I just received an interesting email that pointed me to a thought-provoking thread on The Daily Beast. I’m not sure if this was sent from a real live person, or electronically generated, but in any event, thanks Anna!
The thread on The Daily Beast is riddled with stories from people who are feeling the economic squeeze. Most of the stories are heart-wrenching – like how husband’s have come home in the middle of the day, unexpectedly, because they were laid off, or of how bills are due and there’s simply no money to pay them.
I feel so bad for those that are feeling the crunch right now. It’s always extremely tough to deal with unexpected changes like that to begin with, but when the economy goes belly up, it’s even worse.
But that’s all the more reason we need to start living within our means and start differentiating between our needs and wants.
I think people, in general, want way too much.
This bit from The Accidental Housewife really caught my attention:
The generations who survived the Great Depression were tough. They were resilient; they did not expect the government to bail them out of the hell that fell upon them…They boarded up their farms and loaded up their jalopies and headed out to find work. They did not stand around wringing their hands crying about what they didn’t have anymore they went out and worked. They were doers and savers and they made it.
My step-grandmother used to reuse her foil. She would smooth it out, wipe it off, fold it up and use it again and again until it eventually fell apart. My best friend’s grandmother would make a single chicken last through a week’s worth of meals. Each meal being different but made from that single chicken. They were resourceful. More important they MADE IT….
I am ashamed of my fellow baby boomers. I am ashamed that we have turned into such an entitled generation. I am ashamed that we have to have someone else make our morning coffee and we are too good or too busy to prepare our own dinner. That we feel entitled to drive vehicles that use more fuel in one week than a whole village in a third world country uses in a year.
So what do you say fellow boomers? Can we do it? Can we tighten our belts, knuckle down and use that knowledge that our forefathers and mothers gave us? Can we cook our own meals, repair our own roofs, make ourselves pay our own bills and not rely on the government to bail us out? I think we can. We just have to want to do it.
I hope I don’t sound heartless when I say this, but I have to agree with The Accidental Housewife. I don’t believe the majority of us have any real experience with trimming the fat off of our budgets.
I grew up in a traditional family. My father worked (his butt off), and my mother stayed home and took care of us. We were poor – we were DIRT poor. In fact, my mom has told me stories about how they only had $50.00, FOR THE ENTIRE MONTH AFTER BILLS, to spend on clothes and food.
And yet, somehow, we managed. We haunted thrift stores, garage sales, we bought day-old bread, I wore gently-used clothes and my sister wore all of my old clothes.
My mom sewed a lot of our clothes. We ate at home 99.9% of the time. In fact, I can’t remember EVER eating out when I was a kid.
My dad drove a motorcycle (in all kinds of weather) to save on gas. When I turned 16 and wanted a job, I had to find something close enough to walk and/or ride my bike to. And I did. I walked to work for about a year, through all sorts of weather (sounds cliche, but it’s true) until I saved up enough money to pay cash for a used car.
When I moved out of the house, my parents DRILLED the importance of saving money into my brain and not buying stuff I couldn’t afford or really needed (I certainly remember those needs versus wants lectures), and prioritizing my expenses – pay the rent first. Then the utilities. Then the car payment. Budget for food and gas and IF there was any left over, that was my play money.
There was never any left over.
I lived from paycheck to paycheck and yet, I never really felt “poor.” I had everything I needed. I never had a desire to drive a fancy car, or wear designer clothes, yaddayaddayadda. Oh sure, I WANTED those things, and was quite jealous of those that had it, but when it came right down to it, I couldn’t bring myself to buy them because the bottom line? I didn’t NEED them.
When I got married, times were lean, but not terribly tough. I was lucky enough to marry a man just as frugal with money as I was. We paid our bills and had enough to put into a savings account. Again, we didn’t blow our money on unnecessary junk.
And then we had kids. And our financial situation was a whole different monster. We had medical bills, diapers, formula, clothes, a mortgage, car payments, property taxes and every other expense that came with being a responsible adult. I quit my job because it just didn’t make sense to us to virtually hand over my paycheck to a daycare center. And we thought it was best for the children, too.
We’ve scrimped, saved and clawed our way to a debt-free existence today. We live in a 30+ old house. We don’t have a fancy decor, but rather, a comfortable one. Sure, we see our friends and families with these gorgeous multi-level houses and we’re jealous. But we also know the struggles they go through to maintain those house payments and all the money they spend on “stuff” and we’re no longer envious – we’d rather have a nest egg to fall back on during tough times.
So, I’m saying we’re no strangers to tightening our belts. And we could easily, and would very willingly, do it again, if necessary. I have NO QUALMS, at all, to get rid of our satellite subscription, cell phones, Starbucks, eating lunches out with my husband. I already cook nearly every night, but I could do it every night. I could go back to clipping coupons and I could certainly get a part-time job while the kids are in school and/or work nights.
I did it for seven years so we could pay some debts off. I could certainly do it again.
My point is, we have options. We all have options, we just have to be willing to get rid of the non-essential “stuff” in our lives. We have to be willing to be uncomfortable and inconvenienced and we have to be willing to roll our sleeves up and WORK OUR BUTTS OFF.
Because sometimes? That’s what it takes to survive.
Is it fair? No. But life is not fair. So you’re not driving a fancy car like your neighbor. So what? Your beat up car gets you where you need to go. Be thankful you have transportation – that’s more than a lot of people have.
It’s not really going to matter who is in the White House for the next fours years – given our current situation, times are going to be tough on a lot of people regardless. It’s time to stop whining and feeling sorry for ourselves and teach our children the difference between needs and wants and the fine art of simply surviving.