One one of my current favorite websites, The Huffington Post, has a new section, Blogging the Meltdown. Here’s my entry for how the recession has impacted me. It’s updated from something I wrote a month ago.
Ten (or so) things I gave up because of the recession:
Not in order of importance.
1. Coffee shops. Though I still drink good strong (usually fair trade) coffee at home, I no longer stop for it when I am out and about. (Sorry Starbucks.) And I’ve vowed to use up all the tea I have at home. Somehow I like buying tea (they come in beautiful boxes) but don’t seem to drink much of it. That’s changed.
2. Books. My husband swears I could read for two years or longer on the books I currently own, but I have given up purchasing books. That’s a compulsion that is hard to change but important way to save big dollars. I will visit my local library which means I have to be much more organized and less spontaneous about my reading preferences. (Goodbye Borders.)
3. Neighborhood grocery store. I love the beautiful atmosphere including classical music, but I’ve given it up for the prices at Trader Joe’s and a warehouse store like Woodmans. Again, I must be more organized. Frankly, I don’t miss seeing wine on every corner associated with all the good food I like, since I gave up drinking in July. (That’s saving us a bundle.)
4. Shopping for entertainment. Okay, don’t judge. It is something that I enjoy(ed.) But we’re not shopping at all. Only what’s absolutely needed and in the budget.
5. Eating out. We just don’t do it. And we used to eat out three or four times a week, sometimes as a family of five, sometimes at lunch from work. It was a way to stave off boredom, an antidote for laziness, and somehow a ‘reward.’ Again, planning ahead is required to eat every meal at home. Tom just got eight cans of Progresso Soup for $10. Now that’s a deal!
6. Cambodia. I had planned a trip there to take a photography course, but this is postponed indefinitely.
7. Our Dishwasher. It broke, burning out in a blaze of glory after probably 30+ years and it won’t be replaced for a while. Things we don’t need, won’t be repaired or replaced. We wash our dishes by hand which has caused me to use more hand lotion. But funnily enough, I have quite a bit.
8. Furniture in our Living Room. Our cat George has issues (related to peeing) and we’ve lost furniture, rugs, pillows, etc. all because of it, I mean him. They won’t be replaced for a very long time. He may get the boot! Though that is under debate.
9. Gourmet cheeses (and things like it.) Yummmmm. The older the better. Stick to grocery store brand Sharp Cheddar. Oddly difficult for me.
10. We’ll be canceling all of our magazine subscriptions (except PASTE magazine, which is awesome! And you get a CD of cool new music each month. (By the way, no more CD purchases!)
On the short list for what’s next: Piano tuning won’t happen this this winter or vacations & travel of any kind. We’re considering cutting Cable, although we’ve had an ongoing family debate over this. The Persian rug in our den will not be cleaned.
We’re still investing in retirement, the kids are still in soccer and music lessons, we eat well, we are in no manner suffering. The biggest sacrifice has been what we perceived as financial “freedom.”
It is interesting how our priorities change as we deal with the fact that we must bring down our debt and increase our savings. The recession was basically a wake up call for my husband and I who have been living as if we can buy and do whatever we want whenever we desire. If we can’t afford it this month but we really want to do it, we put it on credit.
We now live on a budget and track each category (almost) daily. What we thought was freedom was bondage, and now, we are free. It will take us four years on this restricted budget to be completely out of debt. It is ironic, but by the time Mr. Obama is running again, we will be in a place to afford vacations, send our kids to college, and have a little more real freedom.
The recession is a blessing disguised as a burden.
For us, that is. For many people it is much more dire. Just spend a few minutes on the Huffington Meltdown site reading the stories of the homeless, uninsured, jobless, … yes, in my America. Your America.