch it. Sassy Cipotas had been in the works for two years yet life’s speed bumps, twists and turns kept veering us off our path to completion. Once the new year hit, we sat down and wrote our goals for 2019 and from there we realized it was about damn time to get this party started. We instantly began setting up a game plan from our dinner table brainstorming sessions, tuning in to Instagram Live webinars for inspiration, to randomly listing content ideas in the car, we did it and here you are! Since we’re all still new around here, check out our Who We Are page to learn more about us and our goals. We’d also like to thank our dear friend and Lifestyle Blogger Kimiko Marie for motivating us to follow our passion and share our adventures with the world.

7. Looked for Furlough Freebies

Photo Credit: Kevin Hume

Photo Credit: Kevin Hume

Two weeks deep into the government shutdown we got a message from our colleagues with resources for furloughed federal employees which included a list of places offering freebies or discounted offers. Now most places offering furlough deals were still out of our super tight budget - tighter than Mariajosé’s fajas - or were only available to Washington D.C. based government employees. However, we came across the glorious words “free all-you-can-eat buffet lunch or dinner for furloughed employees and their families until the shutdown ends,” we knew this was a place we had to try. Not only were we super excited to take a break from the arroz y frijoles to enjoy a free dinner at Lefty’s Ballpark Baseball Buffet and Cafe, we were curious to check out the new San Francisco Giants themed restaurant in Fisherman's Wharf. As soon as you walk in you’re greeted by friendly staff inside the Giants Dugout store and as you make your way upstairs to the buffet level, you see a towering replica of the World Series trophy and fun Giants murals and memorabilia on every wall. We flashed our government IDs and were off to fill our plates and hearts in no time. Liyah was in love with the cute chicken and waffles plates, Mariajosé went straight for the clam chowder, Ale went in on the crab legs, seafood salad with crostini, prime rib… you name it! Even Anaís was drooling over the sight and smells of it all - she almost stole Liyah’s mashed potatoes just as she stole the hearts of the employees. Special thanks to Lefty’s owner Nick Bocis for serving our community - we’ll be back soon!

8. Re-envisioned our lives.

business meeting cumaica gif

As many other government employees began to re-think their life choices, we too pondered the thought of life outside the government. In true Marie Kondo fashion, we asked ourselves “does this truly spark joy? or should we thank it and throw it away?”#thankunext! Our lives are more than our jobs and more than this government’s tantrums. A positive outcome of this shutdown was our declaration to stop living in the mundane 9 to 5 world and actually envision the lives we want to be living. This process was all about purging that which no longer serves us - including clearing our social media accounts and phone contacts from toxic people or negative rhetoric. #sorrynotsorry The more we discussed our goals, intentions, and desires, the more excited we grew of all the possibilities that lie ahead. Everyday we’re rediscovering our passions and verbally calling out to the universe what we want to achieve, whether it be listing our dreams while climbing up San Bruno Mountain or by working on this blog, it’s time to not let fears, doubts or government shutdowns dictate our future.