Thursday, February 12, 2009

Living in a Recession

Growing up poor, I grew very ashamed of our economic status, and vowed to never to live that way of life again. All I wanted was to be able to have as many nice clothes as the popular kids and to not have to use my free lunch tickets (which I thought the other kids knew I used because I was poor).

The Goodwill was my least favorite place to go. I remember being so ashamed because that is where we had to buy our clothes, while everyone else who went to town to buy clothes always went to the mall (a rare treat for my sisters and I). We were the poster children for the giving trees out around Christmas time. One year, I got really lucky and got so many presents. (This year, I hope to return the favor). We never got a lot of food from the food bank, but I remember going to the store with my mom's monopoly money (aka Food stamps) to get groceries. If anyone that I knew was behind me in line, I would always let them go ahead of me so they wouldn't know that I was using Food Stamps. I would also wish that the checker would go faster so this traumatic ordeal would be over quicker.

It is funny how perceptions change when poverty is more widespread. That's why I like the fact that there is a recession. People have to adjust, and money and jobs and job losses are perceived differently. The idealist in me hopes that people affected by a recession learn to not take money and wealth for granted. However, with the success of locally funded charity programs, it seems that people were already aware of their higher socio-economic status and provided for those who were not as well off.

Because of school, I had been holed up in the house or Hastings many days (and nights). When I went down town recently, I was shocked by the amount of buildings and office spaces that are now vacant with "For Lease" signs above their entry ways. It is almost like a sick game because I try to jog my memory and think of what used to be there... for instance, Last Best Candles on Higgins: vacant, Pumpkin Carriage on Orange: vacant, Stoverud's on Higgins: vacant (pink signs helped my memory), etc.

With Nate's job loss, I am remembering some of those money saving strategies my mom taught me as a child, and it is surprising that I am actually proud that I know how to live on a tight budget. While I am very grateful that I have a steady job that has little risk of being impacted by a recession, I know that there are literally millions in this country that are not as fortunate.

With my background in growing up poor and then becoming a poor college student, these are the money saving strategies I have learned over time:
Eat in or if you absolutely must eat out-use coupons and eat half and take the rest home for leftovers tomorrow (yes, you can survive on half of that gigantic portion of pasta). SPH sells a coupon book (for $10!) which has many buy one get one free deals in it, and I plan on using every single one.
Go grocery shopping often and at different stores so you learn prices
Buy in bulk when cheapest ($4 for 2 gallons of milk at costco!!) Cereal prices are not as cheap when in bulk (at costco) compared to some of the prices I can get elsewhere. Bulk at the Good Food Store is a little different. Watch your portion sizes.
Make that meal even though it feeds an army! Leftovers save you money.
Search the free ads and craigslist for things you absolutely need
Do you know that the hospital gives its patients generics whenever it can? You too will live if you buy the cheaper generic ibuprofen than Motrin.
'Tis the season for garage sales!

I know I haven't posted in a long time, but here's my comeback.

1 comment:

N said...

Good post! I am too grateful for your thrifty-ness!! Its too bad that America has come to rely on Credit Cards as their second source of income. If they hadn't, we wouldn't be in this mess. Funny, but the people who are losing it all right now are actually part of the problem. So it is kinda hard to feel for them since they seem to be a small piece of the bigger picture. On the other hand it is no fun to be financially insecure. Plus the Goodwill actually has some pretty decent stuff nowadays!! :)