What was so great about it?

24 Feb


It seems a lot of comparisons have been made between our current recession and the Great Depression.  I, for one, am not at all sad about this recession (maybe that’s the fiscally liberal Democrat in me).  I think a recession can be a good thing for families who haven’t connected in a while – a great thing, in fact.  This is our time to learn fiscal responsibility, the fruits of frugality, and enjoy the simple company of family and friends.

Now, I will be the first to point out that I have a lovely education (which I will be paying for, with interest, until my children are in college) and a lovely job (which does not pay very much money at all, but does offer stability, income, and wonderful hours) and a lovely life with my husband and two aged dogs – I’m one of the lucky ones.  I recognize that.  I’m not downplaying the effect this recession has on blue-collar workers who are out of jobs due to layoffs, recent graduates without a job market, and housing developers with unfinished flips on their hands.  I get it.  These are hard times. For everyone.

But look at it this way…some families are spending more time together because parents are out of work.  Some are returning to homemade meals as opposed to eating out.  Moms and dads are staying in on weekends and playing games with their children and snuggling with each other on the couch after bedtime.  People are reconnecting with their crafty sides – homemaking is taking a more DIY style, gals are sewing their own handbags, fellas are learning to fix their own leaky faucets, folks are canning their own foods and planning gardens for the first time in ages.  We are all adjusting our spending habits, which, if our newly developed prudence sticks, will be better for everyone in the long run.

It’s hard on all of us, true.  But we can look at it as an opportunity to turn our focus away from money and back to the things that matter…

For example, Chuck and I have made some really big changes in our lives – we moved into our in-laws’ basement so we can put our hard earned cash toward debt and savings.  Living in someone else’s space is difficult – logistically and psychologically – but, we know we are doing a good thing by putting our money somewhere other than rent and utilities.  And we are connecting with his parents (sometimes too much) and have been better able to help his dad recover from surgery.  That’s good, right?

We’ve also made some very small changes in our lives.  For example, we’ve made a very concerted effort to not go out to the movies very often.  There was a time in our lives when we thought we had to see every movie that looked remotely interesting in the theatre…we might go see a movie every weekend for 5 weekends in a row.  We spent loads of green on tickets, popcorn, and gallon-buckets of soda, only to sit in a crowded theatre and attempt to share the movie-watching experience with groups of noisy teenagers and irresponsible parents with fussy infants.  That’s no way to enjoy a film and no way to spend money.  So, we decided to not give up entertainment completely, but to compromise.  We joined Netflix.  Now we wait until things come out on DVD and enjoy movies at home, in our pajamas, with our dogs snuggled on our laps, in peace and quiet.  (Not to mention if we have an emergency bathroom crisis, we are within mere feet of a clean, private bathroom and the pause button works wonders!)  One trip to a movie in a theatre could easily cost us $30-40…now, for less than $9 a month, we can watch as many movies as we want!  (I won’t mention details about how we managed to acquire copies of newly released movies while they’re still showing in the theatres – because that would be just wrong.)

Another example of a simple change – Chuck and I love to dine out.  We enjoy the privacy of having mini dinner dates with just the two of us.  Cooking in someone else’s kitchen (in this case, my in-laws’), using someone else’s pots and pans and utensils is just awkward and annoying…I can never find the spices I need, the spatulas haven’t been cleaned to my strict personal code (you MUST remove the head of the spatula from the handle to properly clean it…or else gross things grow in there, people….C’mon!), and I just have a hang up about cooking in shared space.  So, suffice to say we both enjoy the convenience and privacy that dining out offers.  However, dining out doesn’t have to break the bank!  Our compromise is not to cut dining out from our routine altogether, but to cut back on frequency and to split an entree rather than order one each.  That way we are still enjoying the atmosphere of a restaurant, we still enjoy our mini dates, we don’t have to do the cooking or cleaning, and we’re not killing our wallets.  Simple, yeah?

Another fun way to save dough – We’ve recently spent several afternoons and Saturdays just driving around, looking at real estate, checking out local sights (the National Harbor, Mason Neck State Park, Old Town Alexandria), and enjoying the beautiful weather.  We probably spend a couple bucks on gas, but it’s really a cheap excursion that gets us out of the house and we come home feeling refreshed.

Because we can’t travel far from Chuck’s dad until the heart transplant is done, we’ve already planned a “Staycation” for this upcoming summer.  My sister had a time share with Windham Resorts and will be coming up with her kids and my mom to stay in Old Town Alexandria.  Chuck and I will chauffeur them around town and we’ll take in some local places and visit lots of free museums, zoo, parks, and monuments.  We’re going to make memories with the kids and save money at the same time.

So, yeah, I know that the recession is terrible, but truly, if you look at it this way…it’s not terrible for us (real people), it’s terrible for businesses and banks.  We can actually delight in the excuse to stay home, relax, and enjoy our loved ones.  We can learn more about our communities and our neighborhoods by visiting local parks and museums.  We can take this time to borrow free books from the library and escape to new worlds and learn new things.

Speaking of learning new things – there’s a sweet old gal who has decided to take it upon herself to teach us younguns how to cook frugally by sharing her Great Depression recipes.  This tech-savvy grandma, who actually lived through the Great Depression, has posted numerous videos on YouTube to demonstrate how to make some of these GD recipes.  Very cool. (oh, and yes…that inappropriate pun is, indeed, intended)


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