Monday, October 20, 2008

I Wonder What To Do . . .

I'm throwing this wonder out there for all of us, whether we are just barely meeting our basic needs or whether we were doing great and now we're just doing ok. Whether we had $100,000 in our 401k that turned into $50,000 overnight, or we had $10,000 that is now $5,000, or we had no retirement plan and now feel even that much farther away from starting one. Whether we own our home and have seen it lose value, or whether we had to postpone our homeownership plans by precious years while we wait for the market to stabilize. Whether our jobs are secure or have the potential to disappear in the recession. Whether our car has great gas mileage, bad gas mileage, or anything in between. Whether we had a strong savings account which is now depleted, or credit card debt that we were working to slash and have now had to reconfigure our payment plan. Whether our basic expenses exceed our income, or whether we are still in the black but had to cut our standard of living while CEOs of failing companies are offered $22mil for 3 months of work.

I Wonder What We're All Going to Do?

This economic slowdown has hit our family hard and no mistake. All the tips they give you to cut expenses - no more haircuts! Stop eating out! Take your lunch to work! Eat meatless meals! This is all stuff we've been doing all along. What is the advice for those of us who already buy used cars, put cash in our medical Flex Spending Account, and make a strict grocery list incorporating-coupons-and-sales-from-which-we-do-not-deviate, Amen? What's the solution for the girl whose entire salary raise and then some was completely absorbed by the rise in gas prices, and now all of a sudden the grocery bill is twice what it was? Yesterday in a fit of feeling sorry for myself, I checked out a book from the library on cooking with beans. Beans are Great Depression food, right? Darlin snorted at my melodrama, but then he sure doesn't laugh when I show him how much I spent at Food Lion for 2 weeks of eating.

I am handmaking Christmas gifts this year. Darlin and I are skipping them for each other, skipping our anniversary camping trip (camping! cheap!), skipping a 4 hour drive down to a friend's birthday party, a 4 hour drive up to a band show that I should have participated in. We aren't cutting the book-a-month promise we made for Frog Baby, though we are definitely into used paperbacks. We aren't cutting the trip to a midwest wedding, because you can't ever go back to that wedding in the future when you are financially solvent. We splurged on McDonald's McFlurries last night because sometimes you just need some M&Ms mixed up in ice cream, in order to feel in control of your world.

It's taking our measure, this slowdown, and I am finding that I can live with less than I imagined. We've examined our Needs and Wants lists, and been shifting more and more into the Wants. I thought I Needed this or that or the other in order to survive, but in fact here I am living without it. We are currently assessing whether we truly Need two cars, or can we be a one car family? As the AIG execs chill out in Britain on a shooting holiday (3 of them, they spent $86,000 of company cash, post bailout, saying to an undercover reporter - hey, the bailout sucks, but the shooting sure was fine today, eh?), I get ready to face telling 40 hourly people that our manufacturing facility will be shutting for a handful of weeks this fall, with no work for them, unless our sales guys can work some kind of magic. I shudder to think what this could mean for my job in the near future.

I Want. I Want a haircut, very much. I Want to take professional photos of my baby before he gets much older. I Want to keep both of our cars. I Want to have our couch cleaned, and my winter coat. I Want to go to a damn movie. My list of unmet Wants is long.

I tell you what I Need, though. I Need my kid to be really healthy and fantastic. I Need my husband to be faithful and upbeat. I Need shoes. I Need a working car. I Need a job. I Need a loving and supportive family. Seems my list of unmet Needs is nonexistent.

This is whiny, and truly a reflection of how spoiled Americans are, because come on. Half the people in Brazil, for example, would think of Darlin's and my spartan life as the absolute lap of luxury. But I Want to whine, and whining on a blog is (still, and may it always be) free, so I'm granting myself this Want. The haircut can wait. And I hope you all log on and whine with me, so I don't feel so childish. We're feeling the pinch, but it's much easier to tighten your belt and get the hell over it if everybody else is doing the same. Tell me - how are you pinched? What did you have to give up? What Are You Going to Do?


MSO Rin said...

I think I went to my Last Movie Ever yesterday ... I had a coupon that covered all but $.75 of the ticket price.

The movie, appropriatley enough, was "W.".

Is this how our parents felt in the '80s?

G Love said...

Yes. As mine and Darlin's parents constantly tell me. There ain't nothin' new under the sun.


kaycee said...

Miss G love- Have I got an idea for you- Don't you live in a college town? Call up one of those photography students- have em practice and you cook them a yummy bean dinner.

It's all about the barter system.